Monday, April 30, 2012

Granola Bars...sort of...

This post started with a huge hawl from the Bulk Barn.

I had grabbed all of my favorite items, along with a few new treats.
The Bulk Barn is a favorite destination for the kids as well as myself.

I was mentioning my trail mix on my facebook page for this blog...
...when somebody mentioned GRANOLA BARS.

I have never made granola bars, but thought I'm confident enough to make those things! 
(I'd only been talking about doing it for years...just never gotten around to it.)

I got all of the ingredients out (grabbed a recipe of and started to work...

Turns out I didn't have any granola though....but why would I let that stop me?

Here's what I used:

2 cups flour (gluten free if you want to!)
1 1/2 cups hulled hemp seeds (a perfect and natural blend of easily digested proteins, essential fats (Omega 3 & 6), amino acids, fiber, iron, vitamins, calcium and enzymes.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds (rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids that help to lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and a good source of vitamin E)
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (good protein and amino acids!)
1/2 cup walnut pieces (walnuts have highest levels of popyphenolic antioxidants than any other common edible nuts.)
1 cup golden raisins (have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, blood cholesterol lowering activities)
2 tbsps whole flax seeds (numerous health-benefiting nutrients, dietary fiber, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins)
 1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup liquid local honey (The vitamins are B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals are calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.)
2/3 cups butter, softened
1/3 cup packed brown or yellow sugar

(all nutrional facts and info derived from and

Mix all of the dry ingredients then pour on the wet (or moist) ingredients.
Moisten the whole mixture evenly, then spoon into a baking dish.
Baking dish should be sprayed or lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 mins or until golden brown.

Let sit for 20 mins or if you want fast results...put baking dish in the fridge for 10 mins or freezer for 5 mins.
Cut into squares and serve or wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and place in ziploc bags for healthy, high protein snacks on the go.



Although you can't always confirm that the items at the Bulk Barn have a small carbon'll be skipping the preservatives in commercially processed foods.  (Meaning you'll be able to pronounce everything that went into your food)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Asparagus is back!

In honour of springtime and the return of the mighty asparagus...

Here's a fun recipe to try!

It's by far one of the cheapest dishes I've ever made...I already had everything in the pantry with the exception of the shrimp....a whole $6.99 at the store.

My mainstays:

Brown & wild rice
Chili Powder
Red pepper flakes
ground coriander
S & P
Lime Juice (cuz we ran out of lemon)

The shrimp was on sale and I only used about a handful from the bag, leaving tons left for another day.

The asparagus just started to emerge from their winter's slumber.
Poking their purple heads up from the dry garden soil.

Asparagus are a part of the Lily family (Liliaceae). Various species of asparagus were cultivated by Egyptian cultures beginning as early as 3000 B.C., and by Europeans including early Greek and Roman cultures.

Although it does take 3 years from planting to picking, if you have the patience and the time, it is certainly worth the wait!  (especially when you see what they sell for in the stores!!!)

Asparagus Care Guide:

Asparagus' very high respiration rate makes it more perishable than its fellow vegetables, and also much more likely to lose water, wrinkle, and harden. By wrapping the ends of the asparagus in a damp paper or cloth towel, you can help offset asparagus' very high respiration rate during refrigerator storage. Along with this helpful step, you will want to consume asparagus within approximately 48 hours of purchase or picking.

Chop to nice lengths and rinse.
I already had cooked rice in the fridge.
Pressed garlic and slivered onions into a frying pan with a bit of veg oil.
Simmer and add the chopped asparagus, rice and shrimp.
Add the spices and nuts.  Simmer until warmed thoroughly.

I like my fresh asparagus crunchy, so I just threw in the raw veggies and warmed them up...if you like a softer asparagus...then nuke for a min or steam them (about 30sec).

Asparagus Nutrition Guide:

Asparagus contains anti-inflammatory nutrients such as saponins, including asparanin A, sarsasapogenin, protodioscin, and diosgenin. Other anti-inflammatory nutrients in asparagus include the flavonoids quercetin, rutin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.

Like chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus contains significant amounts of the nutrient inulin. Inulin is a unique type of carbohydrate called a polyfructan, and in practical terms, healthcare practitioners often refer to it as a "prebiotic." Unlike most other carbs, inulin doesn't get broken down in the first segments of our digestive tract. It passes undigested all the way to our large intestine. Once it arrives at our large intestine, it becomes an ideal food source for certain types of bacteria (like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) that are associated with better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy, and lower risk of colon cancer.

Alongside of its unusual inulin content, asparagus is rich in fiber (about 3 grams per cup, including about 2 grams of insoluble fiber and 1 gram of soluble fiber) and also contains a noteworthy amount of protein (about 4-5 grams per cup). Both fiber and protein help stabilize our digestion and keep food moving through us at the desirable rate. (By contrast, too much fat can slow down our digestion rate more than desired, and too much sugar or simple starch can speed it up more than desired. We're not surprised to see species of asparagus like Asparagus racemosus (commonly known as Shatavari) having a long history of use in treatment of digestive problems in certain healthcare traditions (like ayurvedic medicine), and it makes sense to us that asparagus be considered as a great food for improving digestive support in most diets.

In short: 

Loads of fibre, high in vitamin K, anti-inflammatory.  Good for digestive tract, great for diabetics!

They also make your pee smell funny.  Its not dangerous, just one of those funny human things (like corn in your poop).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yummy meaty pasta dish...

Looking for something fresh and hearty for dinner?

Well have I got a dish for you!

This dish was inpired by the Pasta Fasta recipe I make in the summer time using fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden.  I was wistful one day and decided to try something like it mid-winter.

Ingredients List:

ground beef - browned on a skillet
chopped tomatoes
red pepper flakes
olive oil
short pasta - cooked (any shape will do)
2 (or more) garlic cloves (from Cam & Michelle Mather)
grated cheese (ours was from Wilton Cheese in Wilton, ON)

Cook pasta as per the'll want a couple of couples worth of cooked pasta to fill a baking dish.

You can also be browing the ground beef while you're boiling the pasta.
Once the pasta is cooked and the meat is browned, you can drain the meat and use the same skillet for the rest of this recipe.

Add meat and a tbsp of olive oil to the skillet.  Warm the skillet and add 2 (or so) cloves of garlic, crushed.  Once the dish gets aromatic you can add the tomatoes, thyme, pepper flakes and pasta.  Turn over the whole mess a couple of times until heated thoroughly.

Add all ingredients to a baking dish and top with as much shredded cheese as you like! 

Bake in oven at 425 degrees F until mixture is bubbly...about 10-15 mins, then broil (500 degrees F) for about 5mins (watch it closely!  you want the cheese to be crispy and brown, not charred and black!) 

Finished product!  Its warm, gooey and yummy!  You can change this dish up if you like, by using tofu, tuna or ground turkey instead of the ground beef.  You can also change the whole flavour of this dish by switching up the cheese type too!  I personally loved that lack of sauce in this dish.  It wasn't too heavy and had a freshness that reminded me of summer.

While this isn't necessarily a dish made entirely out of my is a yummy, healthy and filling dish that didn't cost a fortune to make.  Beats hamburger helper that's for sure!  No artifical anything...

Plus the kids LOVED it!  (And that's always a winning combination)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get Lost...

Ok, so this post is actually about NOT getting lost.

Mainly all this warm spring weather has inspired me to do a post about getting out into nature.  Go for a hike alone or with friends.  Experience nature in a first person sense.  Not just through posters, photographs, artwork or watching the Discovery channel.

It's about the sights and smells of the woods. 
About following a trail...just to see what's around the next bend.

It's the feel of the wind through a field.

It's about the thrill of finding a big patch of something edible! 
A raspberry bramble.  A bright green bush of garlic mustard or lamb's quarter.  A crab apple tree.
Is that mutant glasswort?!?

It's about seeing nature as art.  Structural.  A tall rock formation.

It's about stopping to smell the fragrant mosses.

It's about sneaking up on something!
Like finding the evidence of animals in action...

It's about things that make you do a double take!
Or just plain creeps you out...

I recently picked up the 2012 edition of the Frontenac Provincial Park info guide.
Inside it mentioned what you should take in your backpack when you go on a hike, which I thought was particularily useful!  I'll mention the details below:

-Compass (even if you're carrying a GPS)
-extra food & high energy snacks
-extra clothes
-first aid kit
-pocket knife
-headlamp or flashlight
-whistle (3 blasts is a standard distress call)
-large orange plastic bag (good visable colour for attracting attention and can keep items warm and dry)
-waterproof matches or a lighter
-fire starter (aka small sticks, bark, pine cones, newspaper)
-emergency blanket
-insect repellant
-rain gear

Although this may seem like an excessive list for an afternoon's hike or walk, these items may just come in handy in the event of an unplanned detour or delay.

I remember years ago, we were invited to hike in to someone's campsite in Frontenac Park.  My wee son Owen not quite 2 yrs old at the time and I had no idea if he could sustain the energy for a hike of more than 1 hr.  As a family we had gone on many walks since Owen was born, but he was usually in a stroller for most of it.  I knew Owen had lots of I was willing to give it a shot.

I decided to test out if we could do it on a prior weekend.  Noah came along too.  He was probably only 8 yrs old at the time and had been playfully dragged along on many a hike through the Park.  When Noah was younger we started off with the shortest trail first and then worked our way up to the 2 hrs trails.

I figured since this was Owen's first hike through the park, we'd better take the short one.  Seeing as how Noah had already done the short trail a couple of times, we'd make it doing the trail in reverse!  I brought my trusty backpack, which held all sorts of important things, like water bottles and snacks, along with a toilet paper roll, plastic bags, park map and insect spray.  We all had sturdy boots and hats on.

We first started strolling out on our trek, heading towards the "end" of the trail.

I quickly remembered why hikes were frustrating with children of a certain age...
My pockets were all full of every rock and pinecone Owen could reach.  Noah had to be perpetually reminded that it would be in his best interest to stay on the trail.

We didn't make it very far and all three of us were ready for a snack break.  That's when I knew this trip was doomed.  I had grabbed the backpack without checking it.  It had been seriously depleted from taking it along on the last fishing trip.  Normally I was a lot better at checking on these things, but it was a momentary lapse.  To make matters worse, it became apparent we had taken the wrong trail completely and I didn't know where we were.  We ended up at a parking lot I'd never seen in the park.  Sigh...I decided that the smartest thing to do was to follow the tar & gravel road that led away from the parking lot and hope that a vehicle of some description passed us by and took pity on us.  What finally worked on Owen was to get him to chase his big brother Noah ahead on the road.  It wasn't long before that plan backfired and Owen was too tired to walk anymore at all.  I had to carry Owen for the last hour and a half.  

After 3 hours, we were tired and exhausted but at least we had made it back to the main parking lot.  It was a bad experience, but I was completely to blame.  You have to pick your battles.  Frontenac Park is so wonderful for hiking, but even on the shortest trail you can't manage a stroller.  If you can't wear your child, then wait until they can manage rocky terrain on their own.  Many trails in Frontenac Park look like the trail below...

And ALWAYS make sure you have enough snacks and water in case of an emergency.  I trusted that I had been to the Park enough times to know where I was going and clearly shouldn't have been in charge of the map.

All of that being said, hiking and walking in the woods is one of my most favorite activities.  It's just so important to be prepared for the unexpected.  (And if you hike with children, make sure you bring another adult with you to share in the carrying.)

I try to get a hike in whenever the weather and time permits.

P.S.  Owen (now almost 5 yrs old) loves hikes, as long as he has a hiking stick with him.
And Noah learned to stay on the trail, after finding out what the rash caused by Poison Ivy looks like. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Stir Fry for the Family!

This recipe started off with a question...

"What am I gonna do with this leftover steak???"

I sliced it up thin and then it hit me....STIR FRY!

The above picture shows the sliced steak thrown on top of thin sliced orange and yellow peppers, thin sliced onion rings, several pressed garlic cloves, S & P to taste, a handful of raw, whole almonds (could have used sliced almonds...but this was all I had to work with) and red pepper flakes.

Basically you want to quickly cook the veggies and then heat up the steak (so as not to over cook it).

When everything smells good, you'll want to add in a handful of spinach so it can wilt properly but not melt away.

I served everything on top of brown and wild rice
(which I had made several days prior and needed to eat up)
alongwith my trusty chop sticks for full effect!

I'm pretty sure I didn't add any additional flavours or spices to this dish, attempting to let the flavours of the foods stand on their own.  It was a wonderfully colourful and flavourful meal!  If you find it a bit bland for your tastes, you can try adding in some white wine vinegar for an extra zip.

Owen wasn't a fan of the stir fry...but he did like the chop sticks!  He spent the dinner time trying to manipulate the chop sticks like mum was doing...and in the end just liked stabbing his noodles.

Try making something out of the ordinary...from another culture, another'll never know how your kids will interpret the event.  It may just open up a whole new world for your kids!

What weird and wonderful things have you been making in your kitchen?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

Although I have been struggling with the idea that we are not putting in a garden this year...spring has decided to remind me of how lucky we all are.

Spring happens whether we want it to or not!

I was taking a look around our decidedly barren backyard...thinking about all of those thing I would be up to right now.  Starting seedlings in small peat pots...starting seeds in carboard egg crates...planning our trip to the greenhouse.

I was thrilled to find some things had already started growing....reminding me that nature continues matter what's happening in our menial lives.

Our chives are back!  Bring on the baked potatoes...

Seeing these oniony green shoots coming up from the ground just makes me wanna barbeque!
(lucky for us, they come up right next to it!)

Here is a shot of the garlic chives we found growing on our property.  We originally found them shortly after we turned our garden for the first time.  After the first year, we moved them over to the garden plot beside the barbeque...mainly so they would be easier to harvest (right outside the kitchen door) but also to keep the regular chives company!  These chives grow very much the same way regular chives grow.  Two main differences between the two plants, one; being the wider, flatter leaves that shoot out of the ground and two; they taste more like garlic that onions. 

The rhubarb is also coming out nicely.  We transplanted 2 rhubarb plants to a sunnier location.  We had located them in a corner of our property and only seemed fit for spider consumption.  The leaves were miraculously lacey!  In their new home, they seem happier, and less holey.

Can't wait to crack off some leaves of rhubarb, boil them down with a bit of white sugar and spoon it over vanilla ice cream!

Last but certainly not least...the garlic mustard!  It's lining just about every fence we have on our property.  This bunch was right outside our side door and next to our barbeque!  We've already tried it in salads mixed with baby we'll attempt to eat some cooked.  (I'd still like to try garlic mustard pesto...)

So let this be a reminder to matter what's happening in your life...nature continues on...

What have you got growing already?