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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Homemade Granola Bars

My children love granola bars. But if you look at the package, it's loaded with sugar. If you have a child that is allergic to nuts, this recipe is perfect and is also gluten free. I like making my own granola bars. It's not that difficult to make and much healthier. This recipe is not that sweet. The applesauce adds a nice chewy texture to the bar.

Make sure the bars have completely cooled down before you cut into squares.


Homemade Granola Bar, gluten and nut free



Homemade Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees oven. Line a 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper


2 cups         rolled oats

1/2 cup        packed brown sugar

2 tbsp.         unsalted butter

1/4 tsp.        salt

1/2 cup        unsweetened applesauce

1                  large egg

1/3 cup        pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup        chopped dates or raisins

2 tbsp.         chia seeds


Mix the oats, brown sugar, butter and salt until the butter is evenly blended. Sitr together the applesauce and egg. Add to the oat mixture along with the pumpkin seeds, dried fruit and chia seeds; stir until mixture is moistened.

Spread and press mixture into your 8 x 8 inch parchment lined pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Card of The Day

I have not posted a card of the day in a while. I love my oracle cards and try to sit, meditate and work with my oracle cards. I love just to sit and just let go of all the stresses of the day.

I chose a card to see what messages I get for you today.

I chose this card "LOVE".  It's from John Holland. I absolutely love the art work from this deck. I shuffled the cards and asked what message I should communicate today to my readers. This was the first card that I chose once I finished shuffling the deck.





In the book it states that love is the foundation of your existence and you're just as worthy of receiving as you are of giving love and compassion.

Sit with this. We are love. We give out love. But sometimes, I know for me, we forget to love ourselves. We are so focused on everyone else that we forget about ourselves. It's not a selfish thing. Take some time out for yourself. I know for myself, I worry about everyone else but myself. I've really started to change that. The world can wait. I deserve at least half hour to myself. At the least! Start with a walk, a pedicure, a bubble bath. Do something that you absolutely enjoy but never find the time to do.

Make this your goal and go for it!

Wishing you lots of love!

Creamy Oh So Delicious Pasta Salad

I've officially started the barbeque season this weekend. We celebrated my daughter's sweet 16 birthday by hosting a barbeque. A request that she made was for me to make my pasta salad. So I did. I love this recipe because I prepared it the night before so the flavors can blend and make the salad even tastier. And to allow me more time to focus on other last minute dishes.

I used Renee's half the fat greek salad dressing which is so creamy, flavorful and delicious.


Creamy Pasta Salad





1 pkg.             bowtie pasta, cooked and cooled down

1                     green pepper, chopped into 1/2" pieces

1 1/2 cups      shredded carrots

1 can             sliced black olives

3                   green onions chopped, stems removed

2 stalks         celery finely chopped

1 jar              Renee's Half the Fat Creamy Greek Dressing

salt and pepper to taste


This dressing gives the pasta salad a creamy texture


 Add all ingredients into the bowl and mix in the dressing. Refrigerate over night to let the flavors incorporate.


Make this the night before to allow the flavors to infuse.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Time For Celebration

There's two times in a year that our family totally goes stupid with celebration. The months of May and November are the busiest times of the year to celebrate birthdays. We have four family members celebrating birthdays in May and 3 family members celebrating in November. The rest of the family are scattered, thank God. Birthdays are very important to me and my family. It's a time to get together with family and celebrate. The gifts are not the main focus. It's the quality time that we spend together. We have a nice meal and catch up. Our lives are so busy, that communicating with each other isn't done enough. Wow. I know but it's reality.

So, I went on a field trip again. My family and I went to a beautiful restaurant north of Toronto called Farro Ristorante.  This restaurant is our family favorite. When there's a special occasion, we always come here to celebrate. The professional, knowledgeable, friendly staff truly make us feel comfortable and at home. The rustic d├ęcor reminds me of an old style restaurant back in Italy.

Classic memorabilia displayed throughout the restaurant along with specialty pastas, sold for you to take home. Their wood burning oven truly makes your pizza eating experience the ultimate.

Just a small sample of their wine collection

While we wait for our meal, we have some fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Homemade hummus spread - so delicious and creamy!

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We all had a carbfest for dinner. Enjoying their signature pizzas. My dad chose their delicious  mushroom risotto.

This was my pizza. Massimo’s Pizza Bianca- New Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, in house Smoked
Pancetta & Mozzarella. Lord have mercy!

Quattro Stagioni with Prosciutto Cotto, Artichokes, Mushrooms, Olives, D.O.P.
Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella - Blessed!

The pizza had a thin, crispy crust that was perfectly cooked. This is true authentic pizza ladies and gentlemen. Old school, traditional Italian food at it's finest. Made with fresh ingredients. You can really taste the difference.

Risotto ai Funghi- Italian Rice with Mushrooms, Parmigiano & Truffle Essence

The ambiance in this place is truly amazing. So, once we were done dinner, we headed over to my mom's for some after dinner drinks, cake and coffee to cap off the evening!

Some spumante to toast.

Lemon Yogurt Birthday Cake - Divine!


And of course my cappuccino!


An evening full of good food and laughter. Who needs gifts! The opportunity to share some laughs, eat good food and relax is the ultimate gift a person can ever have.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Most Amazing Banana Muffins

Don't throw those ripe bananas away! Peel them, place them in a baggie and freeze. Throw it in a smoothie or make these delicious muffins.

The large quantity of banana makes these muffins flavorful and moist.

Your family will thank you!


Amazing Banana Muffins

The Most Amazing Banana Muffins






Makes 1 dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Grease or line your muffin pan with paper liners

1                          egg
1 1/2 cups           mashed bananas (3 or 4 large)
1/2 cup               melted butter
1 1/2 cups          all purpose flour
3/4 cup               packed brown sugar
1 tsp.                  baking powder
1 tsp.                  baking soda
1/2 tsp.               salt

1.   Beat egg, mashed banana and melted butter in a large bowl until thoroughly blended.

2.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan.

3.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.

I added 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can add 3/4 cup of cranberries or blueberries.

The riper the banana the better. One large banana should yield about 1/2 cup of mashed banana.

I'm concerned about fat so I reduced the butter to 1/3 of a cup. It was just as good.

      

                 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Chicken Quesadillas

One of my all time favorites, this dish to me is nice and light and the bacon adds a smoky flavor to this dish. I used chicken bacon to lower the calories. If you cannot find it in your grocery store, regular bacon is fine. Once the bacon has cooked, drain the fat.

Chicken Quesadilla

Chicken Quesadillas


1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
1 packet of fajita seasoning
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 yellow, orange or red pepper
3 green onions, finely chopped
6 strips of chicken bacon, finely chopped
6 corn tortillas
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (more if you prefer)

Preheat broiler. Grease a baking pan.

Toss the chicken and fajita seasoning, then spread onto the pan. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the pieces are no longer pink.

Broil chicken for 5 minutes



Preheat the oven  to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the chopped pepper, onion, bacon and chicken. Cook and stir until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.


Cook until the vegetables have softened


Layer half of each tortilla with the chicken and vegetables mixture, then sprinkle with the cheese.


Add chicken to half the tortilla


Sprinkle with Cheese


Fold the tortillas and place on backing sheet.

Bake the quesadillas in the preheated 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 minutes in 350 degree F oven


Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Granola Bites

A quick and easy recipe for snacks. You never know what packaged granola at the store is made of. I like to make my own so I know what we are eating. The crisp rice cereal adds a nice crunchy texture.

Another recipe hit in my house. And no baking required.

Granola Bites

Granola Bites

1 cup              mixed dried fruit (raisins, abricots, cherries, chopped dates)
1/2 cup           raw sunflower seeds, shelled
1/2 cup           raw pumpkin seeds
7 cups            crisp rice-cereal
1 cup             quick oats
1 1/2 cups     chunky peanut butter   
1 cup             light corn syrup
1/2 cup          brown sugar
1 cup             dry instant nonfat dry milk
1 tsp              vanilla extract

Grease 15x10 inch pan

Combine dried fruit and seeds in food processor, cover. Pulse to chop into small pieces. Transfer to large bowl. Add rice cereal and oats, mix well.

Combine peanut butter, corn syrup and sugar in small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH until bubbly about 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir in dry milk and vanilla extract. Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture. Stir well to coat. Let cool completely before shaping into balls. Store in air tight container.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Capping Off A Nice Dinner

As you may know, Italians love to eat. We love food. I look at some of my mom's recipes that were passed down to her and I just cannot believe the work that went into preparing it. Fast and easy was not the norm back in the day. Women stayed home, would wake up have their espresso and a little bite and the chores began. They would start their meals from the morning by preparing the tomato sauce, or making homemade pasta. In a later segment I will post on how my mom makes pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). Pasta e fagioli is another comfort Italian dish which is so delicious but labor intensive. But the joy that my mother had when making the pasta was priceless. She was making it with love. She turns on her Italian music and away she goes.

So when all this delicious food is served and thoroughly enjoyed, we cap off our meal with a nice espresso. It's an automatic given. We finish our meal, clear the table and the espresso machine is on the burner.


Italians do not serve dessert after a meal. Not usually. My mom would always prepare a platter of fruit, serve the coffee and that was it. So sugary indulgences. That was saved for special occasions. My dad likes to add a little Sambuca to his espresso for an extra punch. It adds a nice, sweet, anise taste to tone down the bitterness of the espresso coffee.

It just seems like modern life is so hectic. We wake up, rush to work, come home and rush to make something to eat. I know for myself, I really need to take it down a notch. Just to relax and enjoy the simple things in life like my parents do. It's so hard to do, but I am practicing one day at a time.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Celebrating A Campfire Tradition

Summer is quickly approaching. Time to spend outdoors hosting a barbeque, going up to the cottage.  What fun! Not all of us have the opportunity to sit around a campfire to eat the delicious s'more. Not to worry. I have you covered. This delicious dessert is a tribute to the famous campfire goodie made right in your kitchen. So easy to make. You can prepare this the night before and toast the marshmallows last minute just before serving.



S'Mores Dessert Squares


64 Nilla Wafers, divided

5 tbsp. butter, melted

3 tbsp. sugar

3 1/4 cup cold milk, divided

1 pkg (4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding

2 pkg (4 serving size each) vanilla instant pudding

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degress F. Finely crush 40 of the wafers and place in medium bowl. I used the food processor to do this. Or you can place in a ziplock and crush. Add the melted butter and sugar and mix until well blended. Press firmly onto bottom of 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.

Pour 1 1/4 cups of the milk into a medium bowl. Add the chocolate pudding mix. Beat with a whisk for 2 minutes until well blended (I cheat and beat with a mixer fitted with whisk attachment). Spread over crust and top with 24 wafers.

Spread chocolate pudding over crust. Top with wafers



Beat the whipping cream and set aside.


Pour remaining 2 cups milk into a mixing bowl, add the vanilla pudding mixes. Beat for 2 minutes or until well blended. Fold in the whipping cream into the vanilla pudding. Spread over the wafer layer. Refrigerate overnight.


Fold whipping cream into the vanilla pudding


Spread the vanilla/whipped cream mixture over wafers



Preheat broiler just before serving. Top dessert with the mini marshmallows. Broil 1 minute or until lightly browned. I really kept an eye on this and rotated the pan continuously to ensure the marshmallows were evenly browned. You may sprinkle with grated chocolate if you wish.


You may sprinkle with grated chocolate before serving


Serve immediately.

Makes 24 squares.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Pasta Al Forno

This recipe is one of my family's favorite dishes. Easy to make and a true Italian comfort food. I love making this dish when hosting a dinner party. I make it ahead of time and when I am almost ready to serve, I pop this baby in for about 45 minutes before serving time. Serve this with a side of salad and your dinner will be complete!

I used a rigatoni pasta with this dish. Penne would be a good substitute.

Pasta al forno translated in English means pasta in the oven. It's a classis dish using a meat sauce with your pasta and baking it the oven. I usually dedicate one day on the weekend to cook for the week since my week nights are so hectic. Make this ahead of time and freeze. Pop it out of the freeze the day of and bake when ready.

Pasta Al Forno




Preheat oven to 350 degrees F


Meat Sauce

1             garlic clove, minced

1/2         small onion or 1/4 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp.    olive oil

1 lb         extra lean ground beef or veal

1 can       pureed tomato

1 tbsp.     chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp        dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

1 pkg      rigatoni or penne pasta

1/4 cup   grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup   shredded mozzarella cheese

Sautee the garlic and onion with the olive oil

Add the ground meat and continue to cook until browned


Add your pureed tomato, parsley, basil, salt and pepper continue to cook for about 20 minutes

While your sauce is cooking, cook your pasta according to package directions. The pasta I used was rigatoni

Spoon a layer of the sauce in your baking dish, then top with the cooked pasta. Layer the cooked pasta, adding more sauce and mix until the pasta is well coated. If you have leftover sauce, place in a container and freeze for future dishes.

First add the parmesan and mix. Top with mozzarella cheese, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degrees F oven. for 45 minutes. Half way through the baking process, remove the foil and continue baking.

Buon Apetito!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Healthy Breakfast Recipes

I am really becoming a fan of steel cut oats. I love trying new flavor combinations. Today's recipe I used fresh lemon and ginger to flavor the oats. Then topped the oats with fresh blueberries and yogurt - Divine!

Lemon Ginger Blueberry Oats

2 1/2 cups                    water
1 cup                            steel cut oats   
1/2 tsp.                         salt
Fresh ginger root I cut off a 1" piece
1                                   zest of lemon
3 tbsp.                          maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup                        vanilla almond milk



Lemon Ginger Blueberry Oats


Add the steel cut oats, zest and ginger root to the boiling water. Add the salt and let boil until cooked (about 20 min). When the oats are almost cooked, add the almond milk. Remove from heat and remove the ginger root. If you feel the oats are not sweet enough, add more maple syrup to suit your taste. Top with blueberries and greek yogurt. The flavor combination of ginger and lemon is quite yummy. When I made this recipe, I was under the weather. My tummy was aching and found this really soothed my tummy. I just omitted the yogurt this time because of my sore tummy.

You can also add pumpkin seeds, nuts or chia seeds.

Make this ahead of time so you have it ready for breakfast for the week.


Breakfast for me is the most important meal of the day. It's in fact, my favorite meal of the day. I am always looking for tasty new recipes to make.

I am always in a rush. If I have nothing to make or I am not in the mood, I zip up a protein shake and take it along with me. It fills me up and gives me quite the energy boost.

In this next recipe I have made a strawberry/banana smoothie with vanilla protein powder.

I also threw in some blueberries and chia seeds. The combinations are endless. And the outcome is simply yummy! If you're using frozen fruits, your smoothie comes out nice and thick. I feel like I'm drinking a milk shake!



You will need a smoothie blender. You can purchase inexpensive ones at Walmart. I bought this particular blender at Walmart. It's from Oster. It was on sale for $29.99. The blender came in different colors to choose from and two of these stylish jugs that you snap onto the blender, lids and a re-usable straw.

Strawberry/Banana Smoothie

1 small banana or 1/2 a large banana
1 cup of chopped strawberries
I added a handful of blueberries
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

You can add 1 tsp of chia seeds if you would like.

Blend everything together and off you go!

This blender kit comes with lids that you can snap on and feed the straw through to prevent spilling.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Carrot Muffins

When my children were small, oddly enough they loved vegetables. But as they got older, green food became "not cool". They started not to eat fruits and vegetables like they used to. So, to improvise, I would sneak it in their food. I would puree the vegetables in soup so they would not see the chunks or would make healthy snack items. One of the items I usually make are these carrot muffins. Moist and so tasteful, it has become a hit here in our household. I use whole wheat flour for extra fibre. If you do not like the taste of whole wheat, all purpose flour can be used.



Carrot Muffins



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

one or two 12-cup muffin pans, greased or lined with paper liners

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

3/4 cups raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups peeled and grated carrots

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine the flour, sugar, raisins, walnuts, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt in a large bowl. Stir well.

Beat carrots, eggs and oil. Add to dry ingredients all at once, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling three quarters full for regular-size or full for large-size muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes for regular muffins or 27 minutes for large muffins or until tops spring back when lightly touched.

Variations:
Omit nuts if desired. My kids hate nuts so I make carrot muffins without the nuts.

Switch the carrots with shredded zucchini.



A healthy breakfast alternative. My son

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Cheese Biscuits

I love cheese and especially in biscuits! Serve with tea, some grapes or a nice glass of wine. I cannot stop at one! Make little bite size sandwiches with these cheese morsels. I know when I bake a batch, the biscuits disappear quickly. I love to serve these as a finger food if I'm hosting an event.

Cheese Biscuits






2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush the tops)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using pastry blender (or two dinner knives), cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in cheese. Pour milk over top and stir with fork to make soft, slightly sticky ragged dough.

With floured hands, form into a large ball. Turn dough onto floured surface. With lightly floured hands, knead gently 10 times.


Form dough and knead gently 10 times

Gently pat into 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick round. Using a 2 inch (5 cm) floured cutter, cut into rounds.

cut into 2 inch round (1/2" thick)

Place on ungreased baking sheet. Gather up scraps and repeat dough; cut more rounds, pressing remaining scraps into final biscuit.

Place on ungreased baking sheet

Brush tops of biscuits with egg. Bake in centre of 425 degrees F oven (220 degrees C) until golden, about 15 minutes.

Brush top with egg wash


Let cool on rack.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Rice Ring With Meat Sauce Stuffing

This is a true crowd pleaser if serving at a party or a dinner. It's literally dinner in a pan. Serve with an arugula salad and dinner is done!

Rice Ring Stuffed With Meat Sauce


Meat Sauce


1 bottle or can of tomato puree
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp. olive oil
450 gr (1 lb) ground beef
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste


Meat Sauce


Sautee the onion, garlic until translucent. Add ground beef and sautee until fully cooked. Add the tomato sauce, parsley and let simmer on med/low heat for about 40 minutes stirring the sauce often. Add peas  and let cook. Set aside.


For the rice ring you will need to boil 6 cups of water with salt and 3 cups of Arborio rice.

In the meantime prepare your bundt pan.

Butter your bundt pan and coat with bread crumbs, I used the Italian seasoning bread crumbs

Once your Arborio rice has cooked and cooled down, add 1 cup of parmesan cheese and two eggs to your rice. Blend thoroughly.

Wet Hands and Form Rice in Pan


Fill With Meat Sauce and add chunks of mozzarella (about half a ball)

Cover with remaining rice. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes


Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with remaining sauce.