Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Tico Tuesday: Vegetarian Dream

Costa Rica is a veggie paradise. Fresh (local) fruits and salads and the nutritious and flavorful staples described below are all this woman needs to be happy. Well, along with strong Costa Rican coffee and a daily hit of chocolate.

The “casado” is the ubiquitous Costa Rican plate. It consists of rice, black beans, plantain, cabbage salad, a soft corn tortilla and usually some meat. The marriage of the flavours and textures are what make this plate of food delicious, and their name “casado” means just that, “marriage”.

As a vegetarian, I ate this almost daily on my visits to Costa Rica, simply asking the chef to omit the meat.

And then, in the morning, the rice and the black beans are once again presented in the form of Gallo Pinto, a mixture of the black beans, rice, onion, herbs and spices, sometimes served with eggs.

I have made the Gallo Pinto at home, though there is a Costa Rican sauce called Lizano which the North American version is missing:

Gallo Pinto


  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • garlic
  • 1 tablespoon green or red pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons coriander
  • oil
  • 3 tablespoons Lizano “Salsa Ingles” (only available in Central America)
  • alternative: 1 tablespoon worcester sauce
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro (to taste – I like a lot)


Sear garlic with the onions on medium heat. Add beans and cook for 3 more minutes. Add coriander and salsa lizano (or worcestershire sauce) and stir well. Sprinkle liberally with fresh cilantro bits.

Try this easy little burst of Central America right  in your kitchen and think of me missing all my northern family and friends in the coming months.


December 20, 2011 at 8:47 pm 1 comment

Cereal MarshMallow Chocolate Chip Cookies


Nothing healthy to see here today so if that’s what you are looking for, move right along. But if it’s something ooey and gooey you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place.

I am trying to use up pantry ingredients before we leave for our trip. A few weeks ago I stumbled across this recipe for a cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. I made it with a few modifications (the most important one was substituting 7 Reasons cereal from PC Organics for the Cornflake Crunch recipe that goes into the cookie recipe. The results were impressive, if not a very tiny bit too rich and too sweet for even my sweet-loving taste buds.

This morning, with some marshmallows still in the cupboard, I set out to make a dairy-free, egg-free version with slightly less sugar.

They finished texture was PERFECT. The only change I would make the next time would be half and half white flour and whole wheat flour; I can really taste the overwhelming wholewheatiness and would prefer it to be slightly less obvious.

Dairy-free Cereal Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies

inspired by the Momofuku Milk Bar Cornflake Cookies


1 c vegan Becel

1 1/2 c packed brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp ground flax

6 tbsp water

1 3/4 c whole wheat flour (recommend using white whole wheat or half white)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 c 7 Reasons Cereal (or very crunchy flake cereal)

1 1/4 c mini marshmallows (or cut up large ones)

3/4 c milk chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350F (I used 340F in a convection oven)

2. Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes in stand mixer).

3. Add flax, water and vanilla and mix on medium high for another couple of minutes.

4. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and mix gently.

5. Add cereal and other mix-ins.

6. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. My cookies spread quite a bit, though they were not completely flat. However, if you like a really chunky cookie, I recommend baking with well-refrigerated or frozen dough. The yield of the original recipe is 18-20 cookies. I had 24 on my first sheet and still have three quarters of the dough in the freezer. This means you could make some really great huge cookies with this recipe, but just remember to increase the baking time a bit. And speaking of baking time…

7. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Watch carefully for golden edges, peaks and toasty looking marshmallows.

8. See how long they last. I only make them one pan at a time or else we would all have tummy aches.

N.B. Since the dough is egg-free, you have clearance to safely eat it right from the bowl 🙂

December 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm 1 comment

Recipes Please: Dressing, Fruit Pudding, Protein Fudge, Oat Pancakes

When I taste something delicious in a restaurant, I want to try to figure out how to make it at home. But of course it has to be simple and I usually have to try to make it “healthier”. Derek hates when I do this.

On Friday I had dinner at Churchill’s again. I had promised that I would give it a second chance, and a neighbour’s birthday gathering was planned there – perfect opportunity.

There is nothing on the menu that I would order as is. I am veg mostly, but do occasionally eat fish and seafood when I’m out. I avoid dairy as much as possible, unless it’s butter baked into a delicious treat :).

I ended up ordering the same thing I had when I visited in the summer, the Asian Beef Salad with the beef on the side for my beefy companion (husband). The salad on its own is really delicious. It is not filling, because there is no substantial protein source, but it tastes great.

On Sunday, I had a couple of hours on my own at home and I attempted to recreate the dressing. I’m very happy with the result:

Asian Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing

3 ounces rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce (I used half soy, half tamari)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

I doubled the recipe and it’s in the fridge for this week’s salads.

We had terrible service again at Churchill’s. Our table of 7 was irritated, and the poor guy across from me kept trying to get the server’s attention to order another drink. Another guy at the table said he likes the ambiance there, but everyone agreed that the food is totally mediocre and overpriced and the service is really the pits.

Unless it’s because I’m invited there for a particular occasion, it’s off my list.

During my Sunday kitchen time, I also made two other delicious and nutritious treats just for me. I am going to get the kids to try the first one, but I think the second one is too rich-tasting for their palate:

Blueberry Chia Pudding
Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 c frozen blueberries
1 tbsp Artisana coconut butter (coconut oil would probably work too, or you could leave this out)
1/3 c chia seeds (ground is better but I only had whole in the pantry)

Blend until smooth. Refrigerate in portioned containers for at least an hour, and up to a few days. A refreshing post-run treat.
Nutrition Facts
Calories per serving: 122
Carbs 5g
Protein 3g
Fat 6g

Chocolate Protein Fudge
Makes 8 1″ squares

4 Tbsp Artisana coconut butter
1 scoop Sunwarrior chocolate raw vegan protein
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (the pure unsweetened kind)
1 frozen banana

Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until they are smooth and stick together. Fill an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin or similar with the mixture and freeze. It’s like eating a fudgicle with a banana undertone.

Nutrition Facts
Calories per square 77
Carbs 7g
Protein 3g
Fat 5g

And last but not least, tonight I made a new pancake recipe for dinner (Lil C’s special dinner request). It’s another oatmeal pancake, but I blended the oats into flour before I added it to the batter. I think the boys preferred the texture and they looked more like Nana’s famous pancakes (which are a fluffy and perfectly cooked pancake made with Aunt Jemima mix, milk and egg).

Blended Oatmeal Pancakes
Makes approx 12

1 c whole wheat flour
2 c oats (either quick or old-fashioned)
1 1/4 c of water
1 1/4 c of milk (recipe calls for all milk)
pinch of salt
3 egg whites
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c coconut oil

Blend all the ingredients in the blender. Pour onto hot pan in 1/4 c portions.

I made the batter this afternoon and refrigerated it in the blender pitcher until I was ready to make the pancakes at dinner time, and it worked fine.

Nutrition Facts
Calories per pancake 148
Carbs 19g
Protein 5g
Fat 6g

So, any good recipes y’all have to share with me? I just finished the full Friday Night Lights series and have found myself with “y’all” as a new addition to my everyday lexicon.

November 7, 2011 at 11:32 pm 1 comment

Quick and Dirty Treats and Sweets

The first day of school gave me a ton of blog fodder. I was left with many first impressions, but discussing them at this point would be premature, and perhaps unfair. So instead, I will leave you with a couple of recipes that have been popular in the house this week. Both recipes and a carrot loaf from a mix (with a few add-ins) took me about one hour from start to finish (not counting chilling time).

This first recipe was inspired by peanut butter balls and requested by Derek:

No-Bake Sunflower Seed Butter Balls w/Rice Krispies Cereal
adapted from recipe by Rachel Keller on

Makes approx 24 balls


1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 cups of crispy rice cereal (I used about 2.25)
  1. Combine the sunflower seed butter, honey, and vanilla.
  2. Stir in enough cereal to make balls. (Wet your hands before rolling the mixture into balls.)
  3. Place the balls on parchment paper and freeze or chill. They should keep for at least a month in the freezer though, based on the rate of consumption around here, I’m not sure the freezer life matters.

You could use peanut butter or other nut butter and these would be delicious; just don’t serve them when Lil D is around.

 Nutrition Facts

Serving Size – 1 ball, Calories 49, Carbs 6, Fat 2, Protein 1


Very Sweet Easy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Makes 16 conventional-sized bars


1 1/4 cup quick cooking oats (not instant; I think regular might work too)
1 3/4 cup crispy rice cereal (I used Rice Krispies)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used mint chocolate chips)
  1. Prepare 8 x 8 baking dish or similar size bowl with cooking spray and line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the oats and cereal in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan combine sugar, honey and oil. Heat at medium high until boiling. Let boil for one minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Combine hot liquid mixture with oats and cereal mixture.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  6. When cool enough to touch, to transfer to baking sheet and press to flatten.
  7. Cut into sixteen bars or squares.

Note: These are VERY sweet, but also very good; more a dessert than a snack. I might try them with less or maybe even without brown sugar next time, a little more honey or perhaps brown rice syrup, and maybe with half the oil and some applesauce to replace the other half… I might suggest mashed banana instead of oil/sugar, but it won’t work for me because the boys pick out the banana taste and reject it (except fresh or in banana bread). Or now, as I write this, I’m thinking pureed dates… but that would require getting out the food processor.

 Nutrition Facts (as made)

Serving Size – 1 granola bar

Calories 164, Carbs 23, Fat 7, Protein 2

September 7, 2011 at 11:35 am 2 comments

Fitness Friday: A Friday Treat

Last week I mentioned that I was going to write about fad diets today. Well, with a little jet lag and a lot of work, it didn’t happen. However, you can probably guess that I’m not a fan of fad diets, and in keeping with my anti-fad diet theme, I’m gonna give you a recipe that I’m sure fits within NO fad diet.

If you scroll to the bottom, I still have my usual Fitness Friday report.

Improvised Ice Cream Pie: Weekday Special Dessert

I over-baked some blondies. They were harder than my kitchen counter. I put them in a container and looked at them daily for a week. And then I remembered this recipe for banana split cake.

But that recipe is for a special occasion cake. So I used it as inspiration to create something simpler from ingredients I had on hand.

Waste not want not right?

Improvised Ice Cream Pie with Cookie Crumb Crust


Approx 1.5 cups of crushed blondies, brownies, cookies of any kind. You could even save the crumbs from the bottom of  few boxes of store-bought cookies (or Graham cracker crumbs).

Approx 3/4 L of neopolitain ice cream or any flavor you prefer.

1 large banana (frozen if you want to serve immediately).

6 large strawberries

Chocolate syrup


1. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap making sure that you have a large enough piece to drape over the sides.

2. Set side 1/4 c of the cookie crumbs. If you are using cookies that have a high fat content (like homemade choc. Chip cookies or blondes) microwave them for 30 seconds or so until they’re a bit warm and press them  into the bottom of the pan. If you are using Graham cracker crumbs, you will need to add a few tablespoons of melted butter to the crumbs to keep them together.

3. Slice the banana into rounds and place over the cookie crumb crust.

4. Spoon about an inch thickness of strawberry ice cream onto the banana layer.

5. Spoon a similar sized layer of vanilla ice cream on top of the strawberry layer (the order and or the mixing of flavors really doesn’t matter).

6. Slice enough of the strawberries to cover the ice cream in single layer.

7. Cover the strawberries with a half an inch of chocolate ice cream.

8. Sprinkle remaining cookie crumbs over the top and garnish with remaining strawberries and a squiggly drizzle of chocolate syrup.

9. Freeze for at least 20 minutes to harden before slicing.

10. If serving to guests or if you think your family will eat this in one sitting, lift the plastic out of the loaf pan and put the whole “loaf” on a serving dish. Otherwise, leave it in the pan and cut slices as you would a banana bread.
When you serve it in slices, the layers look pretty.

11. Watch your kids eyes bug out when you serve them this for dessert on  regular Wednesday.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Fitness Friday:

Running Rundown

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Tuesday – 10 km run. I used my jet lag to my advantage and enjoyed an early morning run along the Ottawa River. I forgot how much I love mornings.

Thursday –8.5 km – another early morning run. The goslings are turning into teenagers. Soon they won’t be cute, just annoying like their parents.

Strength and Conditioning Stats

Wednesday: Greco Lean and Fit class

Friday: Vinyasa Yoga class

Have a great weekend. We’ve got a soccer festival, Westfest, and family birthday BBQ on our agenda. Should be fun times!

June 10, 2011 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Feta, Roasted Beets, Raisins and Seeds in “My Favourite Things” Salad

As usual, our Mother’s Day brunch this year was at my mom’s house. In our signature control-freak kind of way, the women in our family take responsibility for our own Mother’s Day brunch. This year we each brought something so it really didn’t amount to too much work.

We had planned to hire a helper for a few hours to do clean-up, but we didn’t have any luck finding anyone. So, in the end, the clean-up mostly fell to my mom as she consistently refused our offers to help. She almost had to push my mother-in-law out of the kitchen she was so persistent. But my mom has her systems and she finds it more relaxing if she can do it on her own in her own way. If it was at my place, I think I would prefer that too… but instead I don’t have people over (much less work :)).

The brunch worked out really well. In attendance were (in order of appearance):

  • My mom and dad (Nana and Grandpa)
  • My mother-in-law (Nanny Maddy)
  • My grandmothers (Nanny Antoinette and Nanny Marion)
  • My parents’ friends (P and B)
  • Us (Liisa, Derek, Lil D & Lil C)
  • My aunt and uncle (B and P)
  • My teenage cousins who are sometimes babysitters (N and A)

Lil C and Lil D played Junior Monopoly for two hours with various adults rotating in and out while the rest of the adults chatted and ate. The great grandmothers enjoyed their food while struggling to hear the conversations going on around them.

The hearing aid situation really drives me bonkers. Could someone please invent a hearing aid that works? It’s not only sad for the elderly person who can’t take part in the conversations, it’s really frustrating for those of us who have to repeat ourselves three to four times.

I was literally shouting at my Nanny M. a few times. And then, my other grandmother started talking to my aunt at a volume that she perceived as very low. She was talking about some other people in the room. From across the room, I had to tell my aunt to tell my grandmother that I could hear what she was saying (and therefore, soon the others would too).

Tiny frustrations aside, we had a great time and a delicious brunch.

The Menu

To drink

Mimosas, sparkling water, and coffee (Grandpa)

To eat

Smoked Trout (Nana)

Caprese Salad with big slices of buffalo mozzarella (Aunt B)

“My Favourite Things” Salad (Me with Nana’s dressing) – salad recipe below

Quiches with Scratch Crust – Red Pepper and Broccoli (Nanny A)

Thinly-Sliced Cold Roast Beef (Nana)

Bagels, Rolls, Cheeses, Raw Veggies, Olives, Fancy Horesradish Mustard (Nana)

Carrot Cake Loaf (Me)

Coffee Cake (Nanny Maddy)

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – P (failure to communicate caused the duplication, but you can’t really have too much carrot cake!)

Brownies (Nana – using Nanny Marion’s recipe)

Mixed Berries (Nana)

The salad I made was inspired by a post I read about an author’s favourite restaurant salad.  She listed the ingredients without noting whether this was an exhaustive list, so I really just concocted this salad using her description as inspiration. I added and I subtracted and really, I just guessed.

My creation is delish and nutritious. It contains all my favourite salad ingredients (except blue cheese and candied pecans).

The base: Organic Baby Spinach AND/OR small bite-size bits of romaine lettuce

The crunch: 2-3 celery stalks, thinly chopped

The firm bite: roasted heirloom beets from the local market (4 small, roasted in olive oil and sea salt in foil packets for 35 minutes at 375F)

The salty protein bite: diced greek feta cheese (1 container, diced)

The sweet chew: raisins (1/2 cup)

The nuttiness: pumpkin and sunflower seeds (1/3 cup each)

The dressing: My mom made a traditional vinaigrette with lemon juice instead of vinegar. I added a little red wine vinegar over the salad because I felt it needed that acidic taste. Next time I will make it with a balsamic vinaigrette. I like the super sour dressing with the sweet and salty ingredients.

Monday evening, I recreated a facsimile of the salad as a side dish for dinner. I didn’t have any feta but felt like I could leave it out since it was a side salad. I subbed apple for beets and romaine for the baby spinach. I added some coarse sea salt since both the feta and the beets had been salty.

Sliced Granny Smith apple worked well as substitute for the roasted beets, though I missed the deep yellow and red of the beets

Do you see the brown edges on the lettuce? I pretended I didn't.

Despite the brown edges, Derek and I fought over the last bit in the bowl. I can’t wait to make it again with feta, beets and spinach.

May 11, 2011 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Those Two Recipes I Mentioned Yesterday

Yesterday I couldn’t get over my carrot cake loaf long enough to give this week’s two other culinary successes their due. So today, I’ve got a cookie recipe that will help you get rid of the rest of your Mini Eggs so they don’t continue to haunt you for weeks to come, and a delicious, if maybe not perfectly authentic, recreation of a well-known restaurant specialty.

Let’s do what I like to do and start with dessert. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you might remember this recipe that incorporated leftover Halloween treats. Well, for me the purpose of this recipe is the same. Get that sweet Mini Egg crack (anyone see the most recent episode of The Office? There’s a line about people using “crack” as a point of reference when they’ve never tried crack) out of the house as fast as I can.

I saw a picture of a cookie that had pastel coloured M&M’s nested in green oatmeal cookies that were meant to look like grass. I thought they looked somewhat revolting, but I liked the idea of using the pretty Mini-Egg colours in cookies. So, I searched for another cookie recipe that incorporated candy coated chocolates. I found this one from the Pioneer Woman.

I then rejigged it a little to include only ingredients I had on hand (and to cut a bit of the add-ins – I thought I had a sweet tooth…) and to make them pretty with the Mini Eggs. I only had enough chocolate candies for half the cookies. The ones without are great. I would make this recipe again with or without.

Mini-Egg Chocolate Chip Krispie Cookies

Makes 80 two-bite cookies (I made only about half with the Mini Eggs). The Rice Krispies really extend this recipe and give it a little crunch.


  • 2 sticks (1/2 Pound) Butter, softened
  • ½ cup White Sugar
  • 1-½ cups Brown Sugar, packed
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1-½ cup Oats (either Quick Or Regular)
  • 1/8 cup ground flax
  • ¾ cups Chocolate Chips (milk Or Semi-sweet; I used the latter)
  • 2-¼ cups Rice Krispies
  • Leftover Mini Eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cream butter with sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add to mixing bowl and mix till combined. After that, add in remaining ingredients in whatever quantity you prefer. Add nuts, or more M & M’s, more peanut butter chips or chocolate chips.
  4. Add Rice Crispies at the very end, mixing until just combined. Do not over mix!
  5. Use a small cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough on to a cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, then allow to cool on a rack. Press Mini Egg into the top of each warm cookie to settle it into its “nest”. I put the Mini Egg in before baking, but I think it would look better if you press it in after baking.

See what I mean?

These were so cute, that they inspired me to buy a glass cookie jar so that my treats are not hidden away in ugly plastic or awkwardly stored on covered plates.

Here’s what they look like without the candy:

After making quick work of those cookies on Sunday and Monday, by Tuesday, I needed real food.

When I was in Florida last week, we had a meal at P.F. Chang’s. My mom enjoyed the chicken lettuce wraps and I loved the tofu version. I tried to dissect the dish as I ate it. My mom was convinced the “special” ingredient was the sauce.

I consulted my trusty friend Google and came across many recipes that looked like they approximated the dish. So off I went, with the ingredients in my fridge and pantry, to piece something similar together. It wasn’t an exact copy, but what I came up with was good. I ate it for lunch, dinner and then dinner again tonight (while the boys and their father ate MEAT).


Makes 4 servings


  • head of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 pound extra firm or firm tofu
  • 2 3/4 cups chopped mushrooms (I used regular white mushrooms)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped garlic (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger (fresh)
  • 4 oz chopped water chestnuts (drained) OR 2 c bean sprouts (I used these)
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Chop your tofu into tiny squares (1.5 cubic cm) and toss lightly in soy sauce and pepper.
  2. Spread tofu on a sprayed pan/cookie sheet. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes or until tofu looks crisp on the outside.
  3. While the tofu is baking, heat olive oil in skillet or wok. Stir fry chopped up garlic and ginger until tender, about 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and a few shakes of soy sauce. At this time you can add soy sauce, usually about 4 shakes (depending on your palette). When the mushrooms are cooked to your preferred doneness (some like them more well-done than I do), add bean sprouts or water chestnuts to warm through without making them too soggy.
  4. Remove from heat and add tofu to the stir fry mix.
  5. Spoon on lettuce and roll it up like a fajita.

Note: You can add brown or white rice to extend this dish.

Another note: Next time I will use water chestnuts. I forgot to replace them in my pantry so I didn’t have any on hand.

Nutrition Facts (Chocolate Chip Krispie Cookies):

Calories per serving: 257, Protein 25 g, Fat 13 g, Carbohydrate 8 g

Nutrition Facts (tofu lettuce wraps):

Calories per serving: 69, Protein 1 g, Fat 3 g, Carbohydrate 10 g

Happy eating!

April 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm 3 comments

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