Tag Archives: healthy

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies

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Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies “What can we have for a snack?”, my children say as soon as they step in the house after a day at school. Although they have a cooked lunch there they are absolutely ravenous when they get home. It’s this awkward time of the day, it’s still a bit early for dinner yet their appetites are so big they are not easily satisfied with a piece of fruit anymore. Of course, they ask if we have any biscuits at home…erm English for “cookies”. I am not a fan of giving them cookies for snacks, it just doesn’t sit right with me. However, if I make my own and put all kinds of healthy things in them and control sugar amount I might be okay with the idea and they will be thrilled.

Lo and behold- a protein and other nutrients packed cookie this mom approves. Good and healthy granola ingredients baked into a cookie form and  jazzed up with a little bit of dark chocolate, which let’s face it, has many positive benefits for our bodies and spirits. They are chockfull of old-fashioned rolled oats and dried sour cherries sweetened with raw Demerara/Turbinado sugar that has more minerals and nutrients than regular white sugar and has a natural caramel flavour. Bonus!

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat or All Purpose Flour- 2 cups
  • Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (not quick or instant)- 2 cups
  • Baking Soda- 1 tsp.
  • Baking Powder- 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt- 1/2 tsp.
  • Demerara Sugar-1  1/4 cup
  • Butter- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Eggs- 2 large
  • Vanilla- 1 tsp.
  • Dark  Chocolate Chips or Chunks- 1/3 cup
  • Dried Sour Cherries- 1/3 cup
  • Walnuts or any other nuts (optional)- 1/3 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 F/180 C. Line your baking trays with parchment paper.

Mix first 5 ingredients- flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Beat butter and sugar until blended, add eggs and vanilla, continue beating for 2-3 more minutes. You can use electric mixer or an old fashioned wooden spoon. Both work like magic.

Add dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and mix well, now add dried cherries and chocolate chips and walnuts if using. At this point I just get right in there with both hands as I find mixing a cookie dough with a spoon nearly impossible but if you mastered it go for it!

Scoop each cookie with a spoon, using 1/4 cup of dough and drop it on your baking tray spacing them 2″ apart as the cookies will get bigger as they bake. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies
The cookies come out soft and chewy straight from the oven, the aroma in the house creates an atmosphere nothing short of a domestic bliss and perfection. (I wish I could bottle it in and release it on those days when rooms are not getting tidied and homework is not getting done. :-)) Dried cherry in combination with dark chocolate is a heavenly twist on the traditional oatmeal raisin. My kids were mighty impressed!
Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Granola Cookies

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French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

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Are you ready for another family classic?

This recipe is something my grandma cooked and my mom cooked and I cook ALL summer long…and sometimes in the winter and in-between. In Russia it’s called “Baklajannaya Ikra” or “Eggplant Caviar”. Surprisingly enough the recipe is almost identical to French Ratatouille. There is also Sicilian Caponata that is oh so similar with an addition of olives and capers. After travelling the world and discovering all the food similarities you realise we are a lot more connected than we think.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

This dish is incredibly flavourful and so versatile. It’s eaten as a warm side dish or as a tasty topping for your crusty bread, a favourite with Russian children. As a little girl I remember eating it cold with bread for an afternoon snack. I still love doing it but Brad really prefers it warm so you are going to discover for yourself which way is your favourite.
Ingredients:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Zucchini-2-3 medium
  • Onions-2
  • Red, yellow, green peppers( I use whatever I have on hand)-2
  • Garlic-2-3 cloves
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Cilantro-1/2 bunch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Ketchup or tomato paste-1 tbsp.
  • Olive oil-2 tbsp.

Method:

There is a long version and a speedy version. The long one involves slicing eggplant, putting it in a colander and sprinkling it with salt and letting it sit for an hour under a heavy weight. That draws bitterness and extra moisture out. It really does. However, I often skip that step and never regret it. If you decided to skip the first step as well the dish will take a bit longer to cook. Lately I’ve been using a cast iron casserole which cuts the cooking time in half. After years of not wanting to spend the money I finally broke down and bought an Ikea version (still can’t bring myself to pay the Le Creuset price tag) and I’ve never been happier. A cast iron pot is truly a must have tool for every kitchen. Now I have a small size and a big size and 3 skillets!

Back to our Eggplant caviar. Dice your onions, eggplant, zucchini, red or green peppers, set aside. Preheat the olive oil in a heavy casserole type dish and add onions and peppers first, let them saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes and then add your eggplant. Eggplants takes longer to cook than zucchini so if you put them together zucchini will turn into a mush and eggplants will still be spongy. Cook eggplant together with onions and peppers until it’s nearly done, about 7 minutes, then add zucchini, parsley, cilantro, minced garlic and a tablespoon of ketchup. Here is my confession, I never cook with ketchup, I don’t even like it but I found it gives this dish just a right amount of sweetness! You can add  some tomato paste, it’s up to you. Cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.

You will see quite a bit of liquid after you’ve added zucchini, at this point you can turn the heat up and cook it down or keep it a vegetable stew consistency. Mine varies depending on how I feel or how hungry my family is!

The batch right here was pretty dry and perfect to use as a bruschetta topping.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar The recipe given here is a basic recipe that you could be altered by adding any other vegetables that you like.
Just a few examples of what I’ve done in the past: At various times I’ve added green peas (frozen), asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, chick peas and red kidney beans. They all work well. Play with it and find your favourite combo!French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

Hummus with Grilled Eggplant

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Hummus with Roasted Eggplant
When my life is super busy I like to keep tasty and nutritious snacks in the fridge that help me recharge during the day and hummus is one of those things. I usually make my own as I find the pre-made varieties are often overpriced and lacking in the taste department. I also love to mess with different flavour combinations which is exactly what happened last night. Our friends were coming over for a game night and hummus is a pretty safe snacky thing to server to a crowd.  So I opened a can of chickpeas and threw them in the food processor only to find out a minute later there was really nothing else to add to that!  I guess have been working a little be too hard on emptying the fridge before our holiday. I loving putting fresh herbs in my hummus like cilantro or dill but this time I had to go without and had to improvise…fast. After the second and more thorough look in the fridge I discovered a forgotten and pushed to the back jar of grilled eggplant packed in oil. I remember buying it for a pizza topping but not using it. I love eggplant as I am sure you’ve noticed by the frequency of eggplant posts in this blog. It must be a Russian thing.

So I threw the eggplant slices in there, squeezed some lemon juice, garlic, salt and gave it a whirl. Not bad, not bad at all.  I always put tahini paste in my hummus but this time I wanted it to have a distinct eggplant taste so I held it back.

Note: The jarred eggplant I am using is this recipe is similar to a jar of artichokes and usually would be found in the deli section next to sundried tomatoes or olives.

Ingredients:

  • Chick Peas- 1 can
  • Lemon juice- from one lemon
  • Garlic- 2-3 cloves
  • Grilled Eggplant slices preserved in oil (from a jar)-1 cup
  • Oil from eggplant/olive oil- 1/4 cup
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients except for oil in the food processor and pulse until smooth, with the motor still running pour in the oil in slow and steady stream, blend for a few seconds longer, then stop the food processor, taste your hummus and adjust seasoning if needed.

Everyone absolutely loved that new concoction which tasted like a cross between a regular hummus and a baba ganoush that I briefly considered calling it Baba Hummoush but in the end decided to stick with a boring “Hummus with Grilled Eggplant”. If you can think of a more clever name could you please let me know?!!

Hummus with Roasted Eggplant

Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat’s Cheese

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Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's Cheese I love beans and am always on the lookout for the new ways to eat them. They are filling, low in fat and high in nutrition. What’s not to like! Well, if I am really honest, the taste can be sometimes quite bland. The beans are like that boring guy who has a great substance and character but lacks the charisma and needs a wing man to show him off.
That is when our flavour buddies come in- Cilantro, Garlic and Chilli! They are all about spunk and excitement but also need to attach themselves to something hefty to carry them. This Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad recipe is a match made in heaven as it does exactly that. It brings things together that desperately need each other!

Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's cheese
Ingredients:

  • Butter Beans- 1 can
  • Red Kidney Beans- 1 can
  • Red Chilli (finely minced)- 1
  • Goat’s Cheese or Feta (crumbled)- 1-2 tbsp.

Ingredients for pesto:

  • Spinach-200gr
  • Walnut pieces- 3/4 cup
  • Garlic cloves- 3
  • Red wine vinegar-3 tbsp.
  • Flat leaf parsley- 1/4 cup
  • Cilantro-1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil-1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper- a pinch of both

Method:

Combine all the pesto ingredients but olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  With the motor of the food processor still running slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is well combined.

{The recipe given here will make about 1.5 cups of pesto. Use 1/4-1/3 cup for the bean salad and refrigerate the rest in an air-tight container. It will keep for two weeks in your fridge or a month in a freezer.}

Combine the beans and dress them with 1/4 cup of pesto, sprinkle with finely minced red chilli and crumbled goat’s cheese. If you love the flavour of this pesto go ahead and check out my Potato Salad.

Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes allowing the flavours to blend. This salad is absolutely gorgeous with any type of barbecued meat!
Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's CheeseCilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat Cheese

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing or The Taste of The Caucasus

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Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing
What is your favourite side for a barbecue? Mine is Russian Potato Salad “Olivier”. It’s incredibly tasty but not exactly a health food. Green beans on the other hand are full of great stuff if only someone would think of an exciting way to eat them! If you eat green beans before and find them plain you are not alone. Green beans are not the most exciting vegetable in the world. Good news is I have found a reason to eat them, enjoy them and come for a second helping! Interested?

This recipe comes from the Georgian cuisine – not the state of Georgia but the country situated on the coast of the Black Sea. The dishes from Georgia were and are incredibly popular in Russia and many of them have become staples in every Russian home. I got introduced to real Georgian food while on a family holiday at the age of 15. To this day I consider that experience to be the biggest culture shock I’ve had – and I’ve lived and visited countries like China and Philippines.

Georgian food was very different from mild and rich flavours of my native Russia, but good different. Fresh, exciting, spicy and delicious are the words that come to mind when I think of their food. This Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing recipe is no exception. Full of flavour and a joy to look at!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • Walnuts-1/2 cup
  • Fresh Cilantro-half a bunch (1/4 cup chopped)
  • Garlic cloves- 2-3
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2 tbsp.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp.
  • Water- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt- a good pinch
  • Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Red Onion- 1/2
  • Green Beans- 1 lbs

Method:

In a food processor or blender combine all the ingredients except for green beans and onions and blend them well until you have a homogenous paste, very much like Italian pesto. Slice the onion thinly and put it in the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes. This time allows the flavours to blend and the onions slices get slightly pickled. The acidity in vinegar and lemon juice neutralise the bitterness of the onion and enhance the flavour.

Put the green beans in a pot and cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook them for about 5 minutes until tender but still have a bit of a crunch and retain their beautiful green colour. Take care not to over boil or the dish will be ruined.

Drain and rinse in cold water. This shocks the beans and they stop cooking immediately. Let them dry and toss with the dressing. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Bring it to the next barbecue party and people will be hounding you for the recipe! You can proudly tell them it comes from the Caucasus. Talk about being exotic!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing