Greek Tomato-Yogurt Soup

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This is my favourite tomato soup recipe to cook. It is incredibly quick to make (about 30 minutes) and only 107 calories per 1 cup. The herbs and sun-dried tomatoes really help this recipe to stand out from more traditional tomato soup recipes. This soup is great with herb quick break, pita, or I often have it with grilled cheese. (Recipes for herb quick bread and pita to follow).

The original recipe calls for plain nonfat yogurt, but you are welcome to use Greek yogurt if you want some extra protein or if you want a dairy free soup you can skip the yogurt altogether.

Suggested garnishes: toasted walnuts and chopped fresh mint, chopped green onions, fresh parsley.

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Greek Tomato-Yogurt Soup

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp dried oregano (or 1 1/2 tsp fresh)

1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes)

3-4 sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Directions:

  1. In a soup pot, warm olive oil and cook the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and herbs until the onions are soft (about 12 minutes).
  2. Add the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and black pepper. Simmer covered about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaves. Add in vegetable broth and yogurt.
  4. Puree in batches until smooth and creamy. You can use a food processor, blender, or immersion blender to do this.

Recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

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Crusty Italian Loaf

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I love baking bread! There are few things that can make your home smell as delicious as a freshly baked loaf of bread, and it always manages to impress guests at a dinner party. Baking bread isn’t difficult, but it does require you to be around your home for several hours so you can help it through its knead and rise stages. You can avoid some of this by purchasing a bread maker and using the dough cycle (which I often do), but you will still need to be close by for about 1 – 2 hours.

This recipe was delicious and easy to make. I substituted 1 cup of the all purpose flour in the original recipe with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and topped the loaves with basil and garlic infused sea salt I purchased at Granville Island. The original recipe also suggests you use an egg yolk wash to achieve a beautiful crusty exterior, but not having an egg yolk to spare I just used a little bit of olive oil and it seemed to work out okay.

This recipe yields 2 loaves of bread.

Tip: For crustier bread, put a shallow baking pan filled with boiling hot water on bottom shelf of oven.

Variation: To make rolls, preheat oven to 400°F After dough rises, remove to a floured surface. Punch down dough and shape into 12-14 rolls. Place on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a moist towel and let rise for 20 minutes. Slit each roll once and paint tops with egg wash (or olive oil). Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden and baked through.

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Crusty Italian Loaf

Ingredients:

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil (2 tbsp if you will use olive oil instead of egg yolk to spread on the bread)
cornmeal
1 egg yolk
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast with a quarter cup of warm water. Pour yeast into a large bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  2. Turn out onto flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from draft, until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.
  3. For bread machine add ingredients according to machine instructions and select dough setting.
  4. Remove dough and place onto a floured surface. Punch down and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a moist towel and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will about double in width.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  6. In a small dish, add egg yolk (or olive oil) and 1 tablespoon of water. Slit tops of risen bread 3 or 4 times, making slits that are a quarter of an inch deep. With a brush, paint tops with egg wash.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower heat to 400F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.
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Chili Tofu Tortillas

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This is a recipe that I found in a cookbook that I purchased for under $10 new! It’s called “The Vegetable Cookbook” and it’s produced by LoveFood. I bought it for an under $10 anonymous gift exchange that my family does at Christmas. When my uncle unwrapped it  he said, “thanks Kara” so I guess I wasn’t that anonymous in my gift selection. In the end I ended up with my own gift (I still can’t believe no one else snatched up a cookbook focused on vegetables!), but I promised that I would share any recipes from it that tasted great and were easy to make.

This recipe is a nice option for someone who wants to try tofu but is afraid of it. With  the nice spicy coating on the tofu and all of the vegetables mixed into the filling you barely notice that you are eating tofu. The recipe yields 4 servings, but next time I make it I will definitely double the recipe as these wraps are great the next day.

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Chili Tofu Tortillas

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

2 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup firm tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 large avocado, sliced

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

4 10 inch whole grain tortillas

2/3 cup low fat plain yogurt

2 cups salsa

3 tbsp fresh cilantro (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Mix together the chili powder, paprika, flour, and salt and pepper to taste on a plate and use to coat the tofu pieces.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan  and gently cooked the tofu over med-high heat, until tofu has browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
  3. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, or until they just begin to soften.
  4. Halve the avocado, peel and remove the seed. Slice, and place in a bowl with the lime juice.
  5. Add the tofu and the onion mixture to the avocado and gently mix in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.
  6. Divide filling between the 4 tortillas, and top with a little plain yogurt. Roll up.
  1. Arrange the tortillas in a shallow, ovenproof dish and top with salsa and remaining cheddar cheese.
  1. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cheese should be golden brown and bubbling when tortillas are ready.
  1. Serve immediately. You can add cilantro, jalapeno chiles, plain yogurt, extra salsa, and or extra avocado.

Recipe adapted from The Vegetable Cookbook 2011 edition

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Kale and Quinoa Salad

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I am really excited to share this kale and quinoa salad recipe that was passed on to me by my cousin. I love kale! It has amazing nutritional value for only a few calories, and it is easy to grow. I planted 12 small kale plants this summer, went away for 2 weeks, and came back to find 12 large kale plants that supplied me with enough of the leafy vegetable well into the fall. This year I hope to be able to start my own plants from seed. I encourage everyone to try growing this plant. http://gentleworld.org/kale-an-easy-beginners-guide-to-growing/

This is actually the first recipe (outside of smoothies) where I used uncooked kale in a recipe. I was a little concerned that the kale would be too crunchy/chewy/bitter, but the warm quinoa and the dressing softened it up and added a nice peppery flavour. Most grain salads like this suggest that you cool the grain before adding to the salad mixture; however, I like my grain salads warm and will often add the just cooked grain to the rest of the ingredients. You can serve it whichever way you prefer. This salad is great because it is very simple to make and has lots of nutritionally dense ingredients.

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Kale and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

1 cup of quinoa

10  leaves of kale, cut into bite sized pieces

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 – 1 tsp black pepper

1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1 cup currants

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Mix quinoa into boiling water, cover and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 12 minutes or until water is fully absorbed.
  2. Place kale in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle over kale.
  4. Add quinoa, pecans, currants, and feta cheese. Toss to mix.

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kale-and-quinoa-salad/

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Parmesan-Roasted Acorn Squash

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If you are looking for a quick vegetable side dish, acorn squash are wonderfully easy to prepare. You just cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and season them however you choose. I like to sprinkle my squash with Parmesan, thyme, and black pepper, but you can use any other cheese or herb mix. You can also use a bit of maple syrup if you are looking for a sweeter side dish. The hardest part of this dish is cutting the squash in half, so make sure you have a sharp knife. I find it is easiest to cut off the tips of the squash at each end. Having a flat surface at each end will help balance the squash and will make cutting the squash much easier. When you are choosing squash, select ones that are heavy for their size and have a hard, deep coloured rind free of blemishes and bruises. Winter squash do not require refrigeration and can be kept in a cool, dark place for a month or so.

* Acorn squash are a good source of iron, riboflavin and vitamins A and C.

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Parmesan-Roasted Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1  2 lb acorn squash; halved, seeded, and sliced into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2  tbsp olive oil
  • 8  sprigs of fresh thyme (or other herb)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4  cup Parmesan, grated

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Prepare a rimmed baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, toss the squash with the oil, thyme, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  3. Place squash into baking dish
  4. Roast the squash until golden brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. When cooked, squash should be easily pierced with a fork and should pull away easily from the skin.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/parmesan-roasted-acorn-squash-00100000066897/index.html

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Roasted Beet Tapanade & Lentil Pecan Dip

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I was inspired to make these dips after having dinner out at Heirloom Restaurant in December. I enjoyed their dips plate so much (especially the lentil hummus) that I knew I had to come home and try to recreate it for my family. Much to my disappointment I couldn’t find similar recipes online, but I did come across these two dips. They each had some of the elements I enjoyed from Heirloom (lentils and roasted beets), but also a few new ingredients like the miso paste. The roasted beet tapenade is fairly straight forward to make, but the lentil pecan dip may require a special trip to the grocery store. I was able to find all of the ingredients for both dips without too much trouble at Save On Foods. Unfortunately there were no small packages of miso paste, so to make the lentil pecan dip you will likely have to commit to a decent sized package (expect more recipes involving miso paste soon!). Both of these dips are great with raw vegetables, crackers, chips, and as sandwich spreads.

* Beets are an excellent source of folate and a very good source of the antioxidants manganese and vitamin C. They also are a good source of potassium and dietary fiber.

* Red lentils are a good source of dietary fibre, thiamin, iron, and folate.

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Roasted Beet Tapande

Ingredients:

4 medium beets (about 1 pound)

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large head garlic, roasted*

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 tsp dried fennel

1 1/2 tsp lemon peel, finely shredded

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Peel and trim beets. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a roasting pan. Toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast in a 425 degree F oven about 35 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  3. Place beets in a food processor. Add garlic, balsamic vinegar, and walnuts; cover and blend or process until a coarse puree is formed.
  4. Place in a bowl. Stir in feta cheese, fennel, lemon peel, and ground black pepper. Add additional salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to taste.
  5. Serve at room temperature with veggies or chips.

* To roast the garlic:

  1. Remove the papery outer layers from garlic head but leave the skins of the cloves intact.
  2. Cut off 1/4 inch from the tips to expose individual cloves.
  3. Brush sides and top with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  4. Wrap garlic head in aluminum foil and place cut side up in a small baking dish.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed; cool.
  6. Press garlic paste from individual cloves.

Recipe adapted from http://www.bhg.com/recipe/sauces/roasted-beet-tapenade/

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Lentil Pecan Dip

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups pecans, toasted

⅓ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp miso paste

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring lentils and 3 cups water to a boil in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes. Drain, and cool.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until onion is golden. Cool.
  3. Pulse pecans in food processor until thick paste forms.
  4. Add lentils and onion mixture, and purée until smooth.
  5. Add parsley, miso paste, rice vinegar, basil, thyme, and black pepper; pulse until combined.
  6. Transfer to bowl. Cover, and chill 4 hours.

* You can choose your desired dip consistency by draining as little or as much water from the lentils as you would like.

Recipe adapted from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/red-lentil-pecan-pate/

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Black Forest Cake

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So my brother has been asking for a black forest cake for his birthday for years, and this year I finally got around to making him one. The original recipe suggests using sour Morello cherries cherries (apparently you can find them in more specialty stores such as Whole Foods). Unfortunately, I did not have time to get to Whole Foods and had to settle for Save On Foods and Bing cherries. I found the Bing cherries to be an acceptable substitution, but next time I am going to try it with the Morello cherries.

When you are making this cake, ensure that you follow the suggested time for mixing the batter. As you may have noticed in the ingredients there is no baking soda or baking powder. This means that whether or not your cake rises is depending on how much air is incorporated into the batter. If you under mix the cake the result will still taste delicious, but it will be flat and you won’t be able to cut it in half. The batter should become lighter in colour as it thickens.

Overall this cake was moist, chocolatey, and delicious. It might look like a bit of work, but it is worth it for a special occasion!

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Black Forest Cake

Ingredients:

Cherries:

24 ounce (700 ml) jar of Morello Cherries in syrup

4 tbsp Kirsch or Cherry Brandy

Chocolate Genoise:

3 tbsp hot melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup white flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup unsweetened regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder

4 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Frosting

2 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp granulated white sugar

Directions:

Cherries:

  1. Drain the cherries, reserving 1 cup of the liquid. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons Kirsch. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tbsps of the Kirsch to the reserved cherry syrup.

Chocolate Genoise: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a non stick spray, a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of your electric mixer. 
  4. Beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently fold it into the egg batter. 
  5. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

  1. In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture just until stiff peaks form.

Assemble Cake:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Turn over the top layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on your serving plate.
  2. Brush the cake layer with 1/4 cup cherry syrup. Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise. Place the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with 1/2 cup syrup. 
  3. Place cut-side down on top of the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Spread the remaining cream over top and sides of cake. 
  4. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate with fresh cherries and shaved chocolate.
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