October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

I missed my Silent Sunday post this week but here is the picture I would have posted had I made it to a computer..... 

Eeek! Talk about "Happy Halloween"! This spider found a new home in my shoe and had to be coaxed out by the brave and rugged Thor. I did actually take this photo though - anyone who has known me a while knows that I must have come a long way to get this close to this spider! I have since learned that this is a Cat Spider (his HUGE back looks like a cats head- the points are the ears) and is non-poisonous and beneficial in the garden for killing insects. They create beautiful big webs and do not like to venture indoors. Thor and I decided not to kill this guy and set him out in a home away from my shoes.... 

I am going to be wearing large gloves next time I'm pick up leaves....

Good thing we had a warm and hearty dinner to sooth our souls. I created this Pumpkin soup from a variety of recipes. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet, light and filling and healthy and delicious. 

Pumpkin Soup

1 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
3 lrg carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4-5 whole cloves
3 cups pumpkin puree
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tbs pure maple syrup

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent. To make the recipe oil free, I sautéed in a splash of the vegetable broth. Add carrots, celery and cloves and continue to cook until carrots are fork tender. Add the pumpkin and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Remove cloves. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until lumps are gone. You can also do this by transferring your soup to a blender or food processor. Return soup to a light simmer. Taste and add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to your preferance. Stir in coconut milk and maple syrup. Serve immediately or store in the refridgerator. 

I would assume this soup will freeze well though I have not yet tried it.

Garnish with a dollop of coconut cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Tenn Sense Shout Out!

I wanted to finish todays post with a blog shout out to a fellow blogger, leader, amazing mother, army wife and friend. Her name is Amy and her blog is Tenn Sense. Amy writes about her family and their day to day joy, pain, successes and struggles as an army family, away from 'home' and raising a beautiful daughter with special needs. Tennyson was born very early (I think I remember Amy saying she was a little over 2lbs) and has had to fight many battles already just to live and interact in the same world as the rest of us.

Every time I see a new blog post up from Amy, I am so excited to read it. Not only because Amy is sharing a special peak into her amazing family, but because Amy shares this peak in such a beautiful and honest way. I have known Amy since high school and I knew very quickly after meeting her that this was one tough lady who did not hold back and was not afraid of saying how she felt, but I had no idea that this would transfer into some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. There's no poetry, no fancy word choices and no flashing colours. Its just real.

Take a few moments to visit Amy and her growing family over at Tenn Sense. I know that you will be glad you did.

October 18, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

Fall is officially here. While I deeply mourn the loss of warm days, fresh heirloom tomatoes and sun kissed skin - there is a soft spot in my heart for the robust flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg. I could eat fall inspired foods morning, noon and night - in fact many days I do. My favourite way to kick-off a crisp fall morning is with baked oatmeal. While baking my oatmeal will never fully replace the gooey stove top version in my life, I do enjoy it as a little mid-week switcharoo.... I'm wild...

You could bake many versions of this oatmeal- Apple Pie, Berry Cobbler, Banana Nut Butter etc....
My favourite is Pumpkin Pie.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup almond milk, unsweetened (or milk of choice)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
    pinch of nutmeg and salt
    Optional Add-in: raisins or walnuts

Preheat oven to 380 degrees. Mix together all ingredients in an oven safe ramekin or bowl. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm. You can broil the top crust for an additional minute if you wish. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a splash of almond milk or a dollop of coconut whipped cream! (From my chocolate cake recipe)

I foresee many more pumpkin recipes in our near future.... today I will be baking my Pumpkin Spice Muffins for by Friday Biggest Loser muffins! 4 weeks of everyone weighing-in and turning in their homework! Go Team!

October 13, 2012

I'm Back...With Chocolate Cake!!!

I must have composed my next blog post two dozen times in my head. My last post was in June and it seems like yesterday and like a lifetime ago all at once. I am not under any false pretense that my blog was an important part of anyones lives, though I know that there are a few of you out there that do read very consistently and I thank you for that. I think that I am the one that likely missed my blog posts the most. 

Too me this is a type of diary and a social and creative outlet unlike any other. I feel held to a high standard to be as honest and forthright with my blog writing as I am when I talk to myself. Maybe that is why I have not blogged in a few months. While some exciting and great things have happened, there have also been events that maybe I am not ready to put to paper keyboard. 

Maybe that is OK. Maybe I can share what I wish to share and let the rest come out naturally on its own. I have so missed this ritual and am so happy to hear the clicking of keys once again as I type this. 

One of my big motivations to return was a delightful recipe that I received many requests for. I knew that writing up the recipe on my blog and posting was the easiest way to share and so here I am. 

This past month I launched a new nutrition program from my home called Plant Strong. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and I finally decided just to go for it. The program was a great success and I was so pleased with the amount of interest and support that this program received. I limited my first group to 8 people since we would be meeting in my home and I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to really get to know each person over the course duration of 4 weeks. 

Each week I provided a nutrition lesson, Plant Strong recipes , recipe samples and a cooking demonstration. I think I can speak for the group when I say that we had a fantastic time and we all learned so much from each other. For the final week, I asked to group to bring their own Plant Strong dish and recipe to share with the group. I was so blown away by the yummy foods that came into my kitchen from carrot soup to pizzas to golden flax seed bread with coconut whipped cream. 

The dish that I prepared for the group was of course a dessert..... anyone who had read my blog before knows that I have a terrible sweet tooth. The person who has read my blog before also knows that I don't just bake sweets the 'normal' way....

Chocolate Cake With a Plant Strong Secret

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 tbsp ground flax
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
1/4 cup sugar replacement (stevia) or more sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 loosely-packed cups frozen cauliflower, thawed completely but not cooked  (Or omit and sub 1 cup canned pumpkin, if cauliflower is too weird for you. I cant wait to try the pumpkin version )
1/2 cup milk of choice. For pumpkin version, use just 1/3 cup milk 
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease an 8×8 square or 9 inch round baking dish. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix very well. Combine all liquid ingredients and the cauliflower in a food processor and blend until super-smooth, so there are NO lumps whatsoever.
Pour wet into dry, and mix until just combined, then pour into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

If making a double layered cake like I did, double the ingredients and bake in two round 9in pans.

Avo-Yum Chocolate Frosting

2 avocados
1/2 cup raw agave or sweetener of choice (I LOVE making date paste)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tbs vanilla extract
a tiny pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Feel free to play with different additions.... instant coffee grounds, coconut, cinnamon, mint extract etc....

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full fat canned coconut milk (placed in refrigerator at least overnight)
1 Tbsp sweetner of choice (agave, sugar, maple syrup or stevia work well)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Open can of coconut milk upside down. Pour liquid into a container to be saved for future culinary uses. You will be left with the “solid” coconut milk on the bottom. Scrape in a large bowl and beat on medium/high with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Add-in sweetener to taste and vanilla. 

A great recipe to get creative with- add flavors of choice such as mint, coconut, almond extract etc...

Assembling the Cake

I spread my vanilla Coconut Whipped Cream on one of the 9 in cakes and then gently placed the 2nd cake right one top. I frosted the whole cake with the Avo-Yum frosting. I placed dollops of the Whipped Cream around the top of my cake and sprinkle coconut shreds on top for a special touch.

There is a lot of work to be done on the blog..... my 'Recipe Archive' is a mess and my 'About Me' and 'Contact' is completely out of date... 

But for right this moment, lets just eat some chocolate cake.