Food, Product Review

Kefir – The magic food that’ll save us all, probably

I am sort of on a health kick – sort of being the operative word, so I’m constantly looking for healthier alternatives, ways to give up one food for another. It’s helped me discovered a whole new world of health food that is easy to incorporate into your meals because it’s not necessarily gross tasting. This has also made me open to trying out new products that I come across while grocery shopping.

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I’ve been seeing bottles, tubs and jars of Kefir in most dairy sections for the past few years. I just sort of assumed that it’s stirred yoghurt and never bothered to try it out. Today, it was on sale and I was all “WELL, WHY THE FUCK NOT” so I grabbed it. I actually just expected it to taste like laban, which is a yoghurt drink from the middle east. I opened it and it tastes like milk gone slightly bad. It’s not a gross taste, it just tastes very similar to buttermilk. The tanginess is mild, however and it works perfectly when you want to offset the sweetness of something.

The first time I ate it with something, was with cereal, like it said on the tub. I mixed it with some Kashi Honey Almond Flax Cereal and it was actually super delicious. I find that this particular cereal is too sweet for me – when I eat it with milk, it makes the milk sickeningly sweet and I kind of get tired of eating it. With kefir, however, it was perfect. The tanginess of the kefir really helps balance out the sweetness in the cereal. Since then, I’ve used it to marinate meats in (like buttermilk), to drink on its own, in smoothies etc.

If you’re interested in trying it out, I would definitely suggest it. It’s a delicious, healthy product with all sorts of benefits outlined in detail here, here and here.

Here’s the short version:

  • It’s “pre-digested” so if you’re lactose intolerant, you’re good, you can still drink it!
  • Helps with cancer
  • Helps with herpes
  • Helps with irritable bowel syndrome
  • Helps with immune disfunction and increases your body’s abilities to fight against disease
  • Helps with colitis
  • Helps with leaky gut (I don’t even want to know what this is)
  • Improves liver and gall bladder function
  • Effective treatment of acne and other skin disorders
  • Anti-oxidants have an anti-aging effect
  • Regulates cholestrol, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Regulates metabolism and digestion
  • A remedy against allergies
  • Strongest natural anti-biotic without side effects
  • Treats kidney stones
  • Treats gastritis, pancreatitis
  • Prevents colon cancer
  • Treats ulcers
  • Stops the growth of cancer cells
  • Speeds up healing process
  • Treats psoriasis, eczema and inflammatory diseases
  • Reduces size of tumors

Okay there’s at least 40 more, so just click here for all of them. Apparently it helps you lose weight too. I’m 100% sure I’ll be buying more of this supposedly super food every time I go grocery shopping.

Here are various ways in which you can use kefir.

Just do a quick search on Google and it’ll help you incorporate Kefir into your diet. Obviously it’s an super super super food and amazing for you, so DO IT! It helps that it’s not crazy expensive, either. It’s about the same as a tub of greek yoghurt, a little more if you decide to go organic.

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Food, Recipe

Pan fried sole & lentil casserole

I wasn’t going to blog about this because my blog has way too many lentils on it. A friend asked me for the recipe, and apparently that’s all the push I needed, so here you go.

While this is kind of similar to my lentil stew, in the way that it looks, it’s actually very different flavours. No Middle Eastern spices or anything. It’s really easy to make and super healthy, unless you cover it in cheese which is sort of what I did – but it was goat cheese, so it’s not thaaat bad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup each of various lentils (I used brown, orange, black, green)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bell pepper, any colour
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 medium sized egg plant
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or less if you don’t like garlic)
  • Half a cup of goat cheese
  • Half a cup of cheddar cheese
  • Optional things to add: chorizo, pepperoni, salami, any spicy sausage will work great

Literally all you have to do for this is to assemble it and stick it in the oven.

Start by emptying the can of tomato paste into a big bowl and mix in 5-6 cans of water and some salt, pepper, parsley and any other herbs you’d like. Finely dice an onion and grate or mince your garlic and stir it into the sauce. Rinse your lentils and add it to this mixture.

Slice your zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper and sweet potato into thin slices – feel free to use a mandolin.

Oil your casserole dish. Line the bottom of the pan with eggplants and zucchini. Pour the lentil/tomato sauce mixture onto the eggplants and zucchini. If you have leftover eggplants and zucchini, top the mixture with it, then place your bell peppers and finally your sweet potato. The consistency of your mixture should be very water. The lentils and the sweet potato are going to soak up all this water so don’t be shy. If it’s swimming, you did it right. Bake this in the oven on 375 for about 45-50 minutes. When it’s done, the sweet potato should break with a fork. Sprinkle some cinnamon, brown sugar and the cheese on top of this, switch your oven to broil and stick this in your oven. When the cheese is bubbly, take it out and serve.

The fish was suuuuper easy. Probably just as easy as buying those Blue Water/Janes/High Liner ready made thingies. All you do is mix flour with some garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper. I used sole but you can also use cod or haddock.  Marinate your fish in lemon juice, salt and pepper for about 5 minutes. Coat it in the flour and pan fry it in a mixture of butter and olive oil for about 5-10 minutes each side until the coating is golden brown. Don’t overcook it – nothing worse than overcooked fish!

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Oatmeal.

Oatmeal is the best thing ever. Seriously. It’s stupidly versatile because it’s basically like a blank canvas and you add whatever you want to make it yours. Pumpkin spice, chocolate, banana nut, whatever. Not that disgusting dino-eggs, flavoured, sugary stuff from the store, though. That shit is full of sugar and while yes, sugar is amazing, I don’t want to eat it unless it’s in the form of a cupcake or something that’s really worth it.

Oatmeal is also a complex carb that’s full of soluble and insoluble fiber that’s great for pooping, great to keep your sugar levels low and all that good stuff. It also fills you up like crazy. I eat a bowl of oatmeal at, say, 9 and I’m not hungry until well after noon.

I made this sugar-free oatmeal that was surprisingly delicious. I don’t even know how I had this genius idea, I’m sure sometime in my life I’ve seen something that inspired it. Anyway!

All of the sweetness in this oatmeal comes from the banana. You have to make sure that the banana you use is ripe. Those greenish yellow firm ones don’t really work. They have to be soft and sweet. Yellow. Possibly with some freckles.  Basically like the one in the pictures.

Here are the rest of the ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana (but I already told you that)
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • A handful each of mixed nuts – I used walnuts and almonds
  • 1 ½ cups of milk
  • 1 tiny, tiny, tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract

I cook all of my oatmeal in milk because why the fuck not, life is short. Pour about half a cup of oatmeal into a cup and a half of water. Let it sit on medium heat for a while. In the mean time, roughly chop your nuts. Hahahaha. Sorry. Anyway. Slice up your banana. HAHAHAHA. Oh my God, sorry. Slice up the banana. Put half the banana slices into the milk and oatmeal that should be heating up nicely by now. Two drops of vanilla extract. When your oatmeal starts to thicken, add your cocoa powder and cinnamon and stir. When it’s just thick enough, take it off the heat and mix in the nuts and the rest of the banana.

The second time I made this, I added a little bit of sugar-free, all natural peanut butter and it made it all the more delicious.

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There’s so many ways to make oatmeal, it’s ridiculous.

Here are some ideas in case you’re absolutely useless. Each of these can be sweetened with a banana, agave, stevia, maple syrup, brown sugar or just regular sugar.  Add chia seeds, hemp, flax for extra crunch, fiber and other nutrients I’m too lazy to look up right now.

Pumpkin puree + cinnamon + nutmeg + milk

Strawberry + banana + cinnamon

Banana + walnut + cinnamon + almond

Peanut butter + craisins + jam

Chocolate + peanut butter

Peaches + cream/yoghurt/ricotta

Berries + maple syrup

Fried bacon + maple syrup/brown sugar

Mixed nuts + brown sugar/maple syrup

Apples + cinnamon

Pieces of cake + sprinkles
I don’t know, you could get pretty crazy with oatmeal!

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Strawberry banana oatmeal

Strawberry banana oatmeal

I’ve even heard of some people in India making savoury oatmeal. Mind blowing concept, but since oatmeal is tasteless, I can see how it would work if you cooked it in water.

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Food, Recipe

Frittata Numero Dos

PS (As in, pre): I don’t care if Frittatas aren’t Spanish, I needed to title this in Spanish just because).

So the first time I made a frittata my life was a mess and I didn’t have a cast iron pan. Now I do, so it was a much better experience. Cast iron pans are a must. They’re heavy as shit and you almost always will burn yourself cause you forget it’s not a normal pan so they’re kind of a pain in the ass but totally worth it because of all the yumminess you can make.

I got mine for super cheap, like $15 from Walmart. It’s excellent quality. Look up how to clean, season and maintain a good quality cast iron pan. My sister uses them at school so she knows exactly how to take care of them, so I just let her do her shit.

Apparently there’s a thing you have to do call “seasoning” the pan before you use it, so basically it’s sort of non-stick. I think. I’m not really sure. Anyway, here’s a video on how to season your cast iron pan before you cook.

So frittatas are really simple. All you have to do is cook veggies and then pour a mixture of fluffy egg and milk on top of them and bake until it’s all cooked through.

Here’s how I made mine.

6 eggs

Half a thingy of broccoli

4-5 mushrooms

1 cup of baby carrots

Half an onion

1 tablespoon of goat cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper

½ cup of milk

Parsley flakes or fresh parsley

Chopped, cooked spinach

2 strips of bacon

2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese

Other things you could add: ham, sausage, bacon

Fry the onion and bacon until the onion translucent and then add your vegetables. Fry them until they’re half-cooked.

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Beat eggs, milk and salt & pepper together, like furiously. If your arm aches, that’s a good sign. It should be super fluffy and bubbly. Pour this over the veggies and bacon. At this point, I stirred in some ricotta cheese. Let the sides of the egg cook and then stick it in the oven. When your frittata is almost done, crumble some goat cheese on top. Cut into wedges and serve with a salad.

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Frittatas are creamy and heavy, so you’ll want something sharp and tangy to balance it. I made a really simple strawberry-tomato-salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. Simple and yum.

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Food, Recipe

Moroccan Inspired Lentil Stew

It’s now sort of cool eat healthy, so every now and then I see people on my Facebook posting pictures of fresh, green salads with avocado and beans and lentils and frankly, they look disgusting. No dressing, no flavour, no spice. Can’t do it. If I’m eating something healthy it better taste delicious. I can’t eat a bunch of shit just tossed into a bowl to be called a salad. I hate the taste of lettuce, kale and celery. Basically anything healthy tastes like shit. So I research and make up my own recipes that are delicious AND healthy.

That’s sort of how I came up with this recipe. Originally, it was a lentil salad. The only difference was there I used dry spices and there was no tomato sauce. I was idly browsing through one of those super market recipe magazine things and I saw something that resembled a lentil stew with meatballs in it and I was “inspired” aka needed to consume it immediately.

Meatballs are healthy if you use the lean/extra lean ground meat. That plus lentils makes this dish super high protein. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to eat protein before or after a work out but I’m guessing if you’re working out, it’s a good meal to eat.

I’m lazy AF, so when I go back home I try to find all my favourite foods in powder, mix or ready to eat form. The closest I could get to Lebanese Kebabs are these little flavour sachets.

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They’re made by Knorr and are great for lazy people like me because all you have to do is mix it in with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a fourth cup of water to half a kilo of ground meat. And then shape them however you like. I usually go with the phallic shapes because that’s how I roll.

According to the ingredients on the package, here’s what you’ll need if you want to be NOT lazy and make them at home yourself:

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powdr
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes (dry or fresh, I use dry because: lazy)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 500 gms of meat

Basically just stir this all together really well. I don’t know what else to tell you. But make sure it’s all well incorporated because the worst thing is when you bite into a delicious juicy kebab and you get this nasty chunk of spices because you were too lazy to stir it properly. Don’t do it. Don’t be lazy.

I’ve heard from my soon-to-be chef sister that lentils are full of cholesterol lowering fiber – both soluble and insoluble. Not only does the fiber in lentils lower cholesterol, it’s also great for keeping blood sugar down so they’re awesome for diabetics or if you’re someone who’s at risk for diabetes. They’re full of minerals, vitamins and proteins and have virtually no fat. A cup of cooked lentils is about 230 calories, which is awesome. And they help make you feel full so you don’t eat like an elephant, which is basically my problem. My stomach is a bottomless pit. It’s a good idea to incorporate lentils into your diet. My mom tells me they make your hair luscious and awesome too, but I can’t tell the difference, yet.

In addition to lentils you can add other veggies that you’re not a fan of eating on their own, like broccoli, sweet potato, edamame, peas, carrots, zucchini, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, celery, whatever. It’s a great dish to mask all the gross stuff you hate eating. I served mine on a bed of spinach the first time I made it because I forgot to add the spinach in the stew.

I might have gone a little overboard with adding the eggs on top of the stew as well, so if you don’t want kidney stones, you should probably avoid that or at least drink lots of water.

Lastly – you can eat this dish on it’s own as a meal (because it’s got basically everything) but if you’re a serious carb fiend you can eat it with pita, whole grain bread (or white bread, baguettes if you want to ruin the healthy eating).

So before I go on about something else, here’s the recipe.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can of mixed beans
  • 1 cup each of green, beluga, orange, brown lentils
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 zucchini (optional)
  • 2 cups of raw spinach (optional)
  • 2 small tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour – optional)
  • 2 cups of broccoli (optional)
  • 4-5 big mushrooms, brown or white (optional)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped, whatever you’re into
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Parsley flakes or fresh parsley

I suggest cooking the lentils before hand, for about 20-25 minutes or until al dente in salt water. Cooking lentils in tomato sauce takes a looooong time, so you’ll take hours to make your dinner.

Fry your garlic and onions in olive oil and add your veggies. In a separate bowl mix your tomato paste with 3-4 cans of water and mix. Pour this tomato sauce into the frying veggies. Add your cooked lentils. Rinse the beans – please, please, please do this. Unless you want to die of a heart attack at 25. Sodium content in canned food is ridiculous. And sodium is terrible for you. Anyway once you’re rinsed all that heart stopping sodium out of the beans, add them to your stew. The consistency of the stew should be pretty thin, watery, almost.

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Let it boil a little bit and then add your meatballs. Let that sit for about 10-15 minutes and then crack eggs into it. Cover it, switch the heat to medium and take a walk. No don’t, that’s messed up you could burn your house down. Read a book maybe. Beat your friends at Candy Crush. Or try.

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Your stew’s done when the eggs are cooked through. If you like them sort of runny, crack them about 5 minutes before you think the meat is done. I can’t tell you exact times because I’M DOING YOU A FAVOUR BY TEACHING YOU TO COOK. You just have to check if the meat is done by testing firmness or just cutting it in half if you’re useless like me.

You can serve this on its own or on some quinoa, rice, with bread, with couscous. Couscous seems most appropriate since it’s sort of Moroccan inspired.

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Enjooooy.

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Oven-baked Naan

Because of the Indian blood that runs through my veins, I occasionally wake up craving strange things like naan bread. Or butter chicken. Or spiced lentil stew.

My naan craving hit at 9pm on a Sunday and I did not want to leave my warm, Indian-heated (30˚C+) home to trek in the snow to buy some from the Indian restaurant a half hour away. The internet is awesome, and my faith in it was validated when I found a recipe for making naan at home in an oven. NOT a tandoori oven as it typically is.

However, the recipe I found called for a heated stone (granite or marble or something) to cook the naan on. I just graduated, I live alone, I am unemployed, so obviously I do not have slabs of marble lying around the house. So I simply used my Baker’s Secret cookie sheet and this worked just fine.

This is the recipe I used. It’s actually the first result on Google if you search “how to make naan in an oven”. Thankfully it actually turned out awesome.

Okay: things I did wrong the first time around that you shouldn’t do.

  • Do not use expired yeast. Yeast lasts for a year or something so throw out your old shit and buy a new package. 
  • Do not think you can just proof the dough in the oven and hack this recipe because you are probably not a pro, but if you are, go ahead, amaze me and then tell me how you did it.
  • Do not overcook the bread. Naan bread is soft, chewy and buttery.
  • Do not attempt to just “press the dough” with your hand. This isn’t pizza. It’s naan. Buy a fucking rolling pin or use a wine/vodka/rum bottle.

You’ll want to start by making your dough because the annoying part about making bread is that it needs to rise and that isn’t a quick process. So if you’re looking up this recipe an hour before dinner, you’re better off ordering your naan on Justeat.ca, because dough that doesn’t rise will not make delicious naan. Trust me, I hate following recipes, but I learn from bad experiences.

To make your dough, you’ll need

  • A big bowl – remember your dough will rise so it needs to hold it all, once it’s gotten huge.
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (Fleishmann’s is a good brand, but any will do)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (feel free to use canola or any flavourless oil)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of plain Greek yoghurt

Add the yeast to your water and let it stand for about 10 minutes until it’s frothy. If nothing happens, your yeast has died, and I hope you have a store close by where you can pick up new yeast. While your yeast is frothing and doing it’s thang, make the other stuff.

To a bowl, add your flour, the sugar, salt, baking powder and whisk to combine. Make a little well in the middle and plop in your yoghurt and olive oil. Stir it cutely (like, with small little flicks of your wrist) till it’s sort of got this crumbly texture. Once your yeast has gotten nice and frothy, add this water to your dough and stir, and then knead with floured hands till the dough is smooth.

I have no idea how to knead, so I usually just get my sister, who is studying to be a chef, to knead the dough. Here’s a quick video on how to knead dough by hand for breads, in case you do not have a chef-to-be in the family.

Once it’s kneaded, plop the dough back into the bowl and place a damp cheesecloth, or a damp paper towel on top of the bowl. Let it sit in a warm place. Since my apartment is hot all the time, I just left it out. In 3 hours, your dough should be ready to be made into delicious pieces of flatbread you can dip, wrap, or munch within minutes.

About a half hour before you cook your dough, preheat your oven to something stupid like 500˚F, if your oven doesn’t go that high, just stick to 400˚ and if it doesn’t even go to 400˚ just make regular bread with your dough. And buy a new oven, it’s 2013.

Put your baking tray in about 15 minutes before you put your dough in. I do this because metal heats up much faster and my baking tray sort of made strange cracking sounds so I was too afraid to put it in before. When you’re ready to cook, bring the baking tray out and grease it with olive oil.

Tear off golf ball sized pieces of your dough and roll them out however you like. I did them sort of oblong because it felt authentic (ha ha) and brushed some butter and parley flakes on top. Stick it in the oven and literally let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it – it should bubble and get some spots of brown but for the most part it should just look white and soft.

I know my pictures are much browner, but that’s because I over cooked them cause I am an idiot. The next batch I made looked more like the picture in the recipe I linked, but they were so yummy I scarfed them down before I could think of taking pictures.

I WAS HANGRY, okay?

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Shrek Juice

I hate greens. That’s kind of a lie, I hate leafy greens. So I’ll eat broccoli and brussels sprouts and cucumbers, but I will not touch Swiss Chard, Kale, lettuce, etc. However I’m getting old and I need to start taking care of my health, so I figured juicing greens was the best way to get my nutrients naturally. I read up about it and apparently greens are full of super awesome things that purge all the toxins from your body and all sort of vitamins that help you get wonderful shiny hair and nails and also help you poop better because of how fibrous they are.

It’s also what my mom used to do – when I hated eating something she’d blend it into a juice or a soup so I couldn’t tell what was in it. That’s the only time I’ve ever eaten peas. In a soup. And this green juice is the greatest way to get your greens in without hating your life. The fact that its raw makes it even better – all the natural nutrients are intact.

Here’s what I put in mine:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Green Apple
  • Banana
  • Coconut Water
  • Ground Chia seeds
  • Flax Oil

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Here’s alternatives you could put in:

  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Ginger
  • Pears
  • Mango
  • Berries
  • Flax seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Kiwis

Literally the only prep you need is to chop everything into bite-sized pieces. Chop up your greens so they don’t get caught in your blender blades and chop up the apples, bananas, just because it makes it easier to blend. Instead of coconut water, you could use regular water, orange juice, apple juice or lemon juice. I use a hand held blender to make mine, and it’s kind of very thick and chunky, but you could just use a Magic Bullet or a regular blender. I suggest NOT using a juicer because it takes all the fiber out of the juice and that’s one of the things that you do want, it helps promote good digestive health. You could add agave, stevia, honey or sugar, but I find that the apples and bananas give it enough sweetness. It’s a great breakfast smoothie, I find that

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And this is why I call it Shrek Juice:

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