April 24, 2014

Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta & Kale

Baked Sweet Potatoes Topped with Ricotta, Goat Cheese, Kale, and Garlic Chips

Today's my birthday and while I should be posting a picture of a decadent layer cake, instead I'm sharing sweet potatoes and kale.  And while some may think this is blasphemous, I would probably take a baked sweet potato smothered in goat cheese over a piece of frosted cake any day!  Which is mostly because I'm not a huge cake person (though I will still make one this weekend!), but also because this meal was so delicious!

Baked Sweet Potatoes Topped with Ricotta, Goat Cheese, Kale, and Garlic Chips

It's also simple to make - roast some sweet potatoes, top them with a mixture of light ricotta and goat cheese, some sauteed kale and shallots, and finally some crispy garlic chips on top.  The original recipe only called for ricotta, but I added in some goat cheese because I find ricotta too plain on its own and because goat cheese goes well with sweet potatoes.  It added more fat to the otherwise fairly light cheese mixture, but because there's not much fat elsewhere in the meal I thought it was perfectly acceptable!  I also added shallots to the kale mixture for more flavour, but you can easily leave them out if you prefer.  Just don't skip the garlic chips on top - they're so good and super easy to make!

Baked Sweet Potatoes Topped with Ricotta, Goat Cheese, Kale, and Garlic Chips

I loved how the sweetness of the potatoes was balanced out by the creamy cheese and slightly bitter kale, and because of the protein in the ricotta I considered this to be a complete meal in its own, and was actually pretty full afterwards!

I'm thinking of making a cheesecake this weekend to celebrate my birthday with my family so if it turns out I'll be sure to share it soon to balance out the kale from today :)  While I may not be a huge fan of regular cake, I always welcome a slice of cheesecake, probably because cheese makes everything better!  

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Baked Sweet Potatoes Topped with Ricotta, Goat Cheese, Kale, and Garlic Chips

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta & Kale

Adapted from Body + Soul

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 medium sweet potatoes, about 8-10 oz each
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (about 2.5 oz) plain goat cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Scrub sweet potatoes, pierce all over with a fork, and rub skins with 1 tablespoon olive oil (total for all sweet potatoes).  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until easily pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook  until golden, stirring often, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to drain.  They should be crispy like garlic chips.

Add shallot to the pan and sautee for a couple of minutes until softened.  Add kale, cover with a lid, and let cook for 1-2 minutes.  Remove lid, stir, and cook for another minute or two until just wilted and tender.  Season generously with salt and pepper, stir in vinegar and red pepper flakes, and remove from heat.

Mix goat cheese and ricotta in a small bowl until smooth.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise, and top with the cheese mixture, kale mixture, and garlic chips (evenly divided across the 4 potatoes).  Serve warm.

April 15, 2014

Healthy No-Sugar Carrot Cake Date Balls

Healthy No-Sugar Carrot Cake Date Balls

With Easter rapidly approaching (how is it this weekend already?!), I spent some time this past weekend trying to come up with a new Easter recipe to share.  Last year I stuck with an Easter egg theme with egg-shaped breakfast naan pizzas and Easter egg cheesecake bars, but this year I wanted to do something with carrot cake, which I consider a pretty standard Easter dessert and which is one of my favourite types of cake!

It seems like a carrot cake version of everything already exists though, like carrot cake oatmeal, carrot cake banana bread, carrot cake pancakes, carrot cake cheesecake, carrot cake whoopie pies, carrot cake rice krispie treats, etc., all of which look absolutely amazing, of course.  I haven't seen too many carrot cake versions of healthy no-bake balls, though, and after recently trying these oatmeal cinnamon truffles which I loved, I decided to make a carrot cake version!

Healthy No-Sugar Carrot Cake Date Balls

These are super quick and easy to make, with oats, dates, and walnuts as the main ingredients, along with shredded carrots (obviously needed for carrot cake, and with a bonus of added nutrients!), and vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt to bring out the carrot cake flavour.

The end result is a sweet treat with a taste that really reminded me of carrot cake, even though dates are the predominant flavour.  I couldn't really taste the carrots, but I realized carrot cake doesn't taste like carrots either; you could always add more and adjust the ratio of other ingredients if you like though.  These would be a great sugar-free snack to have around this coming weekend to help balance out all the chocolate!

Healthy No-Sugar Carrot Cake Date Balls

No-Bake Healthy Carrot Cake Date Balls

Makes about 18 balls

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups large-flake rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
12 medjool dates, pits removed, chopped into pieces
1 cup grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional: raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

Add oats, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to the large bowl of a food processor.  Process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Remove from food processor and set aside in a bowl.

Add dates to the food processor and mix until smooth.  I added 1 tablespoon of water to help them blend.  Add the carrots, vanilla, and oat mixture back to the food processor and pulse everything until combined and sticking together.  Taste mixture and add more spices or carrots if desired.

Remove mixture from food processor and roll into balls about 1” in diameter.  Keep covered in refrigerator and let refrigerate for at least a couple hours before eating for better texture.

Options:  If desired, you can add raisins to the balls to resemble carrot cake more; the date taste is already strong and sweet though so I didn’t feel it necessary.  Another option is to roll the balls in shredded coconut if you like; I’m not a huge fan of shredded coconut so I didn’t do this with all of mine but it sticks easily to the balls if you wish to roll them in it.

April 10, 2014

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Chickpea & Roasted Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Healthy "bowls" seem to becoming more and more popular these days both across the internet and in cafes and restaurants.  They have many names and variations, but the basic concept is that you combine a base of grains (like rice, quinoa, barley, etc), several different vegetables (raw or cooked), a protein or two (chicken, tofu, beans, nuts, or cheese), and a delicious sauce to tie it all together, thus giving you a complete meal in a bowl.

I find myself drawn to any healthy meal that ends in "bowl" because I love a meal with different textures, flavours, and colours that all fit together in one dish, and these bowls are easy to make super nutritious.

Chickpea & Roasted Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

The problem with ordering them in a restaurant is that they're usually pretty expensive, and while making them at home can require a bit of effort, it's cheaper and you can make a lot so that you have delicious healthy bowls for lunches through the week!

For my version, I combined the following:

Chickpea & Roasted Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Base - a mix of brown rice, barley, and spelt (I used a PC blend of the three for convenience!)
Veggies - steamed broccoli, roasted beets and sweet potatoes, sauteed spinach with garlic, and grated raw carrots
Protein - I forgot to include this in the picture above, but I used chickpeas
Sauce - tahini dressing with soy sauce and sesame oil for flavour!

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Another nice thing about these is that they're highly adaptable, so if you don't like the ingredients that I used, you can make whatever substitutions you like, as long as you maintain a variety of colour and textures!

Try using quinoa as a base if you don't like rice; substitute the chickpeas for chicken or tofu if you like; grate raw beets instead of roasting them; sautee brussels sprouts or kale instead of spinach; roast squash instead of sweet potato ... you get the idea!

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

This makes a filling lunch or dinner that will leave you feeling great.  If you're making enough to have leftovers (which I recommend you do!), just be sure to store the sauce separately or else it will get absorbed and leave the dish feeling sauceless, which won't be as good as sauce is the most important part!

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

Inspired by several recipes, such as ones seen on Paint + Tofu, Dishing Up The Dirt, and Grace Bezanson

Makes 3-6 servings, depending on serving size

Ingredients:

For the Toppings:
~1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 large beets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch of baby spinach (however much you like; I used a small container)
2 large carrots, grated (a food processor with the grater attachment works well for this!)
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the Base:
3-4 cups cooked brown rice and/or barley (I used a bag of mixed brown rice, barley, and spelt) or your favourite grain, such as quinoa (about 1 to 1-1/2 cups uncooked)

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey or agave
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss sweet potatoes and beets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread in an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until tender.  The sweet potatoes will likely be done sooner than the beets; just transfer them to a bowl and put the beets back in the oven.  I prefer roasting beets whole but this takes longer; if you have time, just roast the whole beet for 1 hour, drizzled with oil and wrapped in foil, then peel and chop it after.

Meanwhile, you can cook the broccoli, spinach, and your grains.  Steam the broccoli in a steamer basket over boiling water, covered, for about 2-3 minutes until bright green and tender.  Rinse with cold water and drain.  For the spinach, heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds (this is optional; you could also use a different oil if you like), then add spinach and cook just until wilted.  Remove from heat.  Cook your grains according to package directions; I cooked mine uncovered in simmering water for around 18 minutes, then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Prepare the dressing by whisking all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.  Taste and adjust any amounts to your liking.  Note that this makes a lot of dressing and likely more than you’ll need; just save any extras for another use!

Prepare bowls by adding grains to the bottom, topping with vegetables (beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, spinach) and chickpeas, and drizzling tahini dressing on top.  Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper, if desired.  You can eat this warm or at room temperature.

If you have leftovers, you can portion out everything together into containers except the sauce - that should  be kept separate and drizzled on right before eating so it doesn't get absorbed.

Chickpea & Veggie Brown Rice Barley Bowl with Tahini Dressing

April 04, 2014

Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Oatmeal

Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Oatmeal

As a kid I used to love all the flavours of those little instant oatmeal packets that I'm sure are full of sugar and everything kids love.  Now the only instant oatmeal I'll occasionally buy comes from the organic aisle, but I need to eat at least two packages to sustain me for breakfast and even then I'll still be hungry a couple hours later.  I love making my own oatmeal on the stovetop, especially versions that are full of ooey gooey delicious things like bananas, peanut butter, or pumpkin.  Unfortunately, I don't do this often as I'm usually in too much of a hurry or too lazy in the mornings to make anything that requires effort.

Which is why I've become obsessed with baked oatmeal lately.  Sure it requires some effort to make, but you end up with a lot of leftovers that can be stored as individual servings in the fridge so all you have to do later on is reheat.  Perfect for busy mornings, and also for people who don't like the mushy texture of a bowl of stovetop oatmeal, as the baked version is a lot firmer.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Oatmeal

This peanut butter and jelly version of baked oatmeal is Ryan and my current favourite.  It has a strong peanut butter flavour with the perfect amount of jam to sweeten it up, and it's nice and filling.  It's pretty easy to throw together too - just add your wet ingredients (egg, milk, vanilla, peanut butter) to your dry ingredients (oats, a tiny bit of brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt), drop some jam on top, and throw it in the oven.  The hardest part is waiting for it to be ready! 

I've made this with both grape and strawberry jam before and we love it both ways; I always try to choose a low sugar jam as I usually find regular jam way too sweet.  I consider this a reasonably healthy breakfast so I don't mind eating it for several breakfasts in a row or that Ryan now asks for it all the time!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Oatmeal


Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked Oatmeal

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups large flake rolled oats
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups skim milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter - I usually use regular smooth peanut butter but natural would work too if you want slightly less sugar and salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup low-sugar jam – strawberry, grape, or mixed berry all work

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and peanut butter. You can warm up the peanut butter for about 20-30 seconds in the microwave first to make it more liquid so it will mix in better.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. 

Spread mixture into pan and spread evenly with a spatula.  It will look like oats floating in a lot of liquid – that’s normal; the liquid will all be absorbed during baking.  Drop spoonfuls of jam evenly on top of the oatmeal.  If you like, you can leave the jam in little pockets, or take a butter knife and try to swirl the jam around to cover more surface area (that’s what I like to do).  Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until edges are golden brown and middle is cooked through.  Divide into at least 6 servings and serve warm, with maple syrup if desired.

Leftovers can be stored covered in the fridge for a few days and reheated.

Ingredient Index

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