The Tricks of My Treats

Things are busy for me lately. Obnoxiously busy. Busy in a way where it’s much work with little payoff.  It’s frustrating, but very much needed and I can’t complain too much (but I will).  I worked open to close at the studio for 2 days in a row which included through Halloween and the day after. My husband and I tried to celebrate late in the evening by getting bags and bags of candy (not even discount price I might add) and watching Van Helsing. 15 minutes in and a few pieces of candy later and we were fast asleep.  A week later and I’m still munching on fun sized goodies… I’m eating salads everyday so that totally makes up for it, right? RIGHT?!

I missed Halloween by a week, but I thought I would post a tricky treat that I make every so often. This is a modified version of many out there. I like this version, but your own tastes may vary. My husband doesn’t like it at all because he is not crazy over dark chocolate.

Puddin’! Made from 100% cacao, a banana, honey and one secret ingredient. Those of you on my facebook or G+ already know the ingredient because I squawked about it forever. Put all your ingredients in the blender and bleeeeeeeeeeeeeend! That’s all there is to it.  Other than trying to get all the delicious goodness out of the blender, which from the photo below you can see I got a little overzealous about.

 

Yeah…. the blender is deep and I was adamant on getting all the chocolately yums out. After all this is a ridiculously healthy take on a dessert. You will have to tweak the ingredients to your own taste, and the amounts used of each. I won’t lie I totally eyeballed it.

Start with (then build up according to taste) :

-1 Banana
-1/4th cup of 100% pure honey
-1/4th cup of 100% unsweetened cacao powder
-dash of cinnamon

Oh, right… I should probably mention the secret ingredient :

-1 avocado

The tricks of my treats, indeed! *witch cackle*

It really does take some tweaking to get it to taste the way you want. For instance I probably end up using about a cup of cacao because I like it super dark and thick like an icing. I think I prefer it without the banana. That kinda threw the taste off for me. I have no idea how long it lasts in the fridge, because working with 2 items that, when in contact with air turn brown – then mixed with something brown is a little hard to tell if it’s gone bad. I sealed it up and ate it a few days later and it was fine. I won’t lie and tell you it tastes exactly like pudding, because you can tell something is different. But it still tastes really good! And it’s super healthy for you. It would be a fantastic alternative for kids and it’s a great treat when you are having a super chocolate craving but trying not to eat unhealthy. Loaded with healthy fats and nutrients!

It’s, you know, much healthier than reaching your hand into this for the second week in a row thinking, ” just one” and “just one more”. Then leaving a guilty trail of wrappers to the garbage can.

 

Happy (late) Halloween!

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Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

I’m cranky today. Yes it happens to be the week that Aunt what’s her face is visiting. I’m sorry, I don’t know the cute terms for the biological battle that is happening to me. I promise you my blog will not be a production about it – but I thought I’d let you know that I am a MEGA jerkwad today. I’m keeping to myself, or at least, should be. I decided instead of sitting at home watching reruns of tacky reality television while editing photos for a client, I would take my work and go to the Starbucks up the street and at least be surrounded by the shuffles of people and the smells of the outside world (like coffee!). It was a good idea until the sounds of girls chatting over a coffee date made me feel sad that I don’t have many friends down here. Also, I’m sitting down and a father walked by with his baby in his arms, baby butt level to my face and she let one riiiiiiiiiiiiiip. So much for the smells of the outside world. The father walked away laughing – I don’t blame him, I totally would have done the same. If I have kids I’m totally going to train them to fart at people. I will use them as little diversions when I need to get out of  a really boring conversation about daycare or the PTA. My code word will be “le pamplemousse!” and the kid will give a little toot-toot.  It will be fantastic.

In unrelated news to lady-times or farts, I am having a rather odd day. I was finally able to get a job here. Well, a seasonal job. It’s something for now and that’s a prayer answered in itself. Living on the East Coast in no-wheresville USA is a lot different from living on the West Coast big city Canada. No mass transit and living by a major highway means I need a vehicle to get a job. Not having a working or legal vehicle at the moment means I have to apply for jobs that I am able to get to by the little shuttle bus that skadooshes around town. A 3 minute commute to the place I was hired literally turned into a 2 hour production. I have spent the past two months applying to really crappy retail/server jobs around here but none will hire me because I’m –  get this – overqualified.  However a portrait studio finally called me back! How blessed was that? For those of you who do not know: I’m a photographer and I went to school for advanced studio and wedding photography. I will not go into details about what studio called me back, as I try to keep my work and personal life separate. However I wanted to share the good news. My biggest fear was leaving my home in Canada with all my clients and contacts and radio stations and magazines/newspapers I have done work for and start new here – only to be cleaning grease traps and flipping burgers watching as all the hard work I did for years and my career be squashed all in the name of love. I know God is good and he will take care of my husband and I – so why can’t I stop being so anxious about EVERYTHING all the time?

Like I said, it’s a seasonal position for now. She said she wanted to keep me on but hours would be cut drastically come Jan 1st. What ever will be will be. Maybe I will get my jeep fixed and can start applying to jobs in bigger cities with bigger opportunities. Whatever happens I am elated that I am finally employed and will be able to make some money. Immigration costs and moving countries not only wiped out our savings, but sent us into a very deep debt. This is a true blessing and we are VERY thankful.

Speaking of being thankful – Canadian Thanksgiving has passed us, but American Thanksgiving is around the bend. Autumn instills a sense of peace in me. Something about the cold, crisp air mixed with the smells of decaying leaves and warm foods. It’s my favourite season by far. I can’t wait to go to the pumpkin patch again! I am hoping to try out apple picking for the first time in my life as well! I love doing seasonal things – if I had the money I’d be going to these oyster and wine festivals that keep popping up. I thought I’d kick off this wonderful season by showing you a REALLY easy dish made with some great fall foods. Sweet Potato and Apple Cinnamon Bake.

You will need:

2 large sweet potatoes
2 medium-sized apples (I used gala)
1 tbsp of cinnamon (or to your own taste)
2 tbsp of pure cane or brown sugar (or again, to your own taste)
A sprinkle of butter buds

Start by washing your apples and sweet potatoes. I do this even if I’m cutting and peeling them. I don’t know why. Something about the knife slicing into food and bringing the dirt in with it. You don’t have to do this, but I do.. stop judging me! I used the apple core/peeler to slice my apple up then further sliced those pieces into quarters. I peeled and ninja chopped the sweet potato. We have a glass cutting board and I have the hardest time cutting these things. Maybe it’s because my knives aren’t particularly sharp, or maybe I’m just a weakling scared to cut myself. Anyways, there was no rhyme or reason to my cutting… I just chopped away at it until it resembled chunks. I am impressed at the ear shattering noise a knife makes when it hits glass!

Put the apple and sweet potato chunks into a casserole dish, spray with a tiny bit of cooking spray and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix over it. I also sprinkled a bit of Butter Buds on to it. For those of you who do not know what Butter Buds are: Butter Buds are produced from real butter through an enzymatic process that releases the flavor components of butter from the fat and water. After the flavor is released, it is then spray-dried to a powder-like form that is encapsulated with a water-soluble coating. The resulting products, Sprinkles and Mix, contain the original flavor of butter without the fat and cholesterol. Butter Buds contains maltodextrin (a natural carbohydrate derived from corn), natural butter flavor (extracted from the butter oils and then dried to a powder-like form), salt, dehydrated butter, guar gum and baking soda.

That is straight from the Butter Buds FAQ’s. I have heard the maltodextrin debate but don’t have much of an opinion. It seems some people have a reaction to it, while others don’t. Generally I like to eat clean, natural foods and avoid adding stuff like this. However we don’t keep butter in the house and I was feeling like it needed a little Paula Deen flavour. It was just a sprinkle and we aren’t dead yet! You can add real butter if you’d like or opt out of it completely!

Cover the casserole dish and bake on 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until soft.

There’s a before in went into oven photo and an after plated photo. It turns so gooey and delicious! I served it with a honey BBQ (boneless/skinless) chicken breast. The flavours boast autumn and people will oooohhh and ahhhh over it. (You can tell them it was sooooooo difficult to make… You slaved over it all day!) I am thinking for Thanksgiving adding some mini marshmallows. Because really, who cares about health foods on Thanksgiving? I say it’s a holiday so stuff your face full of all the treatsies you can get!

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Easy Zucchini Bake

For the longest time, vegetables meant: broccoli, green beans, peas, lettuce and the frozen mixed bag kind.  My veggie vocabulary was not experimental or grande growing up – not for lack of trying on my mother’s part. I was sure I did not like spinach. I was sure I hated tomatoes with a ripe passion. I’d pick the carrots out of anything my mom put them in. Okay, I still do that but that is because carrots are the crunchy, vibrant spawn of the veggie devil. In other words, my tastes have grown into loving vegetables since then. All kinds. All colours. I am not a vegetable racist. There are still a few vegetables I haven’t tried that I wish to. You know, due to my MOST assuredness that I hated them while growing up. I guess that sticks with you.

As proof, the first time my husband and I went grocery shopping together I asked him if he wanted a mango. He told me no, because he hated mangos. My eyes grew wide in shock and disappointment. “HOW CAN YOU HATE MANGOS?!” I shrilled at him in the middle of the grocery store. Seriously, who hates mangos? He’s lucky I didn’t question our whole relationship based off that! Later that night while I was sitting on the couch, noming my freshly sliced mango, he walked by and asked what I was eating. I guess hating mangos so long he forgot what the inside of one looked like. I shrugged and played coy and told him if he wanted to know he had to try a bite. His eyes went squinty and suspicious, yet I guess he trusted that I wouldn’t let him eat something disgusting as he took a bite. The suspiciousness disappeared and was replaced by a boyish joy. I guess this means he no longer hates mangos. He said he had convinced himself growing up that he had hated them and that just kind of stuck into adulthood. Suffice to say, now we enjoy mangos together and I know I married a man with proper taste.

I don’t know why it took me so long to try zucchini. It was only a few years ago I placed the buttery, soft, warm slice up to my lips. I don’t know why I go so long without buying it either. Yet, tis the season! The grocery stores have been abundant with them all summer from local farmers. They are becoming fewer and far between though, so I figured I’d pick a couple up. I was going to make vegetable tian with them, but my yellow squash went bad before I could. That will have to wait for a different blog post.  Do you like my super amazing basil plant? I painted a Plants VS Zombies motif on the planter. SPUDOWS! were my favourite cheap weapon to kill the first wave of zombies while I banked up on sunshine.

For this SUPER EASY zucchini bake you will need:

-1 full zucchini
-4 cloves of garlic
-a few leaves of fresh basil
-a sprinkle of reduced fat cheddar cheese (not the faux fat free kind, the kind made with skim milk)
-a sprinkle of sea salt

I’m just going to throw it out there, the Slap Chop sucks. I don’t care how enthusiastic Vince is, it doesn’t change the fact that his product is a sham (See what I did there? Bonus points if you did). Sure, it chops, but it took a long while to get all my basil chopped instead of pummeled. I had to keep stopping and readjusting the stupid thing. The worst part is the fact that most of the product became stuck up in the blades. Notice the “guard” not doing a thing as my tiny bits of garlic and basil get sucked up there? I’d have used a knife to chop up the stuff but we really don’t have any sharp or good quality ones around this place. One day we will, but for now I will make do!

Chop the zucchini as even as you can (which is not very even in my case…oops), use a vegetable mandolin if you have one. Then place them around a baking dish lined with a bit of cooking spray. You can place them in any type of bakeware and make them look as fancy as you want. I decided to use a circular pie dish and overlap them. Then sprinkle the fresh garlic and basil mixture on top of the zucchini. Cover it with tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes on 350degrees. Take it out and sprinkle the cheese on top, then bake for another few minutes until the cheese melts.

I used the zucchini bake as a side dish for some whole grain brown rice/broccoli with a honey glazed bbq boneless/skinless chicken breast. Dinner. Is. Served. I gave it to my husband and he looked up at me and said “but I hate zucchini”. I told him to suck it up and eat it because it’s good for him. He shrugged and took a bite. His face did not light up with the same boyish joy as the mango incident.

I guess he still hates zucchini.

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There’s Been A Terrible Eggcident.

Yesterday was a day of firsts. All were things I never want to have second experiences with.  I started off my Thursday the way I spend any ol’ Thursday. Recapping how tacky last nights Top Model was and making myself some coffee, eventually remembering I should eat something. So I pursued the goods in the fridge, having just gone grocery shopping, and settled on making a batch of hard-boiled eggs. I have heard many ways of making the “perfect hard-boiled egg”, but I don’t pay attention to them anymore. My way has always worked, always been tasty and has always left me licking my fingers afterwards. I never mind the farty smell of hardboiled eggs. It’s apparently the sulphur in them vs the way they are cooked. I have tried all the methods to rid the farty ghosts from their shells but none have worked. Really, growing up near hot springs and sulphur pits, an itty bitty egg does not frighten me.

I placed the eggs in the near boiling water like I always have and walked away. Soon after I heard a POP! and came back to find a terrible, horrific, ghastly scene! A massacre of albumen and yolk lay before me. One of my eggs had committed suicide. Or perhaps one of the other eggs had a longstanding grudge against him (I assume it was a he) and decided he would egg-stract him from his safe outer shell. Okay, I might be acting a little dramatic and egg-streme, but I had never experienced an egg-splosion like this while making hardboiled eggs. I was stunned at the mess that lay before me. Needless to say I was not egg-static about this eggs-traordinary occurence.

Okay, I will stop with the egg puns now…I can feel that facepalming through the internet. I fished the poor guy out of the water, took his shell off and pat him dry. Now, for some of you this may not be interesting at all because it sort of, kind of, maybe resembles a poached egg. Can I confess something to you? I have never had, nor made a poached egg. No, I have never had eggs benedict. Ever. Don’t you gasp at me… I order sunny side up every time.  Eggs benedict has always looked like some gooey, Easter-pastel coloured dish! I will admit, I am very interested in trying it, especially now that I’ve had my near-poached experience. I’ll tell you what, next time I’m at a restaurant for brunch, I will try it. I’m open to suggestions of places that make a great eggs benny.  I don’t expect I will be out for a restaurant dinner anytime soon though as moths fly from my wallet, so you will have to wait a little while for my review!

That’s all yolks.

…..sorry!

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Kale Chips

So, I must be years behind on the internet because I just discovered Kale Chips. Apparently, they are a thing that once discovered will be all you can talk about for weeks. It seems a bazillion blog posts were made about them in a short amount of time. They were the new fad! I… missed out. Until of course I came across this Kale Chip Recipe . Boy, am I ever thankful I did. I have had previous experience with kale. I’ve tried putting it in smoothies and eating it raw. I didn’t dislike it, but as a green leafy vegetable it never wowed me. Kale chips… now those wow me.

I love snacking. Salty and crunchy – that’s my Achilles heel. We don’t keep any bad foods in the house, and even doubly so that goes for snack foods. Because I will devour them. In one sitting. A box of Cheez-Its and me is like the ultimate showdown – and I always win. Or lose… depends on how you look at it and what part of my body it ends up going to. Funny enough, I didn’t even pick up a box of Cheez-Its until I came to America. Now they are my new favourite thing. We don’t deny ourselves all snacking/bad foods. On Sundays the husband and I have our “Picnic” which started when we first began dating. Me, being from Canada and him from America there were times we were forced to be apart for months. So we would pick up some type of (indulgent) meal on Sunday nights and eat them over webcam together. This tradition has been carried out every Sunday for just over 3 years, even when we were no longer a world apart. Anyways, during the week I get hard-core snack cravings since we don’t eat “bad foods” until Sunday. It’s not like I used to snack incessantly before, but it’s a want what you can’t have type deal. I needed to find healthy, crunchy alternatives to my beloved Cheez-its!

Enter: The Kale Chip

(you can click the images for the full size goodness)

Wash your kale (I used a pot because my strainer was in the wash), then pat your kale dry. I don’t hesitate to squeeze it because it is one tough leaf.  I used a bag of pre cut kale because it was on sale but I usually get the bunches. I got a whale of kale on sale (Hehe… okay I’m done now). Cut off the hard stems if you bought a bunch that was not yet cut, or have any stragglers in your precut pile and discard them.  If you are making kale chips and you want the appearance to be neater, get the fresh bunches vs the precut. Like I said this batch was from precut so it’s not as pretty as it could be. You can control the size and somewhat the shape of your chips by getting the bunches.
 

Of course for this recipe I don’t really measure anything properly. I want to make your lives difficult, you see!  My not-so-scientific measurements are as follows:

– A medium-sized pot full of kale
– A small capful of extra virgin olive oil
– a pinch of sea salt

There you have it. The magic! I pour the capful of oil over the kale and toss it around with (freshly washed) hands. You can see when you’ve missed a spot because it has a light white film over the green. I just massage the oil into the spots I missed while tossing it. If you follow the link I posted above they do give you a recipe to follow. I found their recipe to be way too oily, and a little too salty. Even they say to watch out for it because it’s easy to over do. The capful I use is about 1/2 tbsp. Lay out all your kale on some tinfoil or parchment paper and place in the oven at 350degrees for 15 minutes. Be aware that you should lay the kale out so they are not overlapping. This helps them cook evenly and you won’t end up with any soggy bits. Be aware that they SHRINK! So a little salt goes a long way.

When I first bit into the kale chip I didn’t know what to expect. I let the “chip” sit on my tongue a moment before crunching it. OI! This thing HAS A CRUNCH! It sounds like a thousand gnomes walking on fresh snow in my mouth! And the taste! The taste is phenomenal. It’s a smokey, earthy flavour that is only enhanced by the saltiness of it. I’m in love with kale chips. Everyone knows it from the amount I’ve talked about and suggested them since discovering the recipe. I have found a healthy snack that fulfils my crunchy + salty desires during the 6 days a week I can’t fulfil them with cheesy saturated fats and refined flours. Thank God for that!

See! Look how much they shrink! They turn into these cute little things. The big question is do I  pretend I’m a dinosaur while eating them? Of course I do. I’m the Canuckasaurusrex, damnit.

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