Nosh

Fancy Fuss-Free Dinner

So many of you fell in love with one of my latest foodie posts on Instagram (if you don’t already follow me my tag is rheasdays) so I thought I’d jot down a quick post with the recipes for my belated Valentine’s dinner!  Both the app and the main are incredibly easy and I sourced a few of the more speciality items from Deluca’s Italian Market in Winnipeg as well as from one of my favourite farmers, my brother!  Food is my love language…specifically the Italian kind!

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Roasted Tomatoes and Burrata Cheese

  • 1 tub cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Fresh garlic, I used 3 cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Burrata (fresh Italian cow milk cheese)
  • Pesto
  • Toasted Walnuts
  • Baguette or Crostini

In an oven safe dish roast your tomatoes and garlic with a generous pour of good quality olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I roasted mine for 20mins+ on 395.  Let dish cool slightly and then place the buratta in centre stage and drizzle the entire dish with pesto and sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Dive right in and heap this delicious nibble onto warmed bread!

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Roasted Pepper and Sausage Pasta

  • Sauce:
  • 1 large bell pepper, roasted and finely diced
  • 1 md onion, diced
  • 2 pints crushed tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

In large sauce pan saute the onions in olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Add the diced roasted pepper and the crushed tomatoes. I usually add a 1/2 tsp sugar to my crushed tomatoes to cut some of the acid.  Let simmer while making the meatballs.

  • Sausage Meatballs
  • 5-6 mild Italian sausages, casing removed (get to know your farmer and butcher and locally source your pork like I do from my brother’s farm!)
  • 1/2 cup frozen and thawed spinach
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs or finely diced crusts of bread

Combine sausage mixture well and roll into small meatballs.  Place directly into the simmering sauce to cook.  Be careful when stirring the sauce until the meatballs are completely cooked and firm.

Boil your favourite pasta according the the package.  I like to use a smaller style noodle that will hold a lot of sauce.  Orecchiette is what I used this night but penne or fusilli would also be lovely.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and if you’re feeling super fancy sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan on top.  Such an easy weeknight dish that still feels full of flavour and love.

Nosh

Love is in the Air

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Ah, Sweet February with all the pink things!  How I’ve missed your gorgeous hue!  If you’re looking for something extra sweet (and truthfully, 70% air!) you need to check out this recipe for homemade marshmallows.  I added some strawberry jam into this batch and they turned my favourite color with just a faint scent of summer berries.  Floating atop my white hot chocolate they are the perfect treat for someone you love! Love is in the Air!

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Homemade Marshmallows

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla (or other extract to your taste)
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar for tossing them into after cutting
  • Oil, parchment then oil the parchment and line a 9×13 shallow baking pan.
  • In mixer, dissolve 1/4 cup water and gelatine.
  • In pot, boil sugar, 1/2 cup water and honey until soft ball stage, using a candy thermometer, 240* (this takes 12-15mins)
  • Pour syrup over bloomed gelatine with your mixer on low.  Then mix on hight until triple in volume. (I drape a tea towel over the mixer during high so that it doesn’t make a mess everywhere!)
  • Pour into pan and let set.  Cut and roll into icing sugar.

You can also make these beauties and pipe them out into rosettes or tree figures.  Tint and flavour your mix however you desire! Get creative and see where your tastes take you!  We love rolling cut squares into tinted or toasted coconut and have even tossed them into cocoa powder and melted them up on some graham crackers.  For Christmas we’ve tinted them green and piped trees and frosted them with sprinkles and icing sugar.  This recipe is so easy and fun to make!

Mom-ing

Darkness before the Dawn…

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It is in my humble opinion that loss of any kind is a wound that time does not actually heal.  In fact I think that is a rather harsh and insensitive approach to grief.  One that I myself have been naive to believe.  Until now.  Experience is education and within the two we become smarter and wiser.  I’ve learned through losing my sister in law that loss is not something we get over, nor should we.  With time we do not hurt less, nor do we love less.  We simply learn to live with the pain.  We accept it into our daily lives in a way.  And it does not come gently and without force.  If you experience loss (which we all eventually must) then you know exactly that.

Here we are at the beginning of a new year.  And even more than that, a new decade.  2020! (How is that even possible?). So, in a sense, time is relentless.  It seems to be even faster paced than ever before…I can’t be the only one that feels like this.  Loss has a funny way of amplifying things.  Making one feel like more needs to be done.  A feeling of mortality looming.  At the end of every year I have a sense of reflection…like ‘have I done enough?’, ‘did I fill my days to the fullest?’, but this year I’ve had even more reflection involving the QUALITY of time…’have I done enough GOOD?’, ‘have my days left my HEART the fullest?’.  It has left me saying “yes” as much as possible which in turn has left me in a burn out.  In a way being my busiest self has allowed me to avoid some of the things that I’m struggling with.  I need to find that happy medium and I’m working harder at figuring out what it is that brings me true happiness and spend less time worrying about the things that are out of my hands.

So if like me you are feeling a similar angst I’ve created a bit of a ‘game plan’ to get myself back on track both mentally and physically as well as emotionally/spiritually.

  • Get rid of the clutter: This includes the distractions in your life that help you to avoid.  The physical clutter as well as the mental.  Clean out the closets, organize that junk drawer, clear some space in your calendar so you have time to not be “on”.
  • Get moving: Outside is best.  But whatever works to get your body in motion for 20-30 mins everyday. Sweat it out.
  • Turn off the Tech: Get offline more.  Limit social media time.  Instead of tv opt for a good book.
  • Journal: Get a prompted writing agenda if this is new.  I chose “A Mindful Year” but there are tons out there.
  • Get Creative: Do something that inspires you.  My goal is to get back to watercolour painting.
  • Eat Well: Get at those greens.  Cook together with family and try new recipes.  For me this also means less ‘lazy meals’ and more whole foods.   Less alcohol is also on my list.  Moderation is key.
  • Stay Open: Keep your tribe close.  Make sure that communication is at the heart of your relationships and be honest on the crappy days as well as the great ones.  And listen to your body and mind.  If you need to slow down and chill DO THAT.

I’m hoping that writing my ‘game plan’ down and realizing where my goals truly lie will help me to be successful.  Baby steps with momentum.  One day at a time is no joke.  Sincerely, one day at a time.  I think above all else, be gentle on yourself.

“Rhea: Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love!”

In honour of “Bell’s Lets Talk” Initiative here in Canada I think it’s so important to talk about your mental health and create a community in which to grow and heal.  I’d love to hear from you too; what are some tips and tricks that help keep you grounded and living your best life?  What are some of your struggles?

Nosh

Chia Pudding Cups…Routine doesn’t have to equal Rut!

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It happens to me every time around this year…I get in a rut with my mornings.  By this time after Christmas the only thing I’m consuming in the morning is coffee, coffee and more coffee.  And if E is lucky we’ll switch up his cold cereal for some oatmeal or if I’m feeling really crazy maybe some reheated weekend pancakes.  It’s sad.  And lets be real, these dark winter months we all need a little less sad!  Insert these pretty little gems!  My Chia Pudding Cups!

Whole grains or seeds of any kind are so incredibly good for us.  They give us a much needed nutrient packed punch, help keep us regular and might be just what the doctor ordered to get out of this rut! Chia seeds are high in omega-3 as well as fiber, iron and even calcium.  They have been known to reduce cholesterol as well as promote a healthy gut.  They are easy to find at most grocery or health food stores.  I get mine from Bulk Barn and store them in the fridge in a mason jar.  I like to add them to an array of dishes such as cookies, granola, oatmeal, on top of salads, in muffins, breads and even mixed into breadcrumbs for coating chicken or pork.  Here’s another great way to get in more of these health-rich seeds; my Chia Pudding!

Here’s how you make it:

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups milk or dairy alternative such as almond or coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Mix all of these ingredients together and let sit overnight.  The chia seeds will absorb the liquid and you’ll be left with a rich pudding, much like tapioca.
  • In parfait cups or mason jars layer the chia pudding with your favourite yogurt and/or fresh or frozen fruit.  Top with nuts, more berries, coconut and a sprig of mint if you’re feeling fancy.  These jars can be served immediately or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  • You can also add in cocoa powder, peanut butter powder or even some almond extract to change up the flavour base.  Mmmmm Peanut Butter Pudding topped with bananas and vanilla yogurt!
Nosh

Cashew Crazy…Cheesin’ with Nuts

Food allergies seem to be so prominent ‘these days’…I truly think a lot of that has to do with how our food is being processed and preserved as well as how much more in tune we are to our bodies as a whole.  I have extremely sensitive skin.  I get terrible eczema when I am exposed to chemically laden products as well as when I consume dairy.  I am a cheese lover so this has caused quite a bit of heartbreak…and truth be told I fall off the wagon sometimes and indulge in a good gouda, peppery parmesan or molten mozzarella…(I’m salivating as I type this) and I still treat myself to a latte at the tea shop in town every now and then.  I have found cheese and sour cream the hardest forms of dairy to give up so I’ve been working really hard at coming up with alternatives.

Sadly, you will never find an alternative that is a dead ringer for the original.  That’s just something I’m learning to live with! But the following recipes give you a satisfying nibble to enjoy with wine and crackers, on top of pizza or lasagna, or to pile into tacos and on top of nachos.  I find it most helpful when looking to go dairy free to experiment with vegan recipes (even though I’m not vegan).  If you are like me and can’t consume dairy it’s often super daunting to have to rework a recipe on your own so that it jives with your restrictions.  It’s a lot easier to add meat to a recipe then delete the dairy I’ve found!  Living in a small town there are fewer dairy alternative products available and honestly I like controlling what goes into the food we eat and in turn consume less additives and preservatives.

I have experimented with a lot of nuts when making cheeses and milk.  I’ve purchased nut bags to get the silkiest product and I’ve created a lot of flops and successes out of the nut pulp.  Cashews have become my pantry staple.  I buy them raw and unsalted from the bulk barn and keep a stock in my freezer.  The key to any nut milk or cheese is to soak your nuts prior to blending.  You can do this overnight in cold water or a quick method is to let them simmer in a pot of water for a half hour or so.  I have to say my favourite tool has become my vitamix blender.  I don’t even have to strain anything anymore.  I saved up for this appliance though, it comes at a hefty price.  If you don’t want to spend your life’s savings as I did you can purchase any sort of high speed blender and nut bags are super cheap!

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Here’s my recipe for Cashew Cream which is a solid base for most other recipes:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • simmer over medium heat for 30-45 mins or soak overnight then strain
  • In a high speed blender, combine your soaked cashews with 1/2 cup cold water and a pinch of salt.  Blend at a high speed until smooth adding more cold water as you go until you have the desired consistency. I use this cashew cream in soups, sauces, coffee creamer, and anywhere that calls for cream.  You can simply thin this down with more water to get the desired consistency to use as a milk substitute as well. (You can use this same method with any other raw nuts.  I also like almonds but I be sure to skin them after they have soaked to get a more pure consistency. If you want to sweeten your milk/cream simply blend with a pitted date and some vanilla. This makes a great coffee creamer.)

Cashew Sour Cream

  • Using the above method blend up your soaked cashews adding less water so you have a thicker cream.
  • While blending add:
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice from half a lemon
  • an extra pinch or two of salt

Cashew Cheese

  • 2 cups soaked and drained cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca starch (this is what gives your cheese it’s goo)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (this gives nut cheese it’s tang, it’s a yellow flaky product that can be found at most health food stores or at bulk barn)
  • In a saucepan combine all the ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the cheese comes together and thickens.  You’ll notice it starts to get gooey.  Keep cooking and stirring for another couple minutes then take off the heat and let cool slightly before adding flavours and pouring into molds.  You can also just use this ‘cheese’ at this point.  It’s a bit of a basic mozzarella.  I usually add a splash of apple cider vinegar and some garlic powder though.
  • Smoky Chipotle Cheese: add 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper, pinch of cayenne (or more for added heat)
  • Lemon Herb Cheese: add 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your liking (I used dill, parsley and chives), juice and zest from half a lemon.

 

Experimenting has become the key to my success when avoiding dairy.  Most recipes can easily be changed but substituting the dairy milk for a nut milk.  I have found that it doesn’t change the final product at all in most baking (muffins, cakes, etc.). Adding it to soups instead of whole milk or cream has been my favourite as I’ve discovered nut milk does not separate if over heated like a dairy milk does.  Nutritionally speaking I am not an expert so I have not much guidance in that respect.  Since eliminating dairy in our house I make sure we are taking multi-vitamins with calcium daily.  We eat a very balanced diet for the most part so I’m also sure to up our leafy greens whenever I can. I do suggest talking to a nutritionist if you have any concerns!  All in all it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen and have something up your sleeve to indulge in if you’re also dairy free or to have something in your arsenal to offer those in your life who are.