Friday, March 30, 2012

Food for thought: popcorn as the perfect snack?

If you liked popcorn before, you're sure to love it now.  

New research presented at the meeting of American Chemical Society reported that popcorn contains more cancer-fighting "polyphenols" that both fruit or vegetables. Let's recall that polyphenols are the most abundant anti-oxidant compounds in the human diet,  and can be found in fruits, fruit juices, coffee, tea, chocolate (score!) and red wine (double score!). 
Joe Vinson, Ph.D
Taken from article

"It's the perfect snack food", says Joe Vinson, Ph.D, and leader of the popcorn study.  He explained that polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn (which is only 4% water), and much more diluted in most fruits and vegetables that are about 90% water  (think tomatoes, melons, leafy greens).  Results from this study show that polyphenols in popcorn were up to 300 mg/ serving, compared to 114 mg/serving for sweet corn, and 160 mg/serving for fruit.

Findings from his current research lead Vinson to state, “Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called “whole grain,” this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”

Now, let's not get carried away juuuuust yet and run to the grocery store to inhale every bag of Orville Redenbacher's we can find. Unfortunately the whole "health" side of this snack becomes virtually obsolete once we smother on all our salt, butter, and movie theatre toppings (what those are actually made from I'll never know). Vinson also shed some light on the microwave vs. air-pop cooking styles. Air-popped has the lowest number of calories, up to half the amount of microwave popcorn (and this is PLAIN microwave popcorn, not "buttered", or salted"), and microwave popcorn contains up to 43% fat, compared to 28% if you pop the corn in oil yourself.  

So the next time your in the mood for a tasty, healthy snack...skip the butter, oil, and chocolate (?)....
....and opt for a lighter, air-popped version of popcorn. And don't worry, this way still tastes pretty awesome.

Full article found here. All other images from Pinterest.

Happy Friday!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Couscous salad with beets and feta

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of salads, but I'm also a huge fan of finding and trying new salad dishes. I originally found this recipe online, but had to tweak it quite a bit because I didn't have a lot of the ingredients (and am too poor to go buy them). Here's the Alicia version:

What you'll need:
1-2 cups couscous
1/2 cup chopped, canned pickled beets
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and peper to taste

What you need to do:

1. Cook the couscous, following the directions on the package. I said 1-2 cups because it really depends on what you're making this for - generally when I make any kind of grain salad (couscous, quinoa, ferro, orzo) I make a large batch so I can have it for the week. I usually have about 3/4 - 1 cup of cooked couscous per serving.
Rule of thumb for couscous to water ratio is
1 cup couscous : 1.25 cup water
You want the couscous to be light and fluffy...not thick and gummy
I made 2 cups and clearly it goes a long way. No problem though, store
it in the fridge with a few drops of olive oil and it'll last all week!
 2. Add the cucumber, beets, onions, and feta cheese to a bowl.

3. Whisk the olive oil and red wine vinegar together in a small bowl, and add salt and pepper to taste. Don't overdo it on the red wine vinegar - too much can leave a sour taste.
4. Add the couscous, and drizzle the dressing on top. Toss with a fork to combine.
Such a refreshing take on the traditional mixed greens!
There are so many variations to this salad, you really can add/remove anything you want. The original recipe used green onions (instead of red), and quinoa (instead of couscous). Next time I think I would add pitted black olives and some lemon juice in the dressing. 

Happy Tuesday!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicken with balsamic BBQ sauce

It's officially spring! That means the weather's warmer, the birds are chirpier, and the barbecue's are a-blazing....if you have a barbecue that is. Sigh. For those less fortunate like myself, here's a recipe that's easy, delicious, and still gives your chicken that barbecue feel.

The recipe: Giada's Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce (leave it to Giada to make something this great, the woman is seriously perfection).

Things you'll need
For the balsamic bbq sauce:
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
Fo the chicken or steak:
  • 4 pieces chicken, any combination of breast/leg/thigh, or 4 pieces NY strip or Club steak  (I used 7 pieces of chicken thighs, since they were all fairly small)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth
1 cup Balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup Ketchup
1 clove minced garlic (maybe I added 2 or 3...)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/3 cup brown sugar
Add Worcestershire sauce and salt.
2. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Bake chicken at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes in a lightly oiled pan.
I used chicken thighs, but you can use breast, leg, or steak pieces.
If your pieces have skin, place them in the baking pan skin side up.
4. Remove baking dish from the oven and spoon BBQ sauce over the top of the chicken.
5. Return the baking pan to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
The juiciest chicken ever!
This was probably one of the best chicken dishes I've made in a while. I don't like store bought BBQ sauce because I find it has a salty/metallic taste, but this was so refreshing and light! This recipe makes a fair amount, so I'm keeping the extra in the fridge to use on a chicken sandwich tomorrow.

Good job Giada, good job.

Also, apologies for the poor quality photos - I left my camera battery charger in Toronto so I've been using my Blackberry...not for long though!

Happy Thursday!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Easiest rack of lamb recipe you ever did see

So I had a rack of lamb thawing out in the fridge, and wanted to try this semi-extravagent recipe (thanks to my mama) with a whole mishmash of spices. I heeaded home from the library, planning to stop at the grocery store near my apartment to gather all my ingredients and what do you know -CLOSED. Blast. Stupid Sunday's and everything in Guelph closing at 7 pm..... Instead, I opted for a much simpler recipe, but one that still tasted pretty amazing. My new cooking rule: When you don't have spices, sauces, or decent ingredients to make a fancy marinade - use mustard. 
1. In a small bowl, mix dijon mustard and honey dijon mustard (the grainy kind)
with salt, pepper, and a spice blend (I used Mrs. Dash Original Blend)
2. Rub the spread over the lamb, making sure to get the sides and in the
(Rack of lamb, evenly coated with the mustard rub)
4. Put a tbsp of oil in a pan, and sear the lamb over high heat. This only needs 
max 1 minute on each side!
5. Transfer the lamb to a lightly oiled roasting dish and place in the oven,
at 435 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes, until insides are just pink.
6. Pair with vegetables and a side salad. 
Rack of lamb in a mustard rub, with roasted red peppers/onions and a salad. Not too shabby for someone with an almost empty fridge. Sometimes simple is the way to go.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tea time

Pandora's box of tea
I've been extremely busy with school/work/random other time-consuming events, and haven't been cooking or visiting any trés cool places as of late. However, I thought the least I could do is post on something that has been keeping me sane over the past crazy week - tea! For those that know me, I am tea obsessed. I love tea, all kinds of tea, from all kinds of places. My favourite is loose leaf, and I used to have a small teapot that would make a good 2-3 mugs of tea at a time (really need to get on replacing that..) but for now I settle on an amazing individual infuser from David's tea, given as a gift by my good friend Kristina .

  1. "Baby Me" tea - a loose leaf tea I purchased at St. Anne's Spa last year. Probably my favourite tea of all time.
  2. "Warming Joy" Collection by Tea Forté - Not only do these tea bags come in the prettiest little pyramid satchels, but the assortment of flavours is incredible - my favourite is Harvest Apple Spice. This box was a Christmas gift (part of the Holiday Collection) but I will definitely purchase more from this company in the future - Found here.
  3. Celestial Seasonings "True Blueberry" herbal tea - I'm a big fan of berry flavours, and this 100% all natural tea with hibiscus, orange peel, and blackberry leaves is also high in antioxidants. Too hot for tea in the summer? Make a pitcher and add ice - Found here.
  4. FORLIFE Asian Style Tea Cup by David's Tea - Seriously the best mug/infuser combo I have seen in a long time. The infuser is large enough to let the leaves breathe, but the holes are small enough that you don't get any falling through into your mug. AND the rubber handle means you can pick it up as soon as you've filled it with boiling water. Bye bye burns.  - Found here.
  5. The lid of the mug doubles as a coaster for the infuser when you're finished steeping.
  6. "Organic Gold Rush"by David's Tea - Made with golden mulberries, with creamy coconut slices and white tea, this tea is sweet with a hint of caramel. Note: the amount of tea in the infuser was just for photo purposes, you really only need about one berry and a few coconut pieces for sufficient flavour. - Found here.
Spring is approaching, the weather's getting warmer, and I am desperately wishing I had a barbecue. *Sigh..

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Savoureux, delicieux

I was in Montreal this past weekend and thought I'd share some of my favourite foodie photos! It was really nice to be somewhere with a legitimate winter season for a change (aka THERE WAS SNOW).
          Van Houtte vanilla cappuccino with cinnamon
     What I thought was a french beer, but is apparently Belgian
Thanks to an excellant recommendation by my good friend and native Montreal-er Kayla, we headed to Bottega Pizzeria on our first night. Such a great place!! And what a jumble of ethnicities - an Italian restaurant,  in the heart of Montreal, with English speaking's a good thing there isn't much of a language barrier when it comes to food. Bottega had a great atmosphere, which to me is almost as important as the food itself. It was busy, but not overpacked, and I really wish I had thought to ask about their playlist because the music was awesome. The giant wood burning oven in the back made it hard to concentrate on anything else but the pizza you could smell them cooking to perfection. To top to all off, our server was a gem..even after the bottle of wine was gone. 

Charcuterie board to start (obviously)
La Quattro Formaggi - Gorgonzola, taleggio, provolone, ricotta
Il Diavola - San Marzano tomatoes, fresh Fior di Latte mozzarella,
basil, salami, fresh chilli peppers in the top right corner (I didn't touch those)
Post dinner espresso
Saturday morning/afternoon we headed out to to Orange Pressé for un petit déjeuner (for those not as culturally diverse as I, that means breakfast).  What a great little brunch spot, serving all the classics along with freshly squeezed O.J. The owners were true Monteralians - he said his family has had seasons tickets for the Montreal Canadiens since 1948! So many cups seen since that time....*sigh..

Mushroom, Onion, Red pepper omelette, home fries, toast, side of fruit
Just the Grand Slam Sh'bam not so petit dejeuner - 2 eggs sunny side up,
home fries, ham, 2 pieces of toast, and a side of fruit
Just a really nicely displayed hot table in one of the shops downtown
Je t'aime Montreal.

Happy Thursday!

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