Pumpkin Mini Muffins

Halloween means many things to me. It means watching The Nightmare Before Christmas with my father, making a costume I’ve been planning since August, looking for the scariest Halloween decorations because when I was little I hated “cutesy” decorations, gorging on chocolate intended for trick-or-treaters, imagining the streets coming alive at night, and baking with my mother. This is one of the Halloween recipes we like to make. Use our pumpkin puree from last week!

These pumpkin mini muffins are oil free, low in fat and 1/4 of the size of a regular muffin so it’s totally okay to have 12 of them. At least that’s what I tell myself. That’s the problem with mini muffins… how can you eat just one?? They’re so tiny!

Top these with strawberry jam and drink with a big glass of almond milk!

Pumpkin mini muffins

3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup apple sauce
2 tbsp chia seeds with 1/2 cup water
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease paper liners.
2. Mix chia seeds with 1/2 cup water until smooth. The chia gel acts as a binder and the superfood adds protein, fiber and omega 3 to the muffins. In a bowl, mix the chia seeds with cane sugar and apple sauce. Add pumpkin and 1/4 cup water.
3. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.
4. Add the wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.
5. Grease muffin cups with oil. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
6. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes at 350 F. Take care not to burn the muffins.

Makes 36 mini muffins.

For regular-sized muffins, bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see if they’re done with a toothpick.


My recipe originally appeared on The Calgary Journal food blog.

– Silvia

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

One year I decided I would be ambitious and make pumpkin puree from scratch. There’s nothing like scooping out goop from the pumpkin with your fingers and getting stringy orange bits in your hair. It brings new meaning to the phrase “getting your hands dirty.”

Am I selling this to you yet?

Just kidding. It’s really not that messy, and it makes your pumpkin pie just that much sweeter.

And the roasting pumpkin smell that fills the house is so worth it.

I made puree from sugar pumpkins as they are sweeter and have more flavour. A sugar pumpkin won’t have much guts, as its grown for its thick flesh that you can make into puree. It’s the one on the left in the picture below.

Pumpkin Puree

1. Find a sugar pumpkin at your local Farmer’s Market. Regular grocery stores will carry them as well. Cut the pumpkin in half. Use a big, sharp kitchen knife and be careful as it will be quite difficult to cut. Watch your fingers!
2. Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and separate the seeds from the pulp. Save the seeds if you’d like to roast and eat them.
3. Discard the pulp.
4. Cut the pumpkin into slices like you would a watermelon and place on a baking sheet.
5. Bake the slices of pumpkin at 375 F for one hour and a half. You’ll know it’s done when you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.
6. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool. When it has cooled, scoop the pumpkin flesh from the rind and put in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Discard the rind.
7. Store in a glass mason jar in the fridge for up to three days until ready to use the puree. You can also freeze the pumpkin in a plastic bag.

Next week we’ve got a pumpkin mini muffin recipe that will make use of this puree! Check back for it next Sunday!


My method originally appeared on The Calgary Journal Food Blog.

– Silvia

Oyster Mushroom Pasta

We’ve been on a bit of a pasta kick. This pasta comes together really quickly with minimal ingredients. It’s the perfect dish to follow a long day of work/school when energy and enthusiasm for cooking is far from our minds. The oyster mushrooms add meatiness to the dish, while the double-smoked cheddar cheese grated on top enhances the flavour.

3 cups dried pasta, preferably rotini
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Double-smoked cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
2. Saute mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Drain the pasta and return to pot. Add sauteed mushrooms and garlic, marinara sauce, salt and pepper. Stir and heat until thoroughly warmed through.
4. Top with double-smoked cheddar cheese and serve with garlic bread.

Vegetarian Lasagna

We love gooey cheese dishes, bonus if we can sneak a vegetable in there like zucchini. Usually we’re not really sure what to do with zucchini besides eat it straight off grill or put it on pizza. We love putting vegetables like eggplant in risottos, stews, etc. but the zucchini somehow gets neglected. However, it’s absolutely delicious in this lasagna! This dish is healthier than traditional lasagnas thanks to the vegetables and the low fat cottage cheese.

3 cups organic Marinara sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 package lasagna noodles
2 medium zucchini, sliced
7 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups low fat cottage cheese
2 cups shredded cheese (We used a 4 cheese blend)
1 teaspoon oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic for two minutes, then add oyster mushrooms and zucchini. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until zucchini and mushrooms are tender.
3. Cook the noodles in boiling water for a few minutes, rinse in cold water and drain.
4. Cover the bottom of a 9×12 inch baking pan with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, then cover the sauce with one layer of lasagna noodles. Cover this with a thin layer of cottage cheese, then add a layer of cooked mushrooms and zucchini and a thin layer of marinara sauce. Repeat 2 times, then add a layer of noodles, a layer of marinara sauce and a layer of shredded cheese. Sprinkle oregano on top of shredded cheese.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the lasagna and bake for another 15 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.
6. Allow lasagna to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa rules. It’s gluten-free, pairs well with everything, cooks in 15 minutes, and is high in protein and other good stuff like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. We like to make this salad Sunday night and have it throughout the week as a side dish, but it would be great on its own as well.

If you buy prepackaged quinoa, it should say if it’s been rinsed or not. If not, then let the quinoa soak for about 15 minutes or longer to remove the bitter coating that contains saponins. Then give it a quick rinse and it’s ready to be cooked!

1 cup organic quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Dressing

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
A dash of freshly ground pepper

1. Soak quinoa in cold water for 15 minutes and then rinse under running water using a strainer or a cheese cloth.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring quinoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt and water to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until done. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover, and let cool.
3. Chop the English cucumber, mint leaves and tomato and set aside.
4. Boil chopped celery and frozen peas for 4 to 5 minutes, rinse and drain, and then add to chopped vegetables.
5. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, remaining salt, sugar, water and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Combine all ingredients before serving and toss gently.

Serves six.

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

We love sweet potatoes because apart from being totally delicious, they pack a ton of vitamins and nutrients like vitamin A and C. These are great with any protein for dinner, and also work very well as an appetizer. If you normally don’t like sweet potatoes, give these a try!

We like to leave the skin on for extra nutrition, but peel ’em if that’s your thing. You can also use yams in place of the sweet potatoes in this recipe without a problem!

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

1 tsp garlic powder or more to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 large sweet potatoes

1. Scrub sweet potatoes with a coarse brush until clean and free of dirt. Cut 1/4 inch thick and 3/4 inch wide, or however you desire; we prefer steak cut fries.
2. Place sweet potatoes into a bowl with garlic powder and olive oil. Mix until fries are well coated.
3. Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Rub olive oil on parchment paper so fries do not stick.
4. Place fries on baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes, watching fries closely to make sure they don’t burn.

Serves 6.

Crispy Breaded Tofu Sticks

Oh She Glows is one of my favourite food blogs. When I first started cooking on my own without parental supervision, I made many of Angela’s recipes. Several of her recipes are sitting in my recipe collector, well-worn and creased – a sign of good eats. Also, she is coming out with a cookbook! Eeek! So excited.

I love that this recipe is made without expensive, hard to find ingredients. The steps are simple and don’t require much work besides draining the tofu, breading the sticks and pressing “Bake” on your oven. My boyfriend and I love to make these when we are feeling lazy because they require so little work. We pair them with sweet potato fries, and DQ’s chicken strip basket comes to my mind. Except that this is a million times healthier.

The tofu sticks are so perfectly crispy and crunchy, that I don’t miss fast food at all. I don’t even remember the last time I had fast food. Fries totally don’t count. Right?? Tofu sticks are dry, so I love to pair these with a honey-dijon mustard sauce. Agave nectar also works nicely with dijon mustard.

Click here for the tasty recipe!

– Silvia

Chandon Rosé

My husband and I visited Domaine Chandon in 2009, mainly because of the beautiful grounds surrounding the tasting room. The winery was founded in 1973 by Moët & Chandon, and they draw heavily on their French heritage.

I am not a big fan of sparkling wines but I was pleasantly surprised by a symphony of fruity, seductive flavours produced by their expert winemaker Tom Tiburzi. He has spent the last 21 years at Domaine Chandon creating Chandon’s diverse sparkling wines.

This year, Domaine Chandon had a booth at the California Wine Fair in Calgary and we had a chance to chat with Tom Tiburzi. We tasted their Brut Classic and Chandon Rosé this time. I wasn’t able to find this bubbly in our local wine stores, so I brought a bottle from the States this spring. In hindsight, I should have brought more than one bottle. What was I thinking?!?

This week, the temperature finally rose to 30 degrees C, so we sampled chilled Chandon Rosé. It was heavenly! Oops, maybe that’s not the proper term…. Anyway, the Chandon Rosé is a fragrant sparkling wine, very fruity, yet not very sweet. It’s crisp and refreshing, with a nice berry finish. This vibrant, fruity bubbly pairs well with seafood and shellfish. At $22.00 per bottle, it’s a great value.

Winemaker’s Notes

“In the glass, the color is a dramatic deep pink with a blush of sunset. Intense ripe strawberry, juicy watermelon, and fresh red cherry fruit aromas and flavors are interwoven with apple, pear, and stone fruit. On the palate, the wine is creamy and seductive, with defined structure from the addition of still Pinot Noir at tirage. The overall impression is one of bold vibrancy and impact from start to finish.”

– DJ

Kale and Boiled Potatoes

When the weather is around 30 degrees C, we like to cook Mediterranean food because it’s very light. This side dish goes well with any kind of fish, or a vegetarian burger or scrambled tofu. When buying kale, look for crisp and dark greens. Avoid those that are wilted or have yellow or brown spots. Young greens can be stir-fried, steamed, or sauteed briefly.

1 bunch Kale
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

1. Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain.
2. Rinse kale well in a large bowl of warm water. Drain in colander.
3. Use the leaves only. Trim away tough stem ends by making a “V-shaped” cut at stem end. Save the stems for vegetable stock! Cut the leaves into small pieces.
4. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and add the pieces of kale. Cook and stir over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes until wilted and tender (older leaves may take slightly longer).
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet. Add minced garlic and saute for a few minutes.
6. Add potatoes and garlic to kale, stir and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Potato Soup

This recipe has been in our family for generations. It’s delicious, creamy and so comforting on a cold day. We like to eat it with grilled cheese or French bread.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cups water (or more, if needed)
3 Bay leaves
2 teaspoons Vegeta (or seasoning salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

First, make a roux (pronounced “roo”). Roux is a basic thickening agent used when making stews, soups and sauces. Traditional roux recipes call for equal parts of butter and flour, but in this creamy potato soup we prefer to use olive oil.

1. Heat oil in a pan. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the flour gradually and stir constantly. It should be smooth with no lumps. Keep stirring until the flour is light brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn.
2. Remove from heat and add water. Be very careful, the roux will be extremely hot, and when you add water, be careful not to splash yourself or get burned.
3. Add potatoes, carrots, Bay leaves, salt, pepper and Vegeta.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
5. Mash with a potato masher instead of using a blender.
6. Stir in sour cream and parsley, and remove Bay leaves. For a vegan version of this soup, omit sour cream. The soup is still very yummy.
7. Serve hot with a slice of fresh French bread or grilled cheese.

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