Surviving a hurricane with spelt and squash

Over the last few days, hurricane Sandy has roared through our area.  It was the biggest and longest storm I have ever rode out and it was a little unnerving.  Whenever we have a big storm hit the area, I prepare by using up whatever fresh food we have in the house.  I try to turn what I can into easy to eat, grab and go type food.  This serves two purposes: 1) it uses up what is in my fridge lest we lose power and the food spoil, and 2) if I cannot cook because we have lost power, we have some ready to eat food at our fingertips.  Muffins and quick breads are some of the things that I usually make.

When I am in survival mode, I am not at all concerned about carb content or the health benefits of what I am feeding the family.  This isn't to say that I don't care about what we eat, rather I am more concerned THAT we eat.  If I can manage a healthy twist on whatever I make, that is a bonus.  Saturday, when I was preparing for Sandy to hit, I was able to make something healthy and delicious and I wanted to share it with you.

I started with a recipe for Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread which I found on All Recipes.  Since I was working with groceries on hand, I decided I could sub out the butternut squash puree for the pumpkin.  I cooked up my squash (bake, uncovered, for 75 minutes until it was fork tender) and sat down with the recipe to see what else I could do to low carbify the mix.

I recently picked up a bag of spelt sprouted flour at the organic market.  The flour is high in fiber and low in carbs so it sounded promising and almost too good to be true.  The makers claim that it can be substituted one for one with regular whole wheat flour.  The spelt flour has a slight bean-y smell to it, but since this bread is so full of spices, I thought this would be a good choice.  Not being totally sold on the sprouted spelt, I decided to use some almond meal too.  I had some walnuts in the cupboard, which I thought would add a nice crunch, so I pulled those out to work with.  I also had just enough coconut oil in the pantry to replace the vegetable oil in the mix.  Finally, I noted that there was a fair amount of water which I could eliminate and instead use agave as my sweetener.  With these changes in mind, I set about to make the bread.  I was a little dubious about making so many changes, but I had a whole cooked squash to use, so I decided to jump in with both feet and just went with it.
Image my delight when these loaves not only came out looking amazing but tasting amazing too.  The texture, which is always a problem with you use alternative flour or agave, was spot on and the taste is to die for.  The loaves are moist and tender and being filled with all kinds of spicy goodness, have a deep, rich, autumnal flavor that I just adore.  I have eaten this three days running smeared with cream cheese in the morning.  That paired with a steamy cup of coffee have made the perfect breakfast for these stormy, cold days.
Sprouted Spelt and Squash Quick Bread
Makes 2 large loaves
2 c butternut squash puree
4 eggs
1 c coconut oil (we have no cholesterol problems here - if that is an issue, sub vegetable oil)
2 c agave syrup
2 c spelt sprouted flour
1 3/4 c almond meal
1 c walnut pieces (optional)
2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two large loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together squash puree, eggs, oil, and agave until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, nuts, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
A good healthy slice of this bread (enough for a decent breakfast serving) comes out at around 250 calories and has 0.7 g of sugar and 2 g of fiber.  It is also rich in in vitamin A and it yummmmmmy!

The Light Liam

Years ago, when I worked for Corel, this was my favorite breakfast at our in-house cafeteria.  The Liam sandwich was named after a fellow employee who ordered this special nearly every day. 

The original Liam is made with a toasted bagel, cream cheese, a thick slice of tomato and loads of crispy bacon.  This morning, I felt the urge for my old favorite and made a light version instead.  If you are counting calories, this one checks in at around 200 calories.  Serve this with some fruit on the side and it makes an excellent light and yummy start to your day.

The Light Liam

1 Bagel thin (choose something with a decent fiber content to counteract the sugar from the processed grain - mine has 4 gr of fiber per bagel)
2 T cream cheese
1 slice ripe tomato
S & P to taste

Toast bagel thin in oven or toaster.  Spread with cream cheese.  Top with tomato and salt and pepper to taste.

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Crockpot "refried" beans

Today I decided to give a nod to Meatless Monday. I know today is Tuesday, but it is the first day back from the Christmas holidays so in my mind it is Monday. You are just going to have to go with me on this one.

If you have ever read my blog, you know of my love for the humble black bean. I cook with them a lot. Black beans are chock full of vitamins, fiber, have a low GI value (around 35, even when mashed) and are an inexpensive source of easily digested protein. Last night I was riffling through the cupboards and found a long lost bag of dried black beans. I had been reading a new favorite blog - 100 Days of Real Food - and had read an article about crock pot refried beans. I figured that black beans would work so today I gave it a try. I am happy to report that the beans worked out really well. I will be making these again with pinto beans soon.

Tonight I served the beans on toasted low carb flour tortillas (to toast, place tortilla on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 until crisp, about 8 minutes), sprinkled with cheese and topped with sauteed orange and red peppers.  Everyone, including the kids, raved about them.

Crock Pot "Refried" Beans (adapted from this recipe at 100 Days of Real Food)

1 lb. dry black beans (pinto will obviously work well too)
Water to cover
1/2 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t chili powder
S & P to taste

Empty beans into a large bowl. Rinse well and remove any rocks, seeds, funky beans, etc. Cover with cool water and let soak overnight.

In the morning, drain the beans. Place the beans in a slow cooker and add enough water to completely cover the beans by one inch. Add onion and garlic. Turn cooker on high and cook 8 hours or until tender.

Drain remaining liquid from beans (trust me, there is lots of juice under those beans!) and set aside. Remove large pieces of onion and discard.  Mash beans with potato masher, adding reserved liquid as you go, until they reach your desired consistency. Season with cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

P.S.  These come out at 309 calories a piece as I served them (also to note that they are low in sugar, very high in fiber and vitamin C and high in vitamin A.)

Cal: 309
Fat: 12.1 g (19%)
Carbs: 35g (12%)
Fiber: 16.5g (66%)
Sugars: 2.2 g
Protein: 13.8g

Nutritional analysis from Calorie Count.

A is for apple and absolution

I woke up today dreaming of baked apples.  Well, actually I dreamt of grey hairs, heart attacks and baked apples (in that order).  Strange, I know, but it all sort of makes sense if you know the back story.

This year has been a tough one for me on my path to good health.  I have been on this journey for nearly three years and have done incredibly well up until the beginning on 2011.  I have managed to get my fasting glucose down 10 points (well out of the danger zone - yay me!) and my joint aches and pains had disappeared.  My dark circles had (mostly) vanished and my skin was looking pretty darned good for a 40-something Mama of two.  Then I fell off the wagon about this time last year and when I fell, I fell off hard.

I have been thinking a lot about my general health and well being for about six weeks or so.  In addition to falling off the healthy eating wagon last year, I suffered from some low level depression that most definitely part of the reason for the fall.  I have emerged (mostly) from the depression but still fully immersed in the old eating habits.  As a result, the joint aches and pains are back, my dark circles are frightening and I am struggling to get into the dress pants that I bought last Christmas.  Add that to the grey hairs that I can hardly seem to keep at bay, the cold that was making my chest itchy and sore and then the dream starts to make sense.

So this morning, after about six weeks of contemplation, I have decided that I need to forgive myself for the last year and move on.  I am a work in progress after all, right?  I could continue to wallow in the pity that was 2011 but that won't make me better.  I just have to face the consequences and move forward.  Apparently that is where the apples come in (I think anyway).

So, since I woke up renewed AND dreaming of baked apples, it was baked apples for breakfast this morning.  While the apples were baking, I made a quick batch of low sugar granola and served that over the top.  Number One Son and I loved this but Number Two was only so-so on it (to be fair, he hates apple peels).  Note that I baked the apples with just a touch of maple syrup which increases the sugar by 3 gr per serving to an already fairly sugary dish (the apples are full of natural sugar but it is natural so I am going with it).  You could omit this and I am sure these would still taste fantastic.  I am going to try that later in the week and report back.  In the meantime, if you are wanting to start your new year off with a virtuous meal, this might be just the one.


Baked Apples with Granola (serves 2)

2 apples, cored and cut in half
2 t maple syrup
2 T low sugar granola

Preheat oven to 350.  Places cored apples, cut side up, in baking dish.  Drizzle with maple syrup.  Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes or until soft.  Top with granola and serve warm.

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Chicken Marbella and Couscous

How long has it been since I blogged?

That was the question that I asked my cooking club this morning.  I have been seriously uninspired in the kitchen lately (thus the lack of blogging) but hosting cooking club made me get my act together.  I pulled this recipe out of the vault - its an oldie from the Lincoln Heights Dinner Club.  It is super easy (just marinate and bake) and despite that fact that I forgot to buy prunes and used raisins instead it was really good.  I would note that this isn't a particularly low GI meal (lots of sugar in the dish from the fruit and the brown sugar) but it is a nice once in awhile treat.

Chicken Marbella (from AllRecipes)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pitted prunes, halved  (or raisins, which I found out was a good substitute!)
8 small green olives
2 tablespoons capers, with liquid
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 (3 pound) whole chicken, and cut into pieces (remove skin if you wish - we didn't)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley added to marinade)

In a medium bowl combine the garlic, prunes, olives, capers, olive oil, vinegar, bay leaves, and oregano. Mix well. Spread mixture in the bottom of a 10x15 inch baking dish. Add the chicken pieces, stir and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Remove dish from refrigerator. Sprinkle brown sugar on top and pour white wine all around chicken. 

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, spooning juices over chicken several times as it is baking. Serve on a platter, pouring juices over the top, and garnish with parsley (note that we used dry parsley in the marinade instead of fresh).

Fruited Couscous (Adapted from AllRecipes)

2 cups vegetable broth
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups dry whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Pour the vegetable broth into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the butter, apricots and raisins. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the couscous. Cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve (note that you can also sprinkle with cinnamon if desired).

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I was on the phone with my BFF the other day and said to her "I am making cheese". The phone went dead silent and then she said "you are MAKING cheese?" Yes indeed, I made cheese and it was so easy. You need all of three ingredients and a couple of hours to produce ricotta with no stabalizers, gumming agents or preservatives. It is dead simple and the outcome is delish.

Ricotta Cheese

9 C whole milk
1/2 t salt
3 T lemon juice or white vinegar

Add milk to a large pot and set over a high flame. Heat until the milk reaches a rolling boil, stirring occassionally to prevent scorching. When the milk reaches a boil, take it off the heat and add lemon juice. Stir to combine. Let the mix sit for two minutes. Stir to seperate the curds from the whey (you will see it happening as you stir).

Pour the mixture into a strainer that has been lined with three layers of cheese cloth or a fine cotton tea towel which has been set over a large bowl. Cover the cheese and let strain for one hour. If the cheese is still too wet, wring gently inside the cheese cloth/tea towel. Discard whey. Place cheese in a storage container and refrigerate.


Low Sugar Granola

Last week, Daniel had Spring Break. Because David was still in school, we decided to enrol Dan in Spring Break Camp. Every morning, I dropped David off at school and then had 60 minutes to kill before bringing Daniel to camp (which was just around the corner from David's school). What do you do with 1 empty hour and a 4 year old? Breakfast naturally.

Every morning last week Daniel and I ate at a different local restaurant. One morning we ate at a sandwich and salad cafe which offered a really spartan breakfast menu. Daniel choose granola topped with fruit and milk. He devoured it. I told him that morning that we could try making our own granola (you know how unhealthy traditional granola is) and this is what I came up with.

When analyzed against Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola, mine comes in at about the same per serving (1/4 cup) for calories (140), carbs (16 gr) and fiber (2 gr). Where it really shines is the sugar, where I have halved the amount per serving (mine is 3 gr to their 6 gr). This makes the fiber to sugar ratio pretty appealing for a grown up snack and an overall decent choice for kids anytime.

Low Sugar Granola

2 C rolled oats
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
3 T canola oil
1/4 C agave syrup
1 t vanilla
1/2 C walnuts, chopped
1/2 C almonds, slivered
1/2 c raisins

Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss oats with cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk oil, agave and vanilla with a fork until well blended. Pour wet mix into bowl and mix with hands to combine. Pour mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well. Return pan to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in nuts and fruit. Return to oven for an additional 2 minutes or until nuts are fragrant. Remove and let cool. Pack into air tight container and enjoy.

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