Low Calorie Cheesecake in a Cup

cup-o-cheesecake
Everybody loves cheesecake and while there’s nothing wrong with pouring the traditional mixture of eggs, cream cheese, sugar and cream into a pan and setting it to bake until it solidifies into a golden, sumptuous conglomeration of deliciousness, wouldn’t it be nice to eat cheesecake without committing to the extra calories that come with it?
Get creative in the kitchen and go for a no-bake cheesecake that smacks of flavour without any of the guilt. Served in a wine glass, the layers shine deliciously through and everyone who tries this sin-free dessert will applaud your out-of-the-box thinking.

Makes 6

Crust
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. salted butter, melted

Filling
1 large tub of ricotta cheese
1 package of regular cream cheese
1/4 c. agave nectar, maple syrup or honey

Sauce
3 c. frozen strawberries
1/4 c. agave syrup

Place frozen berries and syrup into a pan and set over medium heat. Keep uncovered and bring to a low boil (the berries will melt and become liquid-ish) and simmer until reduced to a light syrupy consistency (about ten minutes).

Pour melted butter over graham cracker crumbs and stir well. Scoop crumbs into bottom of the wine cup and press.

In a food processor, whiz together the ingredients for the filling. Once combined, taste and test to find out if it’s sweet enough. Add more sweetener if you’d like. Scoop the filling into the wine glass.

Pour strawberry sauce into the top of the glass, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for a few hours.

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Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)IMG_5695When you strip away the cumulative benefits of yoga: increased flexibility, better strength and balance, peacefulness, stress management, etc….the practice essentially boils down to meditation. It is in meditation that we melt into that place of peacefulness. Unfortunately, tight hamstrings, inflexible inner thighs and sore backs can limit the time we can spend in this restorative posture. Thankfully, painful backs and stubborn hips can be improved and even offset by beginning your practice with the following simple routine. Add to these a few abdominal strengthening exercises and you’ll soon find that Easy pose becomes…well, easy!

Cat/Cow (Marjariasana): One all fours, with your wrists stacked underneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips, take a moment to find your neutral spine. Inhale and gently allow the belly to slacken as the chest and face open towards the front of the room. Exhale and engage the abdominals as you round your back and tuck your chin inwards, looking past your knees. Let you breath move you between these two postures and notice how nicely cat/cow release tension from your spine. 12-20 breaths

Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana): Anchor your sitz bones to the mat or, if your hamstrings are tight, sit on a folded blanket. Extend your legs out from you, grow your spine long and then hinge from the hips forward, gently moving your nose towards your toes. Keep your back straight and the front of your legs (thighs) active as you reach out from the hips and slowly, enjoy how this fold opens the hamstrings and brings length to the backs of your legs. 12-20 breaths

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana): Again, anchored with your sitz bones on the mat or a folded blanket, draw the soles of your feet together. Cradle your toes with your hands. Grow your spine long and hinge forward from the waist. Gently move your chest towards your calves, concentrating on the sensation of opening in your inner thighs. Don’t worry about how far forward you actually move. It’s about finding and working with your edge and extending only as far as you feel challenged. If available, gently press the elbows into the inner thighs to further lower the knees out to the sides. 12-20 breaths

Easy Pose (Sukhasana): Come to a cross legged position. If your hamstrings are still tight, pull the flesh of your butt back off of your sitz bones so that you feel them ground into either the mat, a folded blanket or a meditation cushion. Pivot your hips forwards and backwards noticing where to find neutral, and then settle the hips into that comfortable middle-place. Roll your shoulders forwards and backwards, again sensing where neutral is and let your shoulders settle at middle ground. Engage your core muscles about 30%, enough to feel them supporting your lower back and then drop your lowest ribs in slightly to compensate for a chest that may be popping forward slightly. Finally, lower the chin slightly and notice that as you do, how the back of your neck gets longer. Now you are in the perfect position to dive into stillness. Place your hands gently at your knees, draw your awareness to your breath and enjoy just being there.

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Hungry Moon Tagine

Rural-Food-photo-20016-01March is a time of re-birth, renewal and new beginnings…unfortunately those new beginnings aren’t yet yielding fruit in our gardens, which means that root vegetables (that winter staple) are on the menu for a little while longer. Re-invent root veg in a tagine or slow cooker with sumptuous Eastern flavours and relish how delicious eating the same ‘ol thing can be during the Hungry Moon.

3 potatoes, shredded
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch ginger, minced
1 tbsp z’atar spice blend (or 1 tsp thyme + 1 tsp sesame seeds)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 can tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 carrots, chopped
1 small turnip, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp oil
Sautée onion, garlic, ginger, carrot and turnip in oil on medium heat until onions are translucent. Add Z’atar spice (or alternative), turmeric, cinnamon and cumin and stir until deliciously fragrant. Pour all ingredients into a slow cooker or clay tagine.

If using the slow cooker, set heat to low and cook for 5-6 hours. If using an oven-safe tagine, bake at 325F for one hour.
Serve over couscous and enjoy.

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Tropical Crepes

photo-crepes“Mommy? I want those pancakes, you know, the flat ones that you roll up?”
“You mean crêpes?”
“Yeah the roll up ones.”
And this is how the conversation goes on Saturday mornings these days. My near-seven-year-old requests her favourite version of ‘pancakes’ and I oblige because, lets face it, crêpes are amazing.
The key difference between a crêpe and a pancake, beside thickness if course, is the fact that a true crêpe is completely oblivious to the rising process. Pancakes are almost always made with a levening agent, like baking powder. Not so the crêpe. Ingredients are very simple: flour, egg milk, light sugar, but there is an important step you must take when making crêpes- the wait. Once you’ve mixed together your ingredients, small air bubbles exist within the batter. Waiting just 20-30 minutes before cooking, gives these air bubbles time to escape and prevents the dreaded rising of a crêpe into the realm of pancake-dom.
Once you’ve cooked your crêpes the sky is the limit for fillings. Savory, sweet, healthy or not-so-much. Crêpes elevate the foods they are mixed with and transform a ho-hum meal into something spectacular.

This morning I had tropical flavours on hand and whipped up a Tahitian treat any near-seven-year-old would adore.

Filling
Nutella
shredded coconut
Chopped pineapple

Chopped melon

Crêpes
2/3 c. plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp icing sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 c. milk
4 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp butter, melted

In a blender combine all the crêpe ingredients and whiz until fully mixed together. Set aside and wait 20-30 minutes.

Heat your frying pan, crêpe pan or grill to medium and grease with a dollop of butter. Pour 1/2 ladle-full of batter into the pan and then swirl the batter with the back of the ladle until the crêpe is about as flat as it can get. After about a minute the top will be set and the bottom will turn a lovely golden colour. Flip and cook another minute on the other side.

Serve warm with your tropical filling, roll and enjoy.

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Pastry Strips with Pumpkin Dip

Photo-pumpkin dipFall is all about Pumpkins and why not? Why not pumpkin up your latte, loaf or scone? Pumpkin is a very versatile food and goes well in everything from pies to pizza (I may be exaggerating a little bit about pizza). The baking on offer today takes pumpkin pie and stands it on its head! It speaks to pastry lovers and cheese cake aficionados alike and is guaranteed to be a big hit at thanksgiving or any other time you’ve got mouthes to feed this fall.
Pastries
preheat oven to 350F

1 1/4 c. unbleached white flour or pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp icing sugar (if you like your crust a little sweet)
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Mix together dry ingredients together and then, with a pastry cutter cut in the butter until well-combined (with butter roughly the size of a pea).
Add 3 Tbsp ice-cold water and fluff with a fork (this requires a little elbow grease). Keep adding water until your dough holds together but isn’t sticky. Do not add any more than 8 Tbsp.
For best results wrap your dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick and then slice the dough into strips that measure 1 inch thick and 4 inches long. Arrange these dough strip on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown. This takes about 18-25 minutes.
Dip
1 can pumpkin puree (or if you like extra work, 1/2 of a baked pumpkin- pureed)
1 8 oz box of cream cheese
1/4 c. icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

In a mixer, whip the cream cheese and then blend in the sugar. Add pumpkin puree and spices next. Stop the beater occasionally to scrape down the edges. Pour into a bowl and serve with pastry strips.

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Lovely Leek Pizza

IMG_5335Leeks are the onion’s conservative and highly underrated cousin. They look like giant green onions and despite their merger marketability on this side of the pond, leeks have been widely cultivated in Europe for centuries where everyday staples like cock-a-leekie-soup and vichyssoise claim the modest leek as their star ingredient. There’s something seductive about the leek (phallic shape aside) that makes them irresistible; their flavour is smooth and pungent, aromatic and soulful. It’s hard to find an adjective that describes them perfectly…except perhaps ‘delicious’. When you eat leeks you feel both satisfied and clean. A combination that is entirely gratifying. For this recipe I paired seasonal leeks with garlic, cream cheese and bacon to create a rib sticking fall pizza that is positively loaded with flavour.

Pizza Dough
3.5-4 c. unbleached flour
1 tsp sugar
1.5 Tbsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil

Turn on your oven to 350F, wait 1 minute and then turn it off again- but leave your oven light on. Measure 3.5 c of flour in a large mixing bowl with sugar, yeast and salt and give it a quick mix. In a separate bowl measure in the oil and water. Then pour liquid into the flour mixture. Stir until you get a dough that is neither sticky or dry, adding more flour if needed one Tbsp at a time.

Grease a medium sized bowl and place the dough ball inside. Cover with waxed paper and then pop your dough into the warm (not hot) oven to rise for an hour.

Sauce
In a mixer, cream together 1/2 package of plain cream cheese with 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in chives (another member of the onion family) if you’ve got them. IMG_5331

Toppings
1 c. cooked, chopped bacon
2 leeks, tops and bottoms removed, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and sautéed in butter until soft (about 6 minutes).
1 tomato, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and seeded.

Once the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and heat the oven to 425F. On a floured surface, roll your dough out into a lovely pizza shape (the baking dish you use will dictate which shape this will be). place dough on pane and smoother with the cream cheese ‘sauce’. Sprinkle with sautéed leeks and bacon bits.

When oven is warmed up, pop in the pizza pie and bake until the crusts tan to a lovely golden brown.IMG_5334

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Roasted Beet, Carrot and Chicken

photo-roast BeetsIt’s been a great year for beets! It seems every person you speak to has beets on offer and who am I to refuse their earthy offerings? While beets may seems a little intimidating to those who aren’t sure what to do with those dirt-caked purple earth gems- the truth is that beets can be amazingly simple to prepare. For this recipe, beets were paired with a simple roasted chicken and carrots- everything was basted with the same balsamic garlic sauce and everything was cooked on the BBQ. The flavours of late summer abound with the simple dish. Serve with a salad made from beet greens and you’ve got a complete meal.

Serves 4
Before cooking rub a fully thawed chicken, inside and out, with:
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp pepper

Place birdie in a casserole dish that can handle a BBQ i.e. cast iron

Set burners on left and right to low- leave the central burner off and when the temperature in the grill settles at around 400F, pop in the chicken and cook roughly 20 min per pound.

Rinse and peel:
4 large beets
6 fat carrots.

Slice the beets about 1/2 inch thick and cut the carrots in half. Set aside.

Now it’s time for some math. When there’s 30 minutes left on the chicken timer, pour 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar over the bird. Use this sauce, mixed with the chicken drippings to baste the bird.

When there’s 25 minutes left on the chicken countdown timer, place carrots and beets onto the grill on either side of the casserole dish and brush with the chicken basting sauce. Give beets and carrots a quarter turn after about 8 minutes. Flip after the next 8 minutes and brush with more chicken sauce. Give veggies another quarter turn 8 minutes after that. When a fork can pierce the vegetables easily, they’re done…and if everything works according to plan-your chicken will be too. Be prepared to be flexible here. Chicken cooking times are always variable so relax and go with the flow. Better safe than sorry.

Once you’ve removed the food from the BBQ and gotten it ready to serve, you have the option of making a gravy with the remaining chicken sauce. If that tickles your fancy, pour the sauce into a pot and set it over med-high heat on the stove. In a separate container, mix 1/4 c. unbleached flour with 1 c. cold water and the pour this ‘glue’ into the chicken sauce. Stir until thickened and serve as a gravy.

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Sweet Potato Even Satisfies Picky Six-year-olds

photo-sweet potatoSweet potatoes have this dangerous tendency to be boring. I think it’s the word ‘potato’ that does it. Potatoes can be bland, lazy and usually fill the roll of flavourless sidekick, relying on the addition of sauces and gravies for personality. While sweet potatoes are different in so many ways from the standard russet tater, more often than not, they get painted with the same dull brush and more than is necessary, sweet potatoes morph into the same old boring french fry substitute.
But they can be so much more! They get along great with spices in curries, they sweeten up delectably in pie and they positively soar when mingled with savoury flavours like orange, bell pepper and raisins. In the beginning this dish fitfully resembles every-day sweet potato fries, but when tossed with dressing and some fresh herbs, these potatoes transform into a sum much, much greater than it’s fresh and sumptuous parts.

Serves 4 as a side

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper
30 ml red wine vinegar
1/2 red pepper, core and seeds removed
1 orange, peeled
2 Tbsp raisins
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives or green onion

Preheat oven to 400F and toss cubed potatoes with oil, salt and pepper. Bake ‘taters for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to ensure even browning. Once the potatoes are finished, remove from heat and let cool.
In the meantime, in your blender on high speed, mix together the orange, red pepper, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Once blended, if your sauce is chunky, pour it through a fine sieve to remove the bigger bits.
Dress the sweet potatoes with sauce and toss with chopped herbs and raisins.

When I served this my six year old burst out with, “Ew gross, I’m not eating that!” Then, after a little cajoling, she took a bite and admitted, “it’s actually pretty good.” There weren’t any leftovers.

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Shrubs are bringing it back- old school

puritans-drinking-from-pewter-mugs-in-colonial-massachusetts200 years ago, it wasn’t really the thing to stroll on down to the corner store and enjoy a nice cold soda, but then, as well as now, when the mercury boils over, it’s nice to enjoy a refreshing drink that isn’t plain-old-water. Two centuries ago, the go-to summer soda pop alternative was something called a shrub. These drinks were very popular and incredibly simple to make. They capitalized on fresh summer produce like rhubarb, apples and berries. In an age before refrigeration, people had no other choice than to eat seasonally and that meant that once the berries were gone, they were gone. With shrubs, however, the preservative effects of acid and sugar kept berries and other fruit picked at the peak of ripeness edible for much longer. Shrubs are a simple and delicious way of prolonging the harvest.
After reading about these intriguing drinks, I decided to give shrubs an honest go.
The recipe is simple. Mix roughly equal amounts of fruit and sugar together and then let them get to know each other for a few days. This process is called maceration and it is an age-old technique. Sugar is not only a natural sweetener but it is also a great preservative (has the sugar in your cupboard ever gone bad?). The syrup produced from this process is then mixed with an acid (traditionally vinegar) to produce a sweet and sour concentrate that can be diluted with soda water, plain-old-water or if you’re so inclined, something with a little more personality.
After experimenting with the acids of both apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, the clear winner in the taste test was a modern adaptation with lemon juice but that’ just me…you can be the judge when you try these amazing, time-testing early versions of soda pop yourself.photo-shrub

Blueberry Shrub
2 c. blueberries, mashed
1 c. granulated sugar
Let the first two ingredients macerate for three days, stirring occasionally
Strain the resultant syrup and measure.
Mix in equal amount of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice as syrup.
Dilute with your favourite carrier.

photo-shrub3photo-shrub1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Shrub
2 peaches, peeled and chopped
1 c. granulated sugar
Let the first two ingredients macerate for three days, stirring occasionally
Strain the resultant syrup and measure.
Mix in equal amount of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice as syrup.
Dilute with your favourite carrier.photo-shrub2

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Too much Zucchini? Not possible.

Photo-Zucchini-July 36Zucchini abounds this time of year and I couldn’t be happier…especially because I didn’t plant any. That isn’t a problem because (lucky me!), I have friends who are willing to share. The wonderful thing about zucchini is that it is prolific. It begins as a tiny little sprout and grows into a massive, leafy, scratchy plant that produces way more than any sane individual can eat.
Zucchini is best eaten fresh and doesn’t keep well, which means that even frugal gardeners tend to give zucchini away in spades at this time of year. Barbara Kingsolver, in her comical and insightful novel, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle relays that zucchini is a problem that warrants stealthy consideration. “I have not learned to throw perfectly good food in the garbage,” she reports, which means that her problem becomes how to dispose of extra squash that would otherwise have to get chucked in the compost? The only answer is to give it away. In fact, she reports that so many of her neighbours get generous with their courgettes that, “Garrison Keillow says July [August, in Canada] is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat.”
I am far from needing to lock my car door. In fact, because I haven’t got any zucchini plants of my own- I’ll gladly leave my car door wide open in the hopes that a zucchini fairies make deposits on the front seat. Last week I received one such donation and I happily proceeded to make one of my favourite mid-summer meal, sautéed Zucchini. This dish is simple (all the best ones are), and not overly cooked which means the lovely summer flavours are so ripe that they threaten to overwhelm the palate with sunny summer flavour.

1 zucchini, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 c. cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Olive oil

Coat a large frying pan with oil and heat to medium. Toss in the zucchini and let cook for a minute or two, when the bottoms brown slightly, give the pas a toss and wait another minute or two. Now add the rest of the ingredients and cook another minute or two, until the tomatoes are warm enough they’re nearly bursting at the seam. Serve immediately and enjoy.

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