Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pear and Almond Steel-Cut Oats in a Slow-Cooker - Wake up to a Warm, Perfectly- Cooked, Healthy Breakfast!

I don't know about you, but I often find it difficult to eat a healthy breakfast. I usually only leave myself enough time to toast a piece of bread and make an instant coffee...not exactly the best (or most exciting) start to the day. I started to think about ways I could eat a healthier breakfast without having to sacrifice those precious moments in bed when you are still sleepy but awake enough to feel the bamboo sheets on your skin (because I know myself and I know that if a healthy breakfast means no bamboo sheet time, then I will likely be eating dry toast forever). During my search for a better way, I came across some recipes for steel-cut oats cooked in a slow-cooker overnight and I thought I would try it out because, well,  it's kind of a brilliant idea! Over the past week, I have made Apple Pie Oatmeal, Mixed Berry Oatmeal, Pear and Almond Oatmeal, Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, and Banana Bread Oatmeal. Below, I have documented the Pear and Almond Oatmeal...it literally takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.

Pear and Almond Steel-Cut Oats in a Slow-Cooker

Serves 2

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 pears cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
large pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar or maple syrup (you can use less or none at all if you prefer)
Milk for serving if you like

Grease the slow-cooker (make sure you do this). Put ingredients in a slow-cooker. Set it to cook for six  hours on low. Most slow-cookers will automatically shift to a Keep Warm setting so you will have warm oatmeal when you wake up!

(Every slow-cooker is different...if you find that the oatmeal is too runny for your liking...cook it for 6.5 hours next time...if it's too dry, cook it for less time.)

So easy...just put it all in the slow-cooker and stir.

and...8 hours later...woohoo! It comes out caramelized on top...yum!



Monday, 18 February 2013

Best Ever: Homemade Granola

My affair with this granola started a few months ago when Fraser and I went on our epic one day road trip around Caledon (documented here).  Days later, Fraser confessed to fondling a boutique box of granola and it had been on his mind.    Maybe it's my selectively competitive nature, but as is my reaction to most things, I spat out a 'pfft, I could make that' and set off to prove that I can make something so basic and beautiful in my kitchen.    Be warned, this granola is ridiculously tasty and it will go quickly.   The recipe below makes nearly 4 cups and you will find excuses to incorporate it into most meals.
Because of a change in my work schedule, I have also severely abused this poor body and digestive tract with fast food,  company lunch and more coffee (read: 5x the normal amount consumed).   I managed to break away for a few hours, which I naturally dedicated to making easy/ wholesome/ fibre filled meals for the next few days.

Homemade Granola
·         2 c oats (old fashion/ large flake kind)
·         1 1/2 nuts and/or seeds
·         1/3 c oil
·         1 tsp salt
·         1/4 tsp cinnamon
·         nutmeg
·         ginger
·         1/3 c honey or maple syrup
·         1/2 tsp vanilla
·         1/4 c dried fruit (but I am usually more generous with this)

Combine your oats, nuts, seeds, oil, salt, spices, honey, vanilla in a large bowl.   On a parchment lined baking sheet, bake at 350 for 35 - 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.   Add the dried fruit in the last 10 minutes of baking. 

From the recipe above you can clearly see that it is very much open to interpretation.   I usually stick with olive oil, though coconut oil might be nice since it is heat stable.  In terms of spice, I will add a little bit of everything (cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon).    A word to the wise, do not add the fruit earlier.   It will burn and turn into bitter nuggets making the most miserable granola, and that's no way to start a day.  Stick to the instructions and you will be able to bask in your own brilliance over an awesome bowl of granola.

Remember how I said that this granola is so good you will want to eat it all the time?  Here is an easy dessert idea that will fulfil that need while looking semi fancy:   take a solid perfectly round scoop of vanilla ice cream and roll it around on a plate covered in said granola.  I'm willing to call this a Canadian version of Tartufo.   You have the crunch, you have the cream and you have a brilliantly easy dessert.

- Jess

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Update: Changing the Monday to Friday Attitude

In an effort to build accountability, it made sense to provide a follow-up to my post from three weeks ago. So, have I been taking my own advice and spending a few minutes a day trying to make the ordinary moments more beautiful?  You bet I have!

I won't ramble on with all of the details, but I thought you might like the highlights. A "best of" so to speak. 

"Make it better Monday" was my favourite I think - although, I didn't realize how much I associated Tim Hortons with doing a random act of kindness. The pay-for-the-person-behind-you bit, the surprise-a-coworker-with-coffee bit, etc. I tried to put a different spin on it last week...still a Tim's thing though.  Our Canada Post carrier always looks so cold. I picked up a gift card for him and left it attached to our mailbox when I left for work.
 To change up my special hot beverage on "tasty Tuesday" last week, I left work at lunchtime and got myself a delicious strawberry smoothie.  Yum!

"Wedding Wednesday" is always a hit but I'm thinking I might change it up a bit tomorrow and switch from TLC to the movie "Bridesmaids".

Thursdays have been designated for reconnecting which has been neat. So far it's been via email, but it's led to a coffee date already and a general feeling of happiness.  :)

Fancy Friday got a bit interrupted this past week thanks to a (much appreciated) snow day. So instead of adding an over-the-top accessory to my outfit, I added some over-the-top accessories to a cheap IKEA light. Thought this might make a nice addition to baby's room!
I'm not sure the pictures really do it justice.

My question to you now is - what have you done to make your week more beautiful?

~ Shannon

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Recipes for your Dutch Oven - Healthy(ish) Butter Chicken

If you have you have ever watched the Food Network, you know that the Dutch Oven is an absolute kitchen must-have. So, when I saw one on sale, I jumped at the opportunity to buy it and was super excited to bring it home. I do recommend that you buy a car BEFORE you buy a Dutch Oven because they weigh a freaking ton (I lugged the beast home on the subway!) By the time I finally got the pot home and caught my breath, I realised that I had no clue what it was for or how to use it. I got to researching and learned that the Dutch Oven is the original slow cooker and that it's strength lies in its ability to cook evenly and trap in heat and moisture. These characteristics make the Dutch Oven particularly well-suited for making stews, chilis, soups, curries, sauces, and braises. Of course, you can use the pot to boil water (and it will do a fine job) but the magic happens when you have a number of ingredients that you want to meld into a beautiful and complex layering of flavours. A lot of the time, this means simmering a Bolognese for three hours or a stew for four but the Dutch Oven is also useful for quick dinners and braises and is a pleasure to cook with any night of the week. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting on the many ways to use a Dutch Oven - weekday curries, Sunday Coq au Vin, and fresh homemade bread are on the menu as well as some other tasty dishes. Yum!

Butter Chicken (Great for a quick weekday dinner)

I love Butter Chicken but am always a little wary to order it at a restaurant - mainly because the first word in its name is BUTTER and I have no idea how much butter typically goes into Butter Chicken. A little bit of butter (as opposed to a crap ton) and added veggies make this a healthier option.


2 lbs chicken breast
Butter chicken paste (I love Kitchens of India)
300 ml water
Veggies (I used onions, peppers, and broccoli)
2 TBS butter
Two splashes of cream or milk (optional)
Rice (I used brown)


Step 1: Melt the butter

When cooking in a Dutch oven, you want to avoid the high heat setting. Medium high is as high as you want to go.

Step 2: Saute the chicken

Step 3: Add the spice, water, and the onions if you are using them

Step 4: Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat or until chicken is tender and get your rice on

Step 5: Add the veggies (skip this step if you choose to forgo the veggies)

Step 6: Add the milk or cream if you are using (it will subdue the spiciness if you are looking for a milder dish)

Step 7: Scoop over rice and enjoy!