Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies without any butter or refined sugar, and instead filled with fibre, protein, and vitamins A & C? Now there is a dessert you can feel good about! These cookies were gobbled up by my wee ones for a treat after school, and my husband and I ate a few more as a late night snack. 

1 C canned white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tblsp water
1 C baked/mashed sweet potato
2 eggs
1/4 C honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1/3 C oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 C chocolate chips

Using a food processor or immersion blender, puree beans with 2 Tblsp water to yielf 1/2 C bean puree. Combine bean puree with sweet potato, eggs, honey and vanilla. Stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine wet and dry ingredient until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. 

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350` for about 12-15 minutes, until done. These cookies are best served the same day.

Quick Ratatouille with Brie

I came across two similar recipes on Pinterest (here and here), and used them as inspiration for a new side dish. We absolutely loved this...so much so that I made it twice in a week! Traditional ratatouille is stewed, slow cooked, and layered, while this dish is quick and painless to throw together. It certainly isn't a true ratatouille, but what would you call it?

The quantity listed below worked well in a pie plate, as pictured. The second time I made this, I was out of  brie and wanted to make a larger amount. I doubled everything and made it in a 9X13 dish, topping it with a little bit of shaved red onion before adding the Parmesan, olive oil, and salt & pepper. Both combinations were delicious! This is a simple and versatile way to prepare your vegetables, and a great Make It In The Morning option too.

1/2 zucchini, sliced approx. 1/4 inch thick
2 plum tomatoes, sliced approx. 1/4 inch thick
1/2 sweet potato, sliced slightly thinner than other vegetables
Brie, sliced approx. 1/4 inch thick
2 Tblsp (+/-) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 Tblsp olive oil (+/-)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Place sliced vegetables and brie in pie plate, alternating and overlapping as you go. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at  375` for about 25 minutes, or until sweet potato is tender.

Cookies and Cream Popcorn

It's no secret that I love candy popcorn. I have eaten my weight in Peppermint Bark Popcorn over the last couple of Christmases, I nearly made myself sick on Cinnamon Bun Popcorn, and who could forget S'more Popcorn? This cookies and cream concoction was a hit with my chocolate-loving family. (A great addition would be some chopped Hershey Cookies N Creme bars!)

6 C air-popped popcorn
6 oz white chocolate, melted
15 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

In a large bowl, toss popcorn with cookie pieces to distribute. Melt chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. Pour over popcorn/cookie mixture. Quickly stir to coat. Spread in a single layer on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Allow to harden as chocolate cools. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an air-tight container until serving.

Ask a Dietitian

March is Nutrition Month in Canada, and March 19th is National Dietitian Day. My lovely friend, Natalia Baker, is a Registered Dietitian who I regularly bombard with questions. I love being able to get her opinion on something or bounce ideas off her. She has saved me from some hair-pulling moments of trying to feed my picky little eaters!

(Image courtesy of www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

I asked her if she'd be willing to do a little interview for Hungry Janey, and was delighted that she agreed. Then I got thinking...maybe my readers have some questions they'd like to ask as well? Read on for my interview with Natalia, and check out the end of this post for your chance to ask her your own questions!

Hi Natalia. Thanks for agreeing to answer more of my questions!
Hi Jane. Thanks for shining the spotlight on Registered Dietitians. Today is the fifth anniversary of National Dietitian Day in Canada. Although it's not exactly a high profile event, it is nice to receive some recognition and celebrate our profession with other dietitians across the country. Anyone looking for more information on Registered Dietitians can check out this YouTube video produced by the New Brunswick Association of Dietitians.

Tell me about your career and your love of food. 
I've been working as a Registered Dietitian for about ten years. I have a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition from Saint Francis Xavier University and a Master of Applied Human Nutrition from Mount Saint Vincent University. These days I work as top chef for my husband and two young boys. My oldest son is a very cautious eater who prefers vegetarian fare. He recently asked if I was serving him beaver (it was roast beef). My 10-month old is an adventurous carnivore who loves Brussels sprouts and just can't seem to get enough meat. My husband does a lot of taste testing and knows better than to ask if I followed a recipe! My love of food stems from my 95-year old Italian grandmother who still makes pasta from scratch and forages for dandelion greens in her backyard. I try to follow her lead by feeding my family as she fed hers.

What is one food that should be in our grocery carts each week?
This is an easy one. A dark green leafy vegetable. Whether it be spinach, kale or Swiss chard, eating more of these nutrient-dense foods can go a long way to improving your health. Plus they are grown locally, inexpensive and so versatile! I like to mix it up by adding greens to soup, stir-fries and pizza. Sauteed, in a salad or smoothie, there are infinite ways to eat these powerhouse vegetables.

(Image courtesy of www.runninggreen.blogspot.com)

What is one common food that you think we should avoid?
There are a lot of common foods that should be avoided! If I named one, I'd have to name one hundred. Unfortunately our current food environment is not very conducive to healthy eating. Think: fast food, vending machines and much of the packaged foods lining the aisles of our grocery stores. That said, I don't believe in deprivation. One of my favourite quotes is “don't worry about the food you eat once in a while, worry about the food you eat most of the time.” Sure, it's a good idea to avoid artificial ingredients, trans fat and added sugar as much as possible. But although we often hear the word “toxic” associated with these foods, I really don't subscribe to the “good food / bad food” mentality. There is no question that our society's eating habits need drastic improvement. But blaming foods or looking for scapegoats is not the answer. We need to learn to navigate our current food world. I try to help my clients make the best food choices based on their preferences and the food that is available to them. It is not about the achieving a perfect diet. I'm certainly not a purist and I don't think one should strive to be. This mindset is unrealistic and tends to set people up for failure; think binge eating, yo-yo dieting and the “all-or-nothing” approach. I think it's better to focus on what you eat - a variety of nutritious whole foods most of the time – and give yourself permission to enjoy the occasional indulgence.

What diet fad do you currently question, or think isn't founded in good nutrition?
To be honest I don't pay much attention to fad diets anymore. I've been around long enough to realize that most fads are recycled or reinvented versions of an earlier edition. In general, any diet that prescribes extreme reduction of an entire food group or macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrate) is suspicious. Not only do I question the science, but simply put – these diets don't work for the long term! If it feels like a sacrifice the diet is never going to work for you. There are a lot of top-selling diet books with flashy covers and hard-set rules. Most include research and success stories. But it's pretty easy to string together a few studies to support a sensational hypothesis. It's a lot harder to do the opposite; to provide recommendations based on a body of scientific evidence. At the end of the day healthy eating is not sexy. It's about variety, balance and moderation.

(Image courtesy of www.nuts-about-food.tumbler.com)

You are a busy Mom. What are some of your ways to get more "good stuff" into wee ones?
Like many families, we are always looking for ways to eat more vegetables and improve the variety of our meals. We make trips to the Farmer's market a family activity and talk a lot about where our food comes from. As I mentioned, my three-year old son tends to be very cautious about food. We try to make meal time a pleasant experience for him. We have one rule: you don't have to eat but you have to sit at the table. He's encouraged to eat our regular family meals but we don't push him too much. Often he protests but sometimes he surprises us! Last week he ate roast beef for the first time. I'm hopeful that over time, the experience of family meals and good role modelling will help to increase the variety of the foods he enjoys. That said, I am not above sneaking some greens into his smoothie or adding nut butter to his oatmeal!

What do you think is the most over-hyped "super food" these days?
I think it's great that more people are talking about healthy eating and care about choosing foods of high nutritional value. We now have access to many international and novel foods that are fun to try and may be great additions to our diets. Unfortunately the term “super food” has become a bit of a buzzword and used by the food industry to market their products. It may or may not mean what you think it does! Do some research and include more nutrient-dense foods in your diet but not at the expense of other healthy foods. Whether it be chia seed, kombucha tea or coconut oil, there really is no magic bullet when it comes to improving your health. Variety is key!

What is your favourite tip for healthy living on a budget?
It's the little things that help keep our food budget in check. Planning is essential. I use flyers and rarely buy anything unless I know how I'm going to use it. It's a little less creative but makes for a lot less waste! I also keep a decent pantry and stock up on sale items such as canned tomatoes and legumes. Our family doesn't eat out much or buy a lot of processed or convenience foods. Because of this I can justify paying a little bit more for the quality ingredients and fresh local foods we value. People may be surprised that you can save money simply by cooking your own food. I like to roast a whole chicken on weekends and make a big-batch tomato sauce for quick and inexpensive weekday meals.

Now it's your turn...Natalia has graciously agreed to a follow-up interview, answering questions from my readers. What nutrition question have been brewing in your brain? Leave a comment or send me an Email  with your question, and hopefully they can appear in our next Q&A!

Apple Cherry Cookies

There is a whole lot of stuff in these little cookies. 

Sometimes I open the pantry, and just start taking things out that I'd like to use. Once the counter is full, I figure out what I'm making. That's kind of what happened when I made these cookies. I saw a bunch of random boxes, jars, and bags and thought: "Yeah, this stuff can make some after school cookies." They turned out great, and I ate too many. Way too many. They were just so good when they were warm! I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say I had 5 of them right off the pan.

1/2 C butter, softened
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C flour
1 C granola (or rolled oats)
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C dried cherries
1/4 C ground flax
1/4 C wheat bran
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 large apple, chopped

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk, and beat until mostly smooth. Combine remaining dry ingredients, and add to wet mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. Fold in apples.

Spoon on to silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350` for 10-12 minutes. 

Try them warm. Mmmmm...

Thai Vegetable Pizza

This is another great way to avoid waste and serve leftovers renewed! Using some of the leftover spicy peanut sauce from the pork satays I posted yesterday, this Thai Vegetable Pizza comes together in a snap. If you don't have leftover peanut sauce, a store-bought version would be fine...or whip up a new batch and find more places to use it! (Like these Thai-style Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes)

The sauce is stretched, thickened, and given added flavour with the addition of sweet potato. Thai Chicken Pizza is everywhere now, but there are so many vegetables that taste great with peanut sauce...so why not let them take centre stage?

1/3 C peanut sauce
1/3 C mashed sweet potato
1/8 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Pinch of salt
My favourite thin crust pizza dough (or a quick alternative could a store-bought pizza shell or pita bread)
Chopped red/green/yellow peppers
Chopped green onion (whites and greens separated)
Bean sprouts
Grated carrots

Combine peanut sauce, sweet potato, currry, cumin and salt. Stir to combine. Spread over your pizza crust. Top with peppers, whites of green onion, bean sprouts, and grated carrot. Bake accordingly: about 10 minutes at 500` for my favourite thin crust pizza, or 375` for 10-15 minutes for pre-baked shells. Garnish with greens of green onions before serving.

Gluten-Free Pork Satays with Spicy Peanut Sauce

I have posted a recipe for Spicy Peanut Sauce before. I had previously only served it with chicken, but thought I would try it with pork satays (because, you know me, pork was on sale). I changed the orignal recipe slightly to omit soy sauce because I needed to make it gluten-free for a friend. I also opted to use some of the sauce as a marinade, and the remainder for dipping. The results were great!

The peanut sauce recipe is slightly adapted from a fantastic cookbook and party-planning resource, Do It For Less Parties by Denise Vivaldo.

3/4 C Unsalted Peanuts
1 Tblsp white sugar
2 Tblsp oil
1 Tblsp (+/-) red curry paste
1 1/2 C coconut milk
1/2 tsp lime juice
5 boneless sirloin porkchops (approximately 3 Lbs)

Place peanuts and sugar in food processor or blender and process until finely chopped/ground. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the curry paste and coconut milk. Stir in the ground peanut mixture.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.

Slice porkchops into thin (approx 1/2-3/4 inch) strips. Stir with one third to one half of the peanut sauce - whatever it takes to coat the pork. Chill and marinate for 2 hours. (Alternatively, this could be done the day before and left to marinate overnight)

Thread pork on skewers (if serving as a meal) or large toothpicks (if serving as an appetizer). Lay in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Preheat boiler, and place rack in the second position from the top. Broil for about 4 minutes per side (Or until juices run clear, or until internal temperature reaches 160`).  Alternatively, these could be cooked on the BBQ.

Serve with remaining peanut sauce for dipping, adding lime juice just before serving.

Pancake Round-Up

Whether you can it Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, one thing is for sure...It's time for pancakes! Maybe you want to try something new this year? Here's a round-up of some pancakes recipes I've posted over the last few years.

Pink Pancakes (with sneaky beets)

Or maybe you want to change things up a little and make waffles? Here are a few of those recipes too.

Banana, Butterscotch, Browned Butter Cookies

We have had a lot of "snow days" this winter and in our house that means baking, crafts, and movies. On a recent snow day, we experimented by creating this new cookie recipe to make use of an over-ripe banana and Simon's beloved butterscotch. (Seriously, he is a butterscotch monster. He would do just about anything for a couple butterscotch chips.) The cookies were light and delicious, and were loved by the whole family. 

For all my fellow fans of The Office, writing the title of this recipe (with all the B words) made me think of the episode where Jim does an imitation of Dwight, and says "Beets, Bears, Battlestar Gallactica" For all those who didn't watch The Office, go ahead watch that YouTube clip or just continue thinking I am crazy.

1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 C mashed ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C butterscotch chips

Cut butter into pieces and melt over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will foam, then begin to darken. Watch carefully as the butter turns brown, and some little brown flecks can be seen at the bottom of the pot. The butter will begin to have a nutty smell. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, mashed banana, and vanilla. Beat until smooth again. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet mixture and mix well. Fold in butterscotch chips. Drop by spoonfuls on to a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350` for 12-15 minutes.

The Saltys 2014

Last night, The Saltys were held at the Saint John Ale House...and I won the blog category! As cliché as it sounds, I was so excited just to be nominated. Even when I see the analytics and know that people are reading my blog, it's not the same as seeing real live people who tell me that they have been following. It was a fun evening, seeing some old friends and meeting some new folks from our great community.

Here are a few photos from the night, borrowed from Twitter & Instagram users who used the hashtag #saltys or who tagged me in their posts. 

The beer for the evening: Moosehead Cask Ale, dry hopped with Dulse. 
Can you get any more Salty than that?

Josh and I arriving on the "blue carpet"

  A great crowd gathered at The Saint John Ale House

The coveted Saltys

Eeek! My awkward acceptance speech

Thank you so much to all the organizers and sponsors of this event. It is such a unique opportunity to make real life connections from online connections, and to recognize social media as a way to be truly social the old fashioned way.

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