Black Bean Dip

So I’ve recently switched jobs and now I have to pack a lunch. Lunch is my second favourite meal of the day, right after breakfast. Anyway, for as long as I’ve packed my own lunch, and even when someone packed it for me, I always think I like plain baby carrots, but remember I don’t after about three carrots. So yesterday I went to take some veggies in my lunch to work and sure enough, after three carrots, I was pretty much over them. But the catch is that, like a seven-year-old, I will eat my carrots with dip. And thus, the black bean dip was born.

This change in job also means that I’m not home during the day anymore (yay normal work week!!!) so I don’t have that awesome mid morning light I’d gotten used to taking pictures in. The last few posts, I’ve had to play around with overhead lighting and extra lighting and the flash on my camera and all that fun stuff. But I manage to get a few decent pictures out of each one so that’s something.

This recipe makes roughly 1 1/2 cups of dip. I made mine by combining everything in the cup that came with my immersion blender, and then pumping it up and down until it was nice and smooth. If that’s not your style, you could chuck everything in a food processor, or blend the heck out of it in a blender. For a chunkier dip, chop the green onions, garlic, and parsley really really finely and mash everything with a potato masher. I portioned the dip into little containers and portioned carrots and strips of bell peppers into larger ones and then they’re ready to throw in my lunch bag in the morning! I also used some of this as filling for some fresh rolls with carrots and turkey. It sounds like kind of a weird combination but it worked.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can  (540 g) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 green onion
  • dash each salt and pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, or the cup that is designed for the immersion blender, and puree thoroughly with immersion blender. Food processors and blenders will also work.
  2. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready for use.

The Reality of 2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes

As I know I have mentioned before, I am breakfast’s biggest fan. Hence, pancakes. And if you have been anywhere on Pinterest in like the last year, I’m sure you’ve seen something about “2 ingredient banana pancakes”. They’re supposed to be these magical lovely light little things that are free from gluten and sugar and dairy and all that other stuff we’re terrified of. Oh, and they’re low carb and paleo. And the instructions for these little guys are EVERYWHERE!

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Up until yesterday morning, I had never made these mythical pancakes. Because combining two eggs with a banana and then frying it sounded gross honestly. But in the name of science and this blog, I figured I should bite the bullet and try it out and see what happened. So I defrosted a frozen banana (this was all I had) and drained out the extra liquid. And then I mushed it up, cracked two eggs into it, and beat the whole thing with an immersion blender to make it nice and smooth and fluffy. And then I heated the pan on medium heat, sprayed some non-stick spray, and started pouring in my pancakes. The first two turned out looking like normal pancakes, but after that the pan got to hot. Not to worry, I turned it back down and managed a few more. They looked like pancakes, they must be the real thing.

Wrong. These are the strange love-child of a crepe and a fruity omelette. They’re little and fluffy and a little bit slimy and taste too eggy to really be pancakes. I really understand the appeal here: they are easy to make, they’re gluten and dairy free for those who need it and those who are on the bandwagon, and one batch has roughly 250 calories (without the syrup). They’re like little kitchen miracles. But if you really want pancakes, just make the pancakes. There are tons of healthy pancake recipes out there, including gluten free and dairy free ones and ones for every other allergy and intolerance in between.

The bottom line? I think these are kinda gross and really not worth the hype. But that’s just me. If you’ve had more success with these, or have a way to make them better, let me know in the comments!

Pork and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

When I was in third year, we were required to take a course in restaurant management as part of our Applied Human Nutrition program. This involved picking two specials for the day, plus a soup and dessert, and following the regular menu. And then we had to do all the advertising, schedule people for different jobs for the day, do the prep for it, and then manage the whole thing on the day. It was insane and it was exhausting but it was pretty cool. This is all at PJ’s at the University of Guelph. If you’re there, go check it out. Totally worth it.

The point of that little side bar was that one of the specials we made was shepherd’s pie. We went through several variations on this before settling on the version we used, which is not the one I used when I made this last week. Our first version has canned tomatoes and was seriously underseasoned. So obviously we froze the leftovers to eat later. Our second version still had the tomatoes, but we doubled the spices and herbs. We might have tripled it. It was explosive. That was also changed. But first we froze the leftovers. Our final version had no tomatoes, but we added peas (ew peas) to the corn and carrots and beef, and there was a gravy type sauce on the meat. We also used a sweet potato mash since we had to make it for a standard menu item anyway. And it was all great. And then for the rest of third year, every time I didn’t have time to make lunch or was running late, I would grab one of those frozen pies out of the freezer and take it to campus. And even being absurdly excessively seasoned, or absurdly underseasoned, they were always awesome. Because it’s shepherd’s pie and it’s always great.

For this version, I also used a sweet potato mash for topping. Using half sweet potatoes and half Yukon golds keeps the structural integrity of regular mashed potatoes, with the taste and colour of the sweet potatoes. I chose pork because right now,  in my local grocery stores, lean ground pork is cheaper than any other ground meat. I also used frozen carrots and corn. There’s a common misconception that using frozen fruits and veggies is somehow less healthy than fresh. This is not the case, unless there’s been anything salty or sugary or fatty added to them as well. So use the frozen veggies if this is more convenient. And if you’re concerned about what’s in them, freeze them yourself. 

This recipe makes 6 servings, and leftovers reheat well in the oven or microwave. Serve with a green or kale salad.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 small onion (roughly 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen carrots, defrosted (diced or rounds or whatever makes you happy)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Dice the potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook until soft enough to stick a fork through easily (roughly 30 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In the meantime, mince the garlic and dice the onion. Cook in a large non-stick skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.
  4. Add the pork and cook until it is completely brown. Add the corn and carrots, as well as the spices and worcestershire sauce.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes or until all veggies are heated through.
  6. Mash the potatoes with a masher or beaters. Add the sour cream and mash until everything is combined.
  7. Transfer the pork mixture to a medium casserole dish. Spread to make an even layer. Top with potato mash and it out.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.

 

Apple Cinnamon Toast

The weather has finally calmed down here and settled into something resembling November instead of August. I personally am embracing it with copious amounts of tea, wearing cozy leggings to the gym instead of freezing my butt off when we have to run outside, and wearing scarves absolutely everywhere I go.

I mentioned in this post most recently about trying to get more vegetables into breakfast, and that applies to fruit too. One whole medium apple is a serving that counts towards your total recommended 7 – 10 servings of veggies and fruit every day. I didn’t pile a whole apple onto my toast here, but I ate the rest on the side. Pile on as much as you want, you can’t go wrong!

This recipe makes 1 serving, and is a complete meal when paired with some protein to keep you full, like cheese, ham, or a hard boiled egg. Or try it with a tall glass of low-fat milk.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1 tsp margarine or butter
  • a hefty pinch each of cinnamon and brown sugar
  • 1 medium-sized apple
  1. Toast the bread.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the apple into thin slices.
  3. Spread the margarine or butter on the toast. Sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar over top. Top with apples.
  4. Eat the rest of the apple and keep the doctor away.

Creamy Pasta with Bacon and Spinach

Apparently I’ve been on a bit of a pasta theme lately here. Between this simple little guy and this seasonal invention, there should be something for everyone. And then there’s this lovely creation. I usually try to avoid cream sauce, because it’s usually a salty, fatty, but totally lovely, nightmare. The trick here is that I used fat-free sour cream in the sauce instead of cream or eg

gs or anything. There’s still bacon, in all it’s greasy, salty glory, but as long as we keep “sometimes foods” as sometimes foods, a little bit won’t hurt anyone.

Remember when you’re choosing dairy products to look for ones that are lower in fat. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Both sour cream and cream cheese are normally too high in fat and too low in calcium to be considered in the Milk and Alternatives food group on Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. To keep either of these from being a nutritional punch in the gut, look for fat-free or low-fat options. Just also compare the labels to make sure that you’re not taking in more salt or sugar than you need when you lose the fat.

This recipe makes 4 large servings.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked pasta
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5 slices regular bacon, chopped into small pieces (choose low sodium if it’s available. Again, compare your labels)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups baby spinach, washed
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it is al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook until it is starting to get soft.
  4. Add the bacon and garlic. Cook until the bacon is cooked through (roughly 5-7 minutes)
  5. Carefully drain the excess bacon grease from the pan, keeping the onion, garlic, and bacon in the pan.
  6. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes until all the spinach has wilted.
  7. Add the pasta and sour cream and mix thoroughly. Stir in parmesan until distributed evenly.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: enjoy reheated leftovers with a glass of white wine while writing a blog post for a very exciting Friday night.

Southwest Breakfast Grilled Cheese

I do not understand the weather this fall. We had a bit of snow and frost a few weeks ago. Then it rained for most of the last couple weeks. And now it’s supposed to be 20 degrees for the next day or so. What is this? In honour of the nice sunny weather, I bring you a nice sunny Southwest Breakfast Grilled Cheese.

As I’m sure I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of breakfast and could happily eat breakfast for every meal of the day. Most typical breakfast foods, especially breakfast sandwiches, don’t do so well in the vegetable department. This recipe has almost a full serving of vegetables in it, so you’re starting the day of right. If you combine that with some whole wheat or whole grain bread, low fat cheese, and low sodium salsa, you can get some serious nutrition in there. If you want things a little spicier, use hot salsa, or throw some chili powder and cumin in the with the eggs and peppers.

This recipe makes 1 serving (unless you’re super nice and decide to share).

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup chopped red and green peppers (either/or will work, or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp medium salsa
  • 1 tsp margarine
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  1. In a non-stick skillet, cook the peppers until soft. Set aside.
  2. Scramble the egg and cook in a non-stick skillet (I use the same one for everything, I’m not getting any extra dishes dirty). Set aside.
  3. Spread margarine on one side of each slice of bread.
  4. Between the un-buttered sides, layer the cheese, scrambled egg, peppers, and salsa. Having cheese layered throughout helps it all stick together.
  5. Place the sandwich in the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes each side, or until the bread is toasty and golden brown.