February 25, 2014

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

So I realize this isn't the most attractive looking plate of food you've ever seen...  I was cringing as I put together this post, wondering why I thought brown on brown on brown was a good idea for food styling, or why I didn't add a garnish on top for some colour.  I will hopefully redo these photos in the future, but I wanted to make sure I shared this now while you're still in the mood for hearty winter comfort food.  Not that winter seems to be showing any signs of ending soon!

Hopefully you're willing to get past appearances here because I promise the taste is worth it.  And not only is this dish comforting, filling, and full of flavour, but it's also really good for you!

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

This stew is made with lentils (obviously), onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, vegetable broth, plenty of seasonings, and a splash of red wine for good measure.  So you're getting a ton of vitamins, fiber, and protein to fill you up and keep you energized through the day or night.  I love using lentils in meals because they're a great source of protein, they're easy to cook, and they're really cheap!

And to make this even more of a protein power bowl, I pureed white beans with cauliflower to serve as the base for the stew.  Steaming and pureeing cauliflower is one of my favourite ways to eat it and I honestly like it even better than regular mashed potatoes.  Sometimes I'll puree cauliflower with chickpeas or white beans and some flavourful mustard and just eat that for dinner on its own, but it goes even better with a hearty stew on top! 

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

In case you're skeptical, or plan on serving this to picky eaters, I told Ryan that the cauliflower was just mashed potatoes, and after I'd finished watching him eat his meal while trying to hold in my evil grin the whole time, I told him it was really cauliflower and beans and he was completely surprised!

You can also eat the stew on its own if you prefer, and if your leftovers thicken up more than you like in the fridge, just add a splash of water or vegetable broth before you warm it up (this makes great lunch leftovers!)

It may not be pretty, but this is just what you need to get through these never ending winter days!

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

Lentil & Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower White Bean Puree

Recipe adapted from Unprocessed People’s Lentil Not Roast

Makes about 4 servings


For the Lentil Stew:
1 cup dry green or brown lentils
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lb (two 8oz containers) white or crimini mushrooms, chopped (around 2.5 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce to keep this vegetarian/vegan)
Salt and pepper

For the Cauliflower:
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
~1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper


Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add lentils, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through and water is absorbed. Set aside when done.

Meanwhile, in a separate large saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic, and dry seasonings (cumin through thyme), stir, and let cook for around 5-7 minutes, stirring often.  Add tomato paste, stir to coat, and let cook for about a minute. Add cornstarch, stir to coat, and cook for another minute.  Add red wine and let simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add vegetable broth and bay leaves and lower heat to a simmer.  Add lentils and let simmer for at least 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves, stir in Worcestershire sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While your lentil stew is simmering, prepare the cauliflower bean mash.  Add cauliflower and garlic to a steamer basket and steam over boiling water, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor, add white beans, and process until smooth.  Slowly add olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.

Serve lentil stew warm over pureed cauliflower.  Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

February 22, 2014

Seattle Sights & Eats!

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently had the opportunity to go to Seattle for about 4 days for a conference. It was my first time going anywhere on the west coast of the US so I was really excited to explore the city a little! I didn't have a ton of free time though, so because our hotel/conference center was downtown, I spent most of my free time running over to Pike Place Market. In fact, I think I went there every day, but I never got sick of it - so much to see there!

Pike Place Market Sign

I couldn't get enough of the well-known market sign either; it made me happy seeing it day or night!

Pike Place Market

I also loved wandering around the inside of the market with all the fresh seafood, vegetables, crafts, and other typical market items that somehow just seemed better when located next to the water.

gum wall in Seattle

Right next to the market is the famous Market Theater Gum Wall in Post Alley, which is exactly what it sounds like - a wall covered in chewing gum.  It's probably disgustingly germ-filled but something about all the pretty colours kept me coming back to take more pictures of it.  And of course, I added my own gum to the wall (being careful not to touch anything else and to sanitize my hands after!)

original Starbucks in Seattle

Another must-do in Pike Place Market is to go to the original Starbucks, where I bought some souvenirs and a coffee to go - it was way too small and crowded to stay in there!  I think I was half expecting the coffee to be ten times better but it still tasted the same - which is still very good - but it was also fun to see the old sign and logo and listen to the fantastic guys singing out front.

Other things I ate in the market included:

Beechers mac and cheese

Beecher's mac and cheese, which claims to have the world's best mac and cheese, in addition to making and selling some other great cheeses. I think I wasn't quite hungry enough to fully appreciate the mac and cheese, but it was really, really good and I'd definitely recommend trying it if you're a mac and cheese fan!

Rachel's ginger beer

I had also heard that Rachel's Ginger Beer was a must-try.  From their website, "Rachel's Ginger Beer is handcrafted in Seattle using fresh water, lemons, organic sugar and ginger."  They had tons of flavours to choose from but I chose mango and it was delicious - I loved that you could taste the fresh ginger in it!

bagel and lox

There are tons of choices for breakfast in the market too. One morning I ate this fantastic bagel and lox from Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe, which consisted of a pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese, red onion, capers, and smoked salmon.  They have a great deli counter in there and I wanted to go back to try their grilled cheese with pears, swiss, and gruyere, which people seem to rave about, but I didn't have time.  If you're looking for an affordable and delicious meal in the market though I recommend stopping in this place!

crumpets from The Crumpet Shop

Another great breakfast choice is The Crumpet Shop, where you can get fresh crumpets topped with all sorts of toppings, both sweet and savory. I couldn't choose so I got both - one with chocolate hazelnut spread and one with pesto, cheese, and tomato - so good!

Ellenos Greek Yogurt in Pike Place Market

I think my favourite thing I ate in the market was this Greek yogurt from Ellenos.  They make their own real Greek yogurt using milk from a local farm, and they present all their different flavours like a gelato bar.  You can sample any of them before you make your choice - and it's a very difficult choice, with flavours like lemon cheesecake, mocha, cookies and cream, passionfruit, etc...  I chose marionberry pie which was absolutely delicious.  I didn't discover this place until our last day which made me very sad because I wanted to go back and try every flavour!

Top Pot Doughnuts

We also made the trek over to Top Pot Doughnuts one morning as we'd heard that they had the best doughnuts in Seattle. I loved the location with the huge windows and bookshelves, but the doughnut I chose (caramel old fashioned) was a little too sweet for my tastes. Next time I'd go with a standard old fashioned!
Juicy Cafe

For a healthier breakfast, my sister and I went to Juicy Cafe in the convention center, which makes fresh and healthy juices, smoothies, salads, and lunches.  I could have eaten every meal here and been in heaven (and probably would have felt fantastic by the end of the week!) but I only got to try one breakfast - it was great though! I had the morning chia sunrise smoothie with banana, berries, oats, rice milk, Greek yogurt, whey protein, and chia seeds, along with a 'monkey ball' which I believe was made with oats, peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chips.

For dinner, we tried a few different restaurants and I ate fish for almost every meal!

mahi mahi

My most expensive meal at Anthony's Pier 66 was actually my least favourite. I ordered the mahi mahi in Thai curry sauce but I didn't find it as flavourful as I expected and I guess I'm just not a fan of the texture of mahi mahi. Others enjoyed their meals though and we had a fabulous view of the water.

dinner at Cuoco

I loved my dinner at Cuoco, where I had a salad of treviso, pomegranate, pistachios, blood orange, and blue cheese, along with a main dish of broiled sole with capers, pinenuts, and cauliflower. 

Cuoco is a Tom Douglas restaurant, who's an acclaimed Seattle restauranteur and James Beard award winner with 14 restaurants in Seattle.  We got to try two of his fantastic restaurants, the second being Serious Pie, a more casual pizza place.

potato pizza

I chose the potato, rosemary, and pecorino romano pizza at Serious Pie, which was probably my favourite dinner of the trip - you can't go wrong with a pizza done well!

salmon sandwiches

My other two meals were salmon sandwiches, which I had no complaints about!

Finally, I couldn't leave the west coast without trying some new beer!

seattle beer

I loved being able to try a few different local Seattle beers with my meals, and I brought back some souvenirs for Ryan too. The beer manager at Pear Delicatessen, which I mentioned earlier, was incredibly helpful for choosing beer and they had a great selection there if you're in the area looking for some craft beer!  Ryan's favourite bottle I brought back was Stone's Enjoy By 02.14.14, which is, as it sounds, an IPA you should drink by Feb 14.  The Enjoy By series is specifically brewed and distributed to be consumed in a short window of time for ultimate freshness, meaning we'll never get it over in Ontario, so it was nice to be able to try it!

Seattle skyline

That's it for my Seattle recap!  Have any of you been to Seattle before?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on sights you visited and food you enjoyed there as well!

February 19, 2014

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Egg Sandwich

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Open-Faced Egg Sandwich

As I mentioned in my last post, I got to spend several days in Seattle last week for a conference.  It was my first time there and I loved it - especially all the amazing food and west coast beer available!  I will probably do a separate post on some of the things I tried in Seattle later this week for those who are interested, so I won't get much into it here, but the one thing I ate the most of was definitely seafood! 

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Open-Faced Egg Sandwich

Without realizing it until later, I ate fish for dinner almost every night in Seattle, and even had it for breakfast one morning when I tried some bagel and lox (smoked salmon on a pumpkernickel bagel with cream cheese, red onion, and capers) in Pike Place Market.  Smoked salmon isn't something I eat too often, but I had to try it in a place that's famous for it, and it was really good!

When I returned home I had to make my own version of a smoked salmon breakfast sandwich!

Smoked Salmon

It's harder to find good smoked salmon here in Southwestern Ontario compared to Seattle where it was everywhere, but I managed to find this sustainably sourced smoked wild sockeye salmon from President's Choice.  It was a bit expensive (like all salmon tends to be here), but worth it!

To make my sandwich, I replaced the cream cheese with creamy ripe avocado, left out the red onion because I don't like it, added some arugula for a fresh peppery bite, and topped the whole thing with a poached egg!

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Open-Faced Egg Sandwich

The salmon, avocado, and egg combine for a pretty rich sandwich, but I kept the portion fairly small so it wasn't overwhelming, and I found the arugula helped to balance everything out.  And obviously this isn't something I'd eat for breakfast every morning, but it made a great weekend brunch!

You could also add red onion for some crunch or capers and dill to brighten up the rich flavours, I just didn't have any on hand.  You could even leave off the egg if you want, but how can you resist that beautiful runny yolk!

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Open-Faced Egg Sandwich

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Egg Sandwich

Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 2 sandwiches


1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 large eggs
2 slices whole grain rye bread, toasted
2 handfuls baby arugula
Salt and pepper
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1.5 to 2 oz thinly sliced smoked salmon


To poach your eggs, heat a few inches of water in a wide saucepan. Add a splash of white vinegar (this will help the egg whites stay together). Crack your two eggs into separate small dishes. When the water is just at the point of starting to simmer (but bubbles are not breaking the surface yet), gently slide the eggs into the water. Use a spoon to nudge the egg whites closer to the yolk, turn off the heat, and let cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes. Gently remove eggs with a slotted spoon.  Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes both have great tutorials on poaching eggs if it's your first time!

To prepare sandwiches, add arugula and avocado to toasted bread slices, season with salt and pepper, top with smoked salmon and poached egg.  Feel free to add some chopped dill, capers, and/or red onion if you like!  Eat immediately while egg is still warm.

February 14, 2014

Strawberry Beet Chocolate Chia Smoothie

Strawberry Beet Chocolate Chia Smoothie

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Whether you celebrate the occasion or not, today is a great time to remember to show yourself some love in addition to the love you give out to others either today or any/every other day of the year! 

And what better way to treat yourself on Valentine’s Day than with this festive red chocolate flavoured smoothie that will feed your body with some of the good things it craves, especially during a time of year when many of us (definitely myself included) are indulging in a few more desserts than usual!

Strawberry Beet Chocolate Chia Smoothie

This smoothie gets its red colour from fresh strawberries and a roasted beet, darkened a bit by the cocoa powder which gives the smoothie a noticeable chocolate flavour that almost makes this feel more like dessert!  With the addition of chia seeds (aka little nutritional powerhouses), banana, almond milk, and oats, this is a great way to start your morning, or pick yourself up anytime of the day! 

If you’re worried about the beets, you could leave them out, but I gave one of these smoothies to Ryan when he woke up and he loved the strawberry and chocolate flavour, with absolutely no clue there were beets in it (which he claims not to like) until I told him after he drank the whole thing.  I love tricking him with vegetables!  I will make up for it tonight though by cooking a nice Valentine’s dinner (which I still need to figure out!). 

Hope you all have a great day!

Strawberry Beet Chocolate Chia Smoothie

Strawberry Beet Chocolate Chia Smoothie

Makes 2-3 smoothies


1 medium beet, roasted* and chopped
2 cups milk of your choice – I used an almond/coconut milk blend
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1 frozen banana, chopped
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup rolled oats


*Before making this smoothie you will need to have a roasted or otherwise cooked beet on hand.  I roasted mine the night before: wrap the beet in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast in a 400°F oven for one hour or until tender.  Let cool then peel, chop, and transfer to refrigerator.   If you have a very powerful blender, you might be able to use the beet raw, but I haven’t been able to try this with my blender.

If you don’t keep frozen ripe bananas in the freezer (and you should, they are great for throwing in smoothies!), then be sure to put one in the freezer the night before too!

To make the smoothie, add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.  Taste and adjust any amounts to your liking; you may wish to add a sweetener such as honey or agave depending on your tastes.  Pour into 2-3 glasses, garnish with a strawberry, and serve!

February 11, 2014

Valentine's Mug Hugger Espresso Shortbread Cookies

Valentine's Mug Hugger Espresso & Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I just returned from a trip to Seattle (which I hope to share some details of soon, as there was so much amazing food and beer there!), which means I didn't have much time to think about Valentine's Day until I returned yesterday and got straight to work making a heart-shaped recipe!

I know a lot of people aren't fans of the holiday and are sick of seeing heart-shaped things, but I think they're adorable, and whether you share heart cookies with your significant other, your family, friends, coworkers, or even just treat yourself, I think that making time for love, sharing, and cookies is a good thing!

Valentine's Mug Hugger Espresso & Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I originally got the idea for "mug hugger" cookies from Red Path Sugar, and loved that you can hang a cookie on your mug!  And because my mug is usually full of (strong, black) coffee, I decided to make espresso shortbread cookies instead of sugar cookies (also because I love shortbread).  And because it's almost Valentine's Day, I had to dip them in chocolate and cover them in red and pink sprinkles, of course!  The chocolate actually helps add some sweetness to an otherwise not-so-sweet cookie, so don't skip that step!  You can skip the sprinkles if you really want, but why would you want to?!

Valentine's Mug Hugger Espresso & Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

In order to make these "mug huggers", you just have to cut a little slot in the cookie, preferably as soon as it comes out of the oven while it's still soft, then hook it onto your mug!  To be perfectly honest, these cookies might not stay on your mug too long; mine tended to fall off every few minutes as I was taking photos, which often resulted in broken cookies.  You can easily forget the mug hugger part and just make these as regular cookies if you want, which will be just as good, but if you serve someone their morning (or afternoon) coffee with one of these guys attached, you're sure to brighten their day!

Valentine's Mug Hugger Espresso & Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Heart-Shaped Espresso Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread recipe adapted from Fine Cooking

I got around 1 dozen cookies with a 3” heart-shaped cookie cutter; I’d recommend using a 2” cutter instead, which would result in around 2 dozen cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

~1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Red/pink sprinkles, if desired


Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (using paddle attachment) on medium speed until combined, about 1-2 minutes.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients on low speed, scraping the bowl frequently, until just incorporated.  Add the vanilla and mix until just incorporated again, and the dough has just started to come together.  Don’t overmix.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, rerolling the dough until it is all used up.  I used about a 3” cookie cutter which is a bit big for a mug; I’d recommend using a smaller cookie cutter if possible.  Arrange the cookies carefully on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate the baking sheet until dough is chilled, at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.

Bake the cookies in preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, until golden on bottom.  Remove from oven, and if you want to make these "mug hugger" cookies, now is the point where you would cut little slits into the cookies so they can hang on a mug.  If you do this before the cookies bake, they will puff up over the cut-out, and if you wait until they have cooled, the cookies will break when you try to cut them.  While they are still soft from the oven, use a sharp knife to cut a slit in the edge of a cookie just long and wide enough for it to fit over a mug (see pictures for an idea).  Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Transfer to a small container and dip the edges of each cookie in the chocolate.  Try to only dip the top half of the cookies and keep the chocolate layer thin so it won't end up overpowering the cookie.  Immediately sprinkle the chocolate covered portion with sprinkles, if using.  Set cookies back on parchment paper until chocolate is set, about 2 hours.  Then keep covered in a container.

*Note: I did try to cut some cookies into mug huggers after they had cooled; many broke, but if I cut only a tiny bit at a time and was very gentle, I could cut out a slot just big enough so the cookie could fit on a mug.  In the pictures, the cookie in front was cut out right from the oven and the cookie in behind was cut after it had cooled.

February 06, 2014

Monthly Recap - January 2014

The first month of 2014 flew by, which I'm happy about as it's mostly been just a blur of snow and freezing cold!  Here are some of my (mostly food-related) highlights though!


As I mentioned, it's been pretty wintery this month.  The good news is that walking anywhere in the snow/slush becomes an added workout in your day!

winter view

Above is what our view has looked like most days,

sunrise through frosted window

but when your window is covered in frost on the inside in the morning, the sunrise through it looks kinda pretty, I'll admit.

creme brulee hot chocolate

I try not to drink hot chocolate too often but sometimes it's the only thing you can imagine doing when you come inside from the cold. Creme brulee flavour was yummy!

roasted garlic and shallot soup

I've also been eating lots of soup lately. I remade this roasted garlic & shallot soup recently and really enjoyed it!

the pinery in winter

Our family embraced the outdoors one weekend and went up to a beach about an hour away.  The water close to the shore was all frozen so you could walk out quite a ways on it.  It was so cold but we embraced the ice!

winter beach

Here we all are walking out over the frozen waves!

london food and wine show

We've also done plenty of warm indoor activities, including attending the London Food and Wine Show where I sampled lots of delicious food from local restaurants along with several beers (I'm more of a beer than wine girl).

Walk Off The Earth Concert

We also went to a Walk Off The Earth concert which was awesome. They're the band that did the popular 5 people on 1 guitar cover of Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, but they also have some great original songs, so you should definitely check them out if you haven't before!

egg sandwiches

Food-wise, I've been getting home so late from school/gym this month that I haven't been able to cook a lot of dinners. So there's been a lot of egg sandwiches! I've made egg sandwiches a thousand times before but I tried a new method this month for the 'best egg sandwich you'll ever have' (pictured on left)  and it was pretty good!

brussels sprouts and potatoes

This was another easy dinner I had one night this month. I roasted brussels sprouts with potatoes and tossed them all in balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper after. My idea of comfort food!

chipotle chicken enchiladas

One of the few meals I took the time to make on a Sunday night was these chipotle chicken enchiladas from Skinnytaste. They're lighter than regular enchiladas with just poached chicken, onions, spices, and sauce in the filling, wrapped inside whole wheat tortillas, and topped with more sauce and a bit of cheese. We served ours with big servings of salad and they were so good! They also made a ton of leftovers for dinners through the week which I loved; I'll definitely be making these again!

grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich

For lunch one day I made this grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich with a pinch of cinnamon. This used to be one of my favourite things to eat but I had forgotten how good it was!

peanut butter banana breakfast pudding

Speaking of peanut butter, I made this peanut butter banana breakfast pudding from Chocolate Covered Katie one morning. It's basically peanut butter oatmeal where half of it is blended up with milk and a banana so it's creamier and lighter than regular oatmeal. I think I cooked mine wrong and used too much liquid so the texture wasn't quite to my liking, but Ryan really liked it!

chocolate mug cake

I also made Chocolate Covered Katie's one minute chocolate mug cake when we were craving dessert one night. I added a swirl of peanut butter and topped it with some peanut butter frozen yogurt and it tasted just like real chocolate cake; I really loved the texture. It's not a healthy dessert, but it's a fairly small portion and is so easy to make that it's a great treat for when you're craving dessert but don't feel like making something!

healthy granola bars

On a slightly healthier note, I made these soft baked sugar-free granola bars from Oh She Glows for snacks this month. They are super healthy with no sugar, chocolate chips, flour, or other ingredients that are often in homemade granola bars; instead, they're packed with nuts, seeds, chia seeds, oats, and dates for sweetness. The texture might not be for everyone but I really liked these and as soon as I buy more chia seeds I'll be making them again!

That's it; hope you all had a great start to the year!

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