Healthy Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry_CrispThis Healthy Blueberry Crisp is made with oatmeal, almonds, blueberries, coconut oil, and agave nectar. I was craving a late night snack last night, while wanting something healthy, but sweet and satisfying. Sometimes when I am ambitious I will whip up some late night muffins or cookies, but I didn’t even have eggs and I am not a huge fan of the vegan substitute for eggs, I have done it before and I just don’t think it’s the same.

Working with what I had – lots of frozen blueberries, oatmeal and almonds, this crisp was the perfect idea! It was very quick to make and required minimal ingredients which made it an attractive dessert. Usually crisps would be made with butter to help keep it together and something sweet like brown sugar, but to make this a little healthier I opted for coconut oil to replace the butter and agave nectar for the sugar. If you don’t have agave nectar you could use maple syrup or honey, both great natural options.Crisp

This recipe can easily be adjusted, I had frozen blueberries but fresh berries, or other types like strawberries, black berries, raspberries, even a medley would all be delicious options. I am not much of a baker because I have troubles following recipes exactly, which is why this is the perfect recipe for the non-baker. No flour, baking power, and baking soda to fuss over, and if you added a little bit more or less of an ingredient it won’t ruin the dish – that’s my kind of baking!

The Healthy Blueberry Crisp is a must try, so simple, crunchy, delicious and packed with antioxidants from the blueberries, vitamins and good fats from the almonds, and fiber from the oats. A healthy crisp like this one could easily be served warm, or cold, for breakfast or for dessert. Enjoy!!

Ingredients

1 cup steel-cut oats

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups of frozen blueberries

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup chopped crummy almonds

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

Method

Heat oven to °350

In a large bowl mix together the oats, agave, coconut oil, salt and almonds. For the almonds slice the first 1/4 with a chopping knife, and with the second 1/4 blend in a chopping machine so it turns into large crumbs. Oatmeal Crisp

In a rectangle baking dish, no need to oil the dish, add the blueberries, the lemon juice and zest. Add the oatmeal mixture on top, et voila! Heat in the oven for 40 minutes until you see the blueberries bubbling.Blueberry_Crisp

Once it’s ready, take it out and let it cool 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream or Greek yogurt!

How to Make Paneer

Paneer
Paneer is a fresh cheese found in some favourite Indian dishes such as Saag Paneer or  Paneer Tikka Masala. It is a soft creamy cheese that doesn’t melt in high temperatures which makes it handy and delicious for these type of meals.

I love Indian food in general, but Indian food with paneer is always a treat. The way the paneer has that nice chew to it, can easily replace meat, while cutting and mellowing out the strong spices, it’s really a must have cheese in your Indian dishes. It’s not so easy to come across in these neck of the woods, I have checked cheese sections in grocery stores, even the frozen aisle and I can never find it. One time I went to China town where they have Asian/Indian stores and I did find some frozen paneer there. It were decent, but there is really no comparison to fresh. When in doubt I use tofu, which has a similar texture and shape, but it’s missing that creamy aspect.Paneer

Finally enough was enough! I’ve heard from my sister in laws father, who is from India and is a fabulous cook, that it is actually quite simple to make at home. He explained the method of bringing milk to a boil and adding something acidic, either lemon juice or vinegar till the milk curds and separates from the whey. From there it’s just a matter of straining it with a cheese cloth and letting it sit in the fridge till firm and ready. There is no trick to this! After making it last night it felt pretty fool proof, I wondered why I don’t do this all the time – well the reason for that is it takes 4 cups of milk to make just 2 cups of paneer – which is OK, But it just takes a lot of milk is all. If I were to make this for a crowd I would double the recipe and use 8 cups of milk, to get a good amount of paneer.

About that cheese cloth….. I actually didn’t have any, I wish I did but I didn’t and wasn’t going to go out to buy any. My suggestions are a thinner cloth – specifically I ended up using a wipey I had from my first class train experience I had kept. They are lemon flavoured, and have the perfect thin, yet clothy texture similar to a cheese cloth. So I took it out of it’s package, rinsed it out well, and lined a colander with it. It worked perfectly if I do say so myself, not that you at home would necessarily have squirreled away these train souvenirs..haha 😐 But anyway, there is also of course, cheese cloth 🙂

Cheesecloth

 

Makes about 2 cups of paneer

Ingredients

4 cups of whole milk

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cheese cloth

Method

Bring 4 cups of whole milk (1% or 2%) to a boil in a non-stick pot. Watch it carefully, and stir occasionally so it doesn’t over flow, or burn.Milk Once at a boil turn down the heat and add the lemon juice, you should see it separate right away. This won’t take long, stir in one direction to try to keep the curds together rather than stirring them apart.

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Now strain the milk in the cheesecloth/colander.

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Gather the edges into a ball and run it under cold water to rinse out the lemon flavour and also to cool it down for when you ring it out. Once it’s at good temperature to touch, really squeeze out the cloth for about 5 minutes at the sink.

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Now place the ball on a plate with the twisted side down to get a nice round shape, place another plate on top with something heavy to press it down. I used my coffee press, no pun intended 😉 Coffee_PressPut in the fridge for only about 20 minutes, the longer you leave it the firmer it will get which is fine, just depends when you need it for. I had time to whip up my Palak Paneer , then take out the cheese, cut it up and throw it in at the end. Palak_Paneer

The Peasant Loaf

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If this is your first time making bread from scratch, this loaf is a great place to start! The peasant loaf is the most basic, simple bread that doesn’t require a bread maker or any special ingredients.

With everyone talking about being more healthy, natural, less ingredients, and no chemicals, I think more and more people are interested in making their own bread let alone making their own anything by scratch. I am a huge fan of this, I believe as long as you are making everything by scratch, you control quantities, you can substitute, your aware of all the ingredients, it’s bound to be good for you, or at least better for you than anything processed, or bought.

Yeast

The only ingredient you may not have in your cupboards for this recipe is the yeast. It’s important to have somewhat fresh yeast, if it doesn’t activate, foam up and rise the yeast might be too old and won’t work. You can buy yeast in different forms, packages with one serving, in a jar, and either active dry or instant yeast. Instant yeast can be used directly in the dough, while active dry needs to be mixed with warm water and dissolved. I have the jar of active dry, and it works for me! Couple tips about this yeast:

1. Do a fresh test by taking 2 1/4 teaspoons of the yeast and adding it to 1/4 cup of warm water, then add  1 tsp of sugar, let stand 10 minutes and if the mixture doubles it is active – now you know it’s good to use.

2. If you have a jar that lasts a while like I do, it’s best to keep it in the freezer to preserve it’s active properties.

3. Finally in order to properly activate this yeast you’ll want to make sure the temperature of the water is not too hot but warm enough. I just use the temperature from the tap water, and make sure it’s about luke warm.

Be warned that once you start making your own bread, you or your family may never want to buy it again! Enjoy this simple recipe to a basic peasant loaf.

Makes one large loaf or two smaller

Ingredients

4 cups of flour (white, whole wheat, or half and half!)

2 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast

2 cups of warm water

1 teaspoon of sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp oil or butter for greasing the pan and adding a little shine on top

Method

Start by preparing your yeast – mix the yeast, water and sugar together in a small bowl and let sit 10 minutes or until it rises or foams.

In a large bowl mix the flour and the salt and add the yeast mixture once ready. Start by using a large spoon just to quickly mix the water and the flour, then use your hands to kneed the dough until smooth and springy. Adjust water and flour as needed. Form dough into a round and place a clean damp towel to cover the dough. Let it sit in a dry place with no drafts for about an hour until it doubles in size, I find inside a turned off oven is a good spot.

dough

Once the dough has risen you can leave as one big round or split into two. Just depends what you are using it for and if you will be freezing!Preheat oven to 425°, grease a baking pan, place your dough on it and brush it with oil or butter. Cut slits on the top of the dough in a tic tac toe formation to allow air to escape. Dough Rising

Bake the dough for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400° and bake for another 20 minutes.

bread

This bread is so versatile and could be used for anything, but really on it’s own with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar is the most delicious snack in the world 😀Peasant Loaf

Greek Yogurt Pumpkin “Cheese” Cake

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A healthy take on a pumpkin cheesecake; this light dessert has no cheese, lots of greek yogurt and canned pumpkin. I am so excited with how nicely this dessert turned out. In the past I have made a plain greek yogurt cheesecake, and I absolutely loved it’s light, delicate texture. My next favourite dessert from cheesecake is pumpkin pie, so I just had to mix the two. This duo was not only easy to make (for the non-baker) it was healthy, different, refreshing and festive in the fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Perfectly sweet, yet not too sweet, this is a must make for guests who don’t want to be holding their stomachs as they walk out your door.
Ingredients

2 1/2 cups greek yogurt

1 cup sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nut meg

2 tbsp white flour

Crust

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

Method

Preheat oven to 350.

Start by making your crust in a greased spring form pan. If you do not have a spring form pan, you can make this in a regular pie cake, in which case there will be left over batter. Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter, then press into the pan.

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In a large bowl, blend your eggs, 3/4 sugar, vanilla and flour. Once blended fold in the yogurt.

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Take 1 cup of the egg/yogurt mixture out of the bowl and set aside.

Mix the pumpkin, the remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Spoon into egg/yogurt mixture, and blend. 

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Place scoops of the white mixture randomly around the top of the pumpkin mixture to make swirls with a knife.

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Bake in oven for 50 minutes, let the cake cool down in the turned off oven for another 15-20 minutes. Let sit in fridge at least one hour before removing from spring form pan. This cake can be made a day before and left in the fridge till ready to serve.

Add pecans, or whip cream to the top and enjoy this special dessert with family and friends 🙂