Last minute homemade holiday gifts

Who is busy with preparing for Christmas? Raises hand.

Who doesn’t feel ready yet? Raises hand.

Who still has homemade gifts to make? Raises hand.

Yeah I’m a little behind on making gifts for my friends. When I realized how little time I had left, I spent a solid 2 hours Pinteresting recipes last week. And because I’m in the holiday spirit, I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you guys in case you still have some last minute homemade holiday gifts to whip up too!

Last minute homemade holiday giftsPhoto credit: Hidden Ponies, Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen, The Healthy Maven, The Honour System, Running with Spoons, and Diary of an Ex Sloth

These shortbread cookies from my Nana’s recipe are made with brown sugar, giving them a warmer, richer flavour. This recipe makes 40+ cookies, so they’re perfect for gifting!

Perfect for: The traditionalist

Nana's shortbread cookies

I’ve already gifted this apple butter granola to several of my friends, and it has been a hit each time! I like to put it in a mason jar, then tie some twine around the rim and attach a homemade label made from a brown paper bag for a rustic touch to it.

Perfect for: The hippie

Apple butter granola

This penuche (butterscotch fudge) is an impressive gift that takes under an hour to make!

Perfect for: The ultimate sweet tooth

Penuche by Hidden Ponies

These dark chocolate almond butter truffles are indulgent while still being made from good-for-you ingredients like almond butter, maple syrup, and coconut oil.

Perfect for: The health food nut

Truffles by The Honour System

Forgot a hostess gift for the party you’re attending in 30 minutes? Whip up these gingerbread glazed roasted nuts that take no time at all to make!

Perfect for: The snacker

Gingerbread roasted nuts from Ex Sloth

These chocolate gingerbread truffles are delicious seasonal twist on truffles! And they’re made with just 3 ingredients (4 if you count the sprinkles), so they’re a cinch to whip up.

Perfect for: The slightly offbeat friend

Gingerbread truffles from Running with Spoons

This almond joy butter is a flavour you can’t find in stores, making it a great gift for your friends whether they’re a nut butter aficionado or just addicted to the Jiffy.

Perfect for: The nut butter addict (duh)

Almond Joy Butter from The Healthy Maven

Have you made any homemade gifts this year?

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Orange cranberry energy balls

It’s getting down to crunch time. Just one week away from Christmas – can you believe it? Wasn’t I just celebrating my internship graduation and stuffing my face in London like yesterday? Apparently 5 months have passed since then, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Anyways, I’m sure you guys – like myself – are up to your ears in Christmas preparations right now. Between shopping for gifts, decorating, baking cookies, and going to parties, it sure is a busy month. Which is why having snacks on hand is key. Because the only thing worse than being stressed and busy is being stressed, busy and hungry!

These orange cranberry energy balls are a healthy  dairy, egg, and peanut free snack! Gluten free and vegan options included in recipe. // chelseashealthykitchen.com

One of my favourite snacks for busy times is energy balls, since they’re great for eating on-the-go. And you can stuff them with tons of healthy ingredients like oats, nut butter, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc to make them nutrient dense and filling. My latest version is a seasonal adaptation of these energy balls with orange zest and dried cranberries in place of the blueberry vanilla flavours.

Orange cranberry energy balls

I also used Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts, which I received a few weeks (okay, like 7) ago from Goodness Me. Back in October I was invited with several other local bloggers to attend a dinner put on by the natural food store, where we were invited to become brand ambassadors. I was stoked because they are my favourite grocery store in the GTA (and they now have an online store that ships Canada wide)!

What I love about Goodness Me is that they really embody the idea of food as medicine, which is exactly what I like to promote. Eating well is one of the best ways to stay healthy and feel our best. So whip up these energy balls and stay nourished this hectic holiday season!

Orange cranberry energy balls

Orange cranberry energy balls
 
Prep time
Total time
 
These orange cranberry energy balls made with oats, hemp seeds, flax, and almond butter are a fast and healthy snack when you're on the go. Dairy free, egg free, and peanut free with gluten free and vegan options.
Author:
Yield: 14-16 balls
Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup hemp hearts
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp orange or clementine zest
Instructions
  1. In a large bow combine the oats, hemp hearts, ground flaxseed, dried cranberries, and salt. Mix together well.
  2. In a smaller bowl stir together the almond butter, honey, and orange zest. Mix well then pour into the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir everything until it is well mixed. Then use wet fingers to shape into balls. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Notes
Use certified gluten free oats to make recipe gluten free.
Replace honey with agave nectar or brown rice syrup to make recipe vegan.

Orange cranberry energy balls

What’s your go-to snack lately?

Disclaimer: Goodness Me provided me with the Manitoba Hemp Hearts free of charge as a part of their brand ambassador program. However, I was not otherwise compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

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Don’t just survive the holidays… enjoy them!

I know as a dietitian I’m supposed to be writing posts right now along the lines of “10 strategies to survive the holidays”. But to be honest, I really don’t like that wording choice and don’t even agree with some of the suggestions those kinds of articles offer.

I mean, the whole concept of “surviving” the holidays just takes away from their whole meaning. The holidays aren’t something to survive. They’re not a huge battle for which we need to design a game plan. They’re a time to enjoy. A time to spend time with your friends and family, go to parties, have fun picking out the perfect gifts, bake shortbread cookies from your Nana’s recipe, and watch cheesy Christmas movies. The fact that the media makes people feel like they have to fight to survive the holidays turns it into a time of stress rather than a time of joy.

Nana's shortbread cookies

I’m not saying that some of these articles don’t have a valid point. Because yes, it’s true that the holidays provide many opportunities to eat calorie dense and low nutrient foods. And indulging at every opportunity would be good for neither our health nor our waistlines. However, part of the fun of the holidays includes enjoying these treats.

My personal outlook is that we should choose things that contribute to our enjoyment. If eating something will contribute to your enjoyment, eat it. If not, skip it. Personally I don’t care for packaged cookies from the grocery store bakery, so I skip them. Likewise, eating a treat at a work event doesn’t have any special meaning to me and wouldn’t make a difference in my enjoyment of the holidays, so I might skip that as well. But eating one of my favourite cookies freshly baked out of the oven after an afternoon of baking with my family is part of what enjoying the holidays means to me. And potluck dinners with my friends are another one of my favourite holiday activities, so I choose to fully enjoy the food at those as well.

Molasses cookies

My point is that while the holidays are not a time to go crazy with overindulging, you also shouldn’t restrict yourself from what you love about this time of year. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about how many treats you didn’t eat  – it’s about how much you enjoyed the holidays.

Don’t forget to enter my big holiday giveaway! You have until this Friday December 19th at 9 am EST to enter. Open to those living in Canada and the US only.

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Big holiday giveaway!

Some people dread holiday shopping, but I… well, I’m not going to lie, I’m one of those people. I like gift shopping when I have an idea of the perfect present to buy someone that I know will bring a smile to their face. But when I’m clueless as to what to buy, I hate walking around the mall aimlessly trying to find something (I’m looking at you, mom – why are you so hard to buy for?!).

But that’s not the case today because I have the perfect collection of gifts to give away that I know you’ll like. This is the biggest giveaway I’ve ever organized on Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen and I did it to say “thank you” to you guys for reading! Whether you’re a new reader or an old one, a commenter or a lurker (psst don’t be shy – I’d love to hear from you!), I seriously appreciate all of you for taking the time to read my little corner of the internet.

Ok, on to the good stuff. Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Big holiday giveaway(1) A 1-year subscription to Fine Cooking: Fine Cooking is my all time favourite food magazine, and in fact it’s the only one I subscribe to. It has a great variety of recipes, from quick and easy to more complex, and is great for anyone who wants to learn more about cooking techniques and the science behind food!

(2) Five assorted Giddy Yoyo chocolate bars: I’ve raved about Giddy Yoyo on this blog many times before, and I have no shame about raving some more. This company makes the most delicious organic and fair-trade chocolate that is also vegan, soy free, and nut free. And with cool flavours like vanilla salt and moka cardamom, how can you not be a fan?

(3) The Oh She Glows Cookbook: This cookbook is hands down my favourite cookbook from 2014 (check out my review of it). Angela’s vegan recipes are as tasty as they are beautiful. And the best part? Is how healthy they all are! My personal favourites are the brownies and the Glo bars, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

(4) 2 packages of The SoyNut Butter Company’s new granola: This new nut-free granola (currently only available online) is the answer to my granola prayers. Not only is it delicious, but it’s actually very healthy with only 3 g of sugar per serving in the Original flavour and a good dose of protein and fibre! I’m already addicted.

(5) Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts: Hemp Hearts are one of my favourite products because of their stellar nutrition profile. You get a good dose of protein, omega 3s, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and more in just a couple of tablespoons! Goodness Me is donating a 227 g package of these nutrition rockstars from their new online store (which has great deals on healthy foods and natural beauty products!).

(6) A gift package from Bob’s Red Mill: Bob’s Red Mill is my go-to company for baking and cooking ingredients like flours, grains, sugars, dried beans, etc. They’re offering a gift pack of 4 products selected by yours truly. I went with an ancient grains theme (because they’re so in right now) and chose quinoa, farro, millet, and spelt berries to freshen up your whole grains pantry for the New Year.

So here’s how this giveaway will work:

One week from today on December 19, 2014 at 9:00 am EST I will select one winner for each prize – that’s 6 winners total! To enter, leave me a comment telling me one thing that’s on your holiday wishlist this year (mandatory). Make sure your comment includes a valid email address so that I can reach you if you are a winner! You can also earn additional entries by doing the following (leave a separate comment for each entry):

  1. Follow me on Twitter
  2. Tweet about the giveaway: “Big holiday giveaway for foodies at Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen via @healthychels! Enter to win here: http://wp.me/p3QHsK-4xc”
  3. Follow me on Instagram
  4.  Follow me on Pinterest
  5. Subscribe to my blog via the subscription box on my side bar

Giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. 

Good luck!

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Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars

For as long as I can remember, my family always decorated gingerbread houses at Christmas time.

Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars. These make a great snack or even a healthy holiday dessert when topped with frosting! Vegan and nut free.

Some years we even made the gingerbread house modeled after our own house! My mom and dad would use stencils to cut out the homemade gingerbread dough, then bake it and carefully assemble it with royal icing using soup cans to hold it up while it dried. This would be followed by a trip the Bulk Barn, where we would buy $80 worth of candy (I’m not joking) to decorate it with.

We’ve tried to keep the tradition alive in recent years, but we just don’t put in the same effort as we did when we were younger. The past few holiday seasons have seen half-decorated gingerbread house that no one has the energy to finish.

Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars. These make a great snack or even a healthy holiday dessert when topped with frosting! Vegan and nut free.

So it’s with sadness that we bring this tradition to an end. Instead this year we will focus our efforts on baking all sorts of delicious holiday treats like my Nana’s shortbread cookies. To keep the gingerbread tradition alive though, I’ve developed these chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars. They’re healthy, but I swear you could fool your family with this recipe. It’s soft, moist, and the perfect level of sweetness. I think it’s perfect as is, but if you want to take it up a notch, you could top it with icing for a better-for-you Christmas dessert. Either way, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars. These make a great snack or even a healthy holiday dessert when topped with frosting! Vegan and nut free.

Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars
 
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A healthy chocolate chip gingerbread snacking cake made with whole wheat flour and coconut oil. Vegan and nut free.
Author:
Yield: 16 squares
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups (~195 g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ⅛ tsp cloves
  • Scant ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water
  • ⅓ cup canned pumpkin
  • ⅓ cup fancy molasses
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp applesauce
  • ⅓ cup mini vegan chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
  3. In a small ramekin combine the ground flax and water. Set aside for the time being.
  4. In a large bowl add the pumpkin, molasses, maple syrup, coconut oil, and applesauce. Note: it is best if all the ingredients are at room temperature so that they do not cause the coconut oil to harden when mixed together. If coconut oil hardens, simply pop the bowl in the microwave to melt it again.
  5. Add the ground flax and water to the liquid ingredients and stir. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips gently.
  6. Pour the mixture into an 8x8 square baking pan that has been sprayed and floured. Bake in the centre of the oven for 18-20 minutes, then remove and let cool.

Healthy chocolate chip gingerbread spice bars. These make a great snack or even a healthy holiday dessert when topped with frosting! Vegan and nut free.

What are your Christmas traditions? Have any of them changed over the years?

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Cascata Bistro

Disclaimer: I received a discount on my meal and a complimentary appetizer from Cascata Bistro. However, all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

I live in Burlington, Ontario. About 50 minutes away my good friend lives in Guelph. And between us? Is 50 km of cows and fields. It has made seeing each other just a little difficult over the past year and a half.

Enter Cascata Bistro, a new restaurant in Carlisle, just north of Hamilton. It’s smack dab in the middle of us, making it the perfect meeting point. So we went there for lunch last week after I was invited by Angela Checchia, its owner, to try it out.

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

It’s located in a renovated house, which is my favourite kind of setting for a restaurant. It just feels so homey! The decor was a mix of cottagey and hip, with bright pops of colour and lots of unique decorative pieces. We ate out on the sun porch, which bright, cozy, and complete with a gas fireplace and heaters for winter – an inclusion that was much appreciated by this cold blooded gal.

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

Before our meal we were brought out a complimentary appetizer platter with warm marinated olives, crackers and bread sticks, piave (a cheese similar to Parmesan), sharp cheddar, and some cured meats. I don’t think I’d ever had the piave before, but it might have been my favourite part! I’m a sucker for a good cheese.

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

There was so much choice for our meal between their regular menu, their $11 lunch menu, and their daily features. Plus it all sounded so appealing – especially since it’s all made from scratch, using locally sourced food when possible. I had a hard time deciding, so I followed the advice of Angela and went for the flatbread with mushrooms, red peppers, red onions, Genoa salami, and mozzarella. I loved the crispy flatbread and the assortment of vegetables on this, but I found the mild flavour of the Genoa salami got lost underneath it all. That didn’t matter too much though, since it was delicious even without its flavour!

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

My friend had the Marianna sandwich, which was stuffed with chicken, roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and Cascata aioli. She gave it two thumbs up!

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

The food was great, but I think my favourite thing about Cascata Bistro is its homey and welcoming atmosphere. It almost feels like I’m a guest at Angela’s house rather than a customer. This is what will bring me back here again – and hopefully soon!

Cascata Bistro restaurant review by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

Cascata Bistro on Urbanspoon

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5 foods this dietitian doesn’t eat

I am not an advocate of restricting foods. I’m sure you’ve heard me preach about balance and moderation on here many times before! And that is because I strongly believe that a healthy diet is one that includes treats and “junk food” occasionally.

But that being said, there are some foods I just will not eat. It’s not that I want to eat these foods and just think they are too unhealthy. No, these are “foods” (in the very loose sense of the word) that have absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever.

1. Processed cheese spread

Why would I eat a “cheese product” made with corn maltodextrin and artificial colour when I could just eat real cheese? Or if I wanted a cheese sauce, I could easily just make one myself by making a roux (flour and butter) and adding milk and cheese. There is no situation in my life where I would ever need to resort to Cheez Whiz!

5 foods this dietitian won't eat - processed cheese spread

2. Microwave dinners

In my opinion, most microwave dinners are completely unappealing. The majority of frozen dinners in grocery stores are filled with chemical ingredients, high in sodium, and don’t even give you a full serving of vegetables. And while there are some brands that are free of preservatives and are made with real food ingredients, these are often extremely pricey. Why pay $6.99 for an Amy’s Kitchen frozen lasagna portion when I could make myself an entire tray of lasagna for the same price? And if I need a fast meal, I’d much rather just throw together a sandwich or whip up an omelette.

5 foods this dietitian won't eat - microwave dinner

3. Artificial maple syrup

Real maple syrup has one ingredient: maple syrup. It also contains small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and other minerals. Artificial table syrup has none of these, and in addition it has artificial colouring and chemical additives. Hard pass.

5 foods this dietitian won't eat - table syrup

4. Margarine

I’ve never been a margarine user. Growing up my dad had a vendetta against margarine so the only time I ate it was at friends’ houses. And I could recognize it in an instant because of its funky taste. Butter not only tastes better to me, but I consider it a lot healthier too. If you look at the ingredients on margarine it lists all sorts of modified oils, soy lecithin, monoglycerides etc. Butter on the other hand contains just cream and salt. I don’t make butter my primary cooking fat because it is high in saturated fats (saturated fats are not the devil we once thought they were, but plant-based oils are still healthier), but I don’t shy away from using it in recipes that need it, such as roux-based sauces, pancakes/waffles, sauces for meat and fish, and baking.

5 foods this dietitian won't eat - margarine

5. Fruit drinks

By this I mean fruit drinks, beverages, ades… anything that isn’t 100% fruit juice. Most of these products don’t have juice as their first ingredient, but rather water and sugar. In fact they tend to contain less than 5% real juice. They may have pictures of fruit on the label, but don’t fool yourself: this stuff is just as bad as soda pop.

5 foods this dietitian won't eat - fruit drink

Do you agree with any of these?

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Roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction

If you were to ask me about my favourite vegetable, I would say that hands down it is winter squash. The sweetness, the soft creamy texture, the way its sugars get caramelized in the oven… it’s seriously true love.

Roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction

You would know this if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant with me because I get really excited whenever I see it on restaurant menus. Once I see squash listed in a dish, I am completely sold on ordering that dish without question.

This weekend I went to Lola’s Kitchen in Toronto and had the most incredible quinoa risotto with leeks, winter squash, kale, Parmesan cheese, and truffle oil with shrimp added on. It was the epitome of fall in one cozy, delicious dish! I also split the starter stuffed squash with my friends, which was quite good as well.

Roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction

My squash obsession isn’t limited to dining out though. I buy squash at least once a week at the market/grocery store and have no shortage of ideas for cooking it with all the squash recipes on my Pinterest boards. And sometimes I like to get experimental and come up with my own ideas for squash – like these roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction.

This dish was inspired by this Parmesan and sage crusted butternut squash from Ricotta and Radishes‘ blog (doesn’t it look gorgeous?). I had some sage to use up in my fridge, so I decided to make a twist on this recipe by adding Brussels sprouts and shallots. My reason was purely laziness – why make two separate vegetable side dishes for dinner when I could just combine them into one? I also added a balsamic reduction drizzle to tie tie the dish together.

The result is a healthy vegetable side dish with a complex medley of flavours. It’s definitely going to become a regular feature on my dinner table!

Roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction

Roasted fall vegetables with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction
 
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Roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and shallots in olive oil and sage, topped with Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. A great healthy side dish for fall! Gluten free, nut free, and vegetarian with vegan option.
Author:
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • ¾ lb butternut squash, cubed
  • 3-4 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic reduction
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. While it is heating, prepare your vegetables. Wash, trim, and halve the Brussels sprouts. Peel and cube the butternut squash into 1 to 1.5 cm pieces. Peel the shallots and cut into quarters. Don't cut off the ends of the shallots - this helps the layers stay together.
  3. Then combine the chopped sage and olive oil in a small dish, and pour it over the bowl of vegetables. Toss to combine, then add salt.
  4. Spread out the vegetables on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes before removing.
  5. Let cool slightly, then top with shredded Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
Notes
*To make vegan, omit Parmesan cheese.

Roasted fall vegetable with sage, Parmesan, and balsamic reduction

What’s your current vegetable obsession?

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Month In Review: November 2014

Hi guys! Holy smokes, who else can’t believe it’s December? Not that I’m complaining. Christmas is my favourite time of year! And in my world, the Christmas season starts right on December 1st. Bring on the Christmas movies, gift shopping, and baking!

But enough about December. Today I’m looking back on the month of November on the blog:

Month In Review November 2014

// Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen Recipes

My first recipe of the month was this easy homemade chicken noodle soup that I made for JZ and myself when we were both feeling sick. It’s ready in under an hour, so you really have no excuses!

Easy homemade chicken noodle soup 2

Because of my family’s hoarding tendencies, I found three half-used jars of apple butter in our fridge. Enter this apple butter granola: a convenient way to use up apple butter in a healthy and delicious way! With no added sugar and only 2 tbsp of oil, it’s the perfect nutritious breakfast to start your day this holiday season.

Apple butter granola

This herb roasted potatoes recipe is my go-to potato recipe that I seriously make at least once a week. They’re JZ’s favourite too, so you know they must be good (he’s picky!).

My favourite herb roasted potatoes (vegan, gluten free)

I’ve been on a huge strata kick lately! Actually I’ve just been loving eggs in general. I shared my latest favourite ham and cheddar strata recipe last week. It’s a great recipe to keep in mind for a Christmas morning brunch!

Ham and cheddar strata

// Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen Blog Posts

Ever wondered about healthy options at breakfast and brunch restaurants? This post about healthy options at Cora’s has some good tips. I’ve since gotten some requests to do future posts about healthy options at other Canadian chain restaurants – so if you have a suggestion, please let me know!

Healthy options at Cora Breakfast and Lunch

I checked out The Combine, a local foods restaurant in Norfolk County. My pancetta wrapped pickerel didn’t impress me, but the other food there did! Definitely a restaurant worth going back to.

The Combine - pickerel

Tracey and I held our fifth vegan supper club, this time with a menu of kale and cabbage salad, lentil sloppy Joes, and a chocolate pudding cake. Spoiler: the chocolate cake tasted as good as it looks!

supper club - chocolate pudding cake

JZ and I celebrated our anniversary with a fabulous meal at Spencer’s at the Waterfront. I also share a funny story in my post about our last minute decision to switch restaurants.

Spencer's at the Waterfront - cauliflower salad

// Blogging

I had several more pictures accepted to Food Gawker! I’ve been really trying hard to become familiar with my camera and all that it can do. Mostly that has been just from practicing, but I’ve also read some helpful resources this month such as Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots and Davida’s post on food photography on the Fitfluential blog.

my foodgawker gallery

You also might have noticed a new format to my latest recipes. That’s because I took the leap and installed the Easy Recipe Plugin. I thought it would be complicated, but it’s actually really user friendly. I like how easy and seamless it makes the process of posting a recipe. Also, it means that a picture shows up beside my post when it appears on Google!

Rich snippet example

// Off The Blog

I took more time off than usual from the blog in early November because of the passing of my Grandpa. It was a hard month for me and my family, but spending a lot of time with them lately is helping us all get through it. I even had my grandma sleep over with me for a few days this month! We had fun watching The Big Bang Theory, going out for coffee and cookies at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, and doing the crossword every morning.

Since I’m still job hunting, I like to spend lots of time staying up-to-date in my field by reading the latest articles and watching webinars. This month I attended the Dairy Farmers of Canada Symposium via webcast to learn about new research on saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. I found some information to be biased, but I definitely still learned some new things.

I also had the pleasure of meeting up with another local blogger, Sharon from The Honour System. I’ve been reading her blog for a while now, so it was great to finally meet her in person. We chatted about all things blogging, cooking, and food – other bloggers just get it, you know?

What were the highlights of your November?

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Ham and cheddar strata

I love salt. I am not one of those people who shies away from adding it liberally to food. But last week I had a terrible experience with it.

It happened on Friday when I made a ham and cheddar strata for JZ and my grandma, who both happened to be at my house for lunch. I added 1/4 tsp of salt to the recipe, which when combined with the salty ham and cheese, was a bit of a salty assault to the taste buds.

Ham and cheddar strata

The salt fest continued that evening when JZ and I went out for pizza at Son of a Peach with Tracey and her guy. I had a hefty portion of pizza and washed it down with only my glass of red wine – I foolishly left my water untouched. Fast forward 30 minutes when we’re on the road to pick up my parents from the airport, and I’m dying of thirst because of all the salt from the pizza. But of course we have no water in the car, so it isn’t until nearly 2 hours later that I finally get home and chug nearly my body weight in water.

That isn’t enough though, and my thirst wakes me up 4 times throughout the night. When I wake up the next morning, exhausted from all those wake ups, my mom looks at me and says “Your face looks puffy”. Gee, thanks mom, good morning to you too.

Moral of the story? Stick to a scant 1/8 tsp of salt when making this ham and cheddar strata. And don’t have really salty pizza afterwards.

Ham and cheddar strata

Ham and cheddar strata
 
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A tasty egg dish made with bread cubes, ham, and cheddar cheese. Recipe can be easily doubled to serve a crowd*! Nut free, soy free. Gluten free option**.
Author:
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups bread cubes
  • 8 large eggs
  • ½ cup low fat milk
  • 75 g sliced ham, diced
  • 50 g cheddar cheese, diced
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack placed in the middle.
  2. Grease a 2.5 quart round baking dish with olive oil on the bottom and sides. Place bread cubes in the dish, evenly spread out.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, ham, cheddar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Pour mixture over the bread cubes. Use a spoon to evenly spread out the cubed cheese and ham, if necessary.
  4. Cover with saran wrap and let sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
  5. Then remove the saran wrap and bake for 40-50 minutes depending on the size and shape of the baking dish. Check for doneness after 40 minutes by inserting a large toothpick into the centre of the strata. If it is not done cooking, put back in oven and continue checking for doneness every 5 minutes.
Notes
*If doubling recipe, use a larger baking dish (such as a 9x13 rectangular dish). Cooking times may change.
**Use certified GF bread to make recipe gluten free.

Do you love salt? Have you ever overdosed on it like I did?

This post was shared on Buns in My Oven‘s What’s Cookin’ Wednesday link up.

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