Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

A self-trained cook, cooking for herself and her husband in their condo. Cue the cozy domesticity! So, yes, this blog is about the creative satisfaction of cooking, about making meals that real people eat, in real people time (I also work outside the home), about trying to find the best recipes out there and about trying to stretch my cooking skills while I’m at it. Join me? I’ll link the recipes to the blog posts, so that you can try them too (I’m interested in feedback), and put in pictures so that you can see how they turned out.

Very Cherry Crumble Bars: A Delicious Way to Use Up Frozen (or Fresh) Fruit!

So incredibly delicious! Seriously. Make these!

This week’s recipe is for Very Cherry Crumble Bars! I tend to have an over-stocked freezer (I don’t have a deep freeze, just an over-the-fridge- freezer) as I’m always stuffing in pre-made meals to pull out for later. At any given time, I can usually pull out Carrot Ginger Stew, Easy Enchiladas, homemade bread, ingredients for smoothies, and various fruits and veggies that I’ve bought and frozen. As I want to stock the freezer in anticipation of baby’s arrival, I decided to use up some of my single ingredients. Today, that ingredient was local cherries, that I had pitted and frozen!

With school lunches approaching for a lot of people, these bars can easily be baked, individually wrapped, and kept for the week’s lunches. I personally try to pack them for my work lunches, but…they tend not to stay around too long. Unless I freeze them in layers, and that kind of defeats the purpose of clearing out my freezer.

I came up with the recipe after mashing together and then modifying a few different recipes. I liked the easy crust from one recipe, but changed a few ingredients, and the streusel from another recipe (again changing a few ingredients), and then just made up my own filling, based on what I know about fruit pie fillings. See? It really is easy to play around in the kitchen. If you’re a bit hesitant about switching up ingredients, you can start out with simple substitutions. If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free copy of my e-book, This for That: Easy Kitchen Swaps and Hacks. You can find the sign-up on the right-hand side of the blog.

But back to these delish bars! Let’s get to making some!

VERY CHERRY CRUMBLE BARS

With a shortbread crust, a very cherry filling, and a streusel topping, what's not to love? 

Servings 24 bars

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 c. frozen cherries, defrosted and drained
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. almond flavouring
  • 1/4 tsp. almond flavouring
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter, softened

Instructions

  1. Line a lasagna-sized tray with tin foil (for easy removal of bars).

  2. Mix the crust ingredients (the first four ingredients) together with a mixer until a fine crumb (almost sandy) appears. 

  3. Press the crumb mixture into the lined tray.

  4. Mix the fruit filling (the next 5 ingredients) together, and pour over the unbaked base.

  5. Mix the streusel topping (the last four ingredients) together, until a semi-lumpy crumb is formed.

  6. Sprinkle streusel topping over the fruit filling. 

  7. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, until the topping is golden. 

  8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 30 minutes (this helps the base and filling become a bit firmer).  

  9. Once cool, either cut in pan, or lift out of pan using the tin foil edges and cut on a wooden cutting board.

  10. Serve and...enjoy!

 

This recipe makes a big batch (a lasagna-sized tray full) so it’s great for a family, a potluck, or just to Netflix with your bestie. If you do freeze some, make sure you freeze them with wax papers between the layers of bars, and make sure the container is well-wrapped to protect against freezer burn.

Oh, and one more hint about substitutions. You can definitely switch out the cherries for other fresh or frozen fruit. If the fruit is super-juicy, keep the flour and corn starch amounts the same, but if it’s a sturdy fruit such as apple or plum, just remove the corn starch (I add it to thicken up any juices that the fruit releases). Also, use an extract that works with the fruit. For example, I would use vanilla extract with apples, but almond extract with apricots. You do you, boo! And then comment on this post to let us know how it turned out!

Next Post: Maybe my Potluck-Friendly Potato Salad. Or perhaps a pasta salad. Or perhaps something else entirely! We’ll see what baby is craving next week. 🙂

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, Happiness is Homemade, and the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Creamy Vanilla Pineapple Float: A Yummy Way to Beat the Heat!

Super easy and super creamy!

This summer I have been all about the cold drinks. It’s been steamy hot where I live, and I tend to wilt in the humid heat. If I step outside and my sunglasses fog up in seconds, that’s too humid for me! I like a nice dry heat. So, in order to beat the heat or at least exist with it, I tend to walk around carrying lots of bottles of cold ice water, eat a yummy green smoothie for dinner to cool down, and if I’m still overheated in the evening, this week’s recipe for a Creamy Vanilla Pineapple Float sure hits the spot!

This recipe is modified from one that my mother used to make when I was a child. And as a ice-cream based dessert float goes, it’s pretty healthy! Pineapple juice and powdered milk form most of the base of the float, so you’re getting lots of vitamins and calcium, and then it’s topped with a scoop of ice cream, the least healthiest but super delicious part.

I asked my mother where she got the original recipe from, and she actually doesn’t remember, but thinks it may have been from a magazine ad or so. I’m part of the generation that had an analog childhood but digital adolescence, so while I remember not having the internet of recipes at my fingertips, it still takes me a few seconds to grasp how different it must have been not to have instant access to recipes for everything available at all times. I wonder how my bebe-to-be’s life will be different from mine. Change is the only constant in life, I guess!

Speaking of change, you could easily change up this recipe. You could definitely make the ice cream yourself, if you wanted to cut out all preservatives and such. I have several no churn ice cream recipes on this blog, such as this one and this one. Just make the basic ice cream base (whipped cream and evaporated milk, plus an extract) and away you go! Or why not switch up the juices and extract and come up with your own creamy vanilla fruit juice float?

If you want to make this exact (and delicious!) one however, here’s the recipe!

 

Creamy Vanilla Pineapple Float

This creamy float is healthier than you'd expect, and sure hits the spot in the summertime!

Servings 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 c. milk powder
  • 3 drops vanilla extract (about 1/16 tsp.)
  • 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1 scoop vanilla bean ice cream

Instructions

  1. Blend the first four ingredients together, until milk powder is completely dissolved. 

  2. Pour into a chilled glass, over ice, and top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. 

  3. Sip and enjoy! 

 

I’ve been drinking this float quite often over the past few weeks. I keep telling myself that if I don’t serve it with a TON of ice cream, it’s really quite nutritious! And even ice cream contains calcium, so…bottoms up!

Next Post: Possibly Easy Cherry Crumble Bars, or my Fan Favourite Potato Salad recipe. Mmm…want to eat them both right now! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, Happiness is Homemade, as well as the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Mini Croissants Stuffed with Smashed Chickpea Salad and Baby Greens

Healthy and delicious equals winning!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m on a quest to add more vegetarian protein to my meals so that my bebe-to-be gets her protein needs met. One easy recipe that I make is called Smashed Chickpea Salad. There are various versions floating around the internet, but this is my version.

Reminiscent of a chicken or egg salad, this salad uses chickpeas both for the protein and because of the lovely texture. I used store-bought mayo in this recipe just because of the risk of salmonella in homemade mayo, but when not preggo, I definitely make my own mayonnaise. Homemade tastes heaps better than store-bought, and is super-easy to make.

Growing up I always loved the egg salad-stuffed croissants from a local café near my home, and one of the ways they made it so delicious was by adding in alfalfa sprouts. So, this recipe also uses alfalfa sprouts! I think it definitely adds to the flavour, so while you could definitely adapt the sandwich to meet whatever you have in your pantry, I think it’s worth it to buy some alfalfa sprouts. I also used baby lettuce, as that’s what I’ve been growing in my balcony garden. Oh, on a side note, interested in seeing what I’ve harvested from my balcony garden this week? Check this out!

This week’s balcony garden harvest!

But back to the recipe at hand: Smashed Chickpea Salad Stuffed Croissants! I recommend getting really good, super-buttery croissants for this recipe. It definitely adds to the mouth feel (so flaky!) and taste (so buttery!) and elevates a good sandwich to café quality.

As with all of my recipes, this one can be easily adapted! Like fresh parsley? Add some in instead of dried! Like celery? Add some finely chopped celery in! And of course, adjust the seasonings to your taste. Once you know the basics of any recipe, you can adapt it and make it your own! You could even make this vegan, by using vegan-aise or a similar vegan mayo.

But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of this recipe!

 

5 from 1 vote
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SMASHED CHICKPEA SALAD STUFFED MINI CROISSANTS

This hearty sandwich is easily thrown together, and elevated to cafe quality by the use of alfalfa sprouts and extra-buttery croissants. Mini croissants make serving sizes a breeze!

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 c. mayo
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley (or fresh!)
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 mini croissants
  • 1/2 c. alfalfa sprouts
  • 16-20 baby lettuce leaves

Instructions

  1. Rinse and drain chickpeas. 

  2. Using a potato masher in a large bowl, smash about 2/3 of them. 

  3. Add in mayo and remaining ingredients, and stir.

  4. Let sit to let flavours develop, or use right away. 

  5. Slice mini-croissants in half length-wise. Layer baby lettuce and alfalfa sprouts on bottom half of croissants. 

  6. Top with smashed chickpea salad, and place top half of croissant on top. 

  7. Serve and enjoy!

 

I like to eat these stuffed croissants for lunch, but they’re equally good served as a light dinner, especially on hot summer nights. A fresh fruit salad as a side, and my taste buds and tummy are happy! And I know that I’m feeding my bebe-to-be some good nutrition!

Next Post: I’m going to share a childhood favourite with you, an easy Pineapple Float! Just typing it out and thinking about it makes my mouth water, so stay tuned! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday and Happiness is Homemade! As well as Full Plate Thursday!

Pesto & Garden Veggie Couscous Salad, with BBQ’d Tofu or Chicken

A slight bbq tang, plus the crisp crunch of fresh veggies means this summer salad is delish!

I was looking at Instagram the other day, and came across a mention of Pesto Couscous. My mind was instantly intrigued. Could a recipe be that simple? Take some couscous and add in some pesto? The answer, my friends, is yes! Heated, it makes a great side dish. Add in some protein and a colourful veggie, and you’ve got yourself dinner! Or…turn it into a salad! That’s this week’s recipe: Pesto & Garden Veggie Couscous Salad!

With the summer heat upon us, I’ve been feeling particularly like serving cold salads as a main course. Adding in garden fresh veggies and some chunks of BBQ’d protein, and you’ve got yourself a hearty main dish that won’t keep you in a hot kitchen, and can easily be packed up for picnics or lunches.

I used corn, tomato, and cucumber in this dish, but you can add in whatever veggies you have growing in your garden or can purchase fresh at a local store. For the protein, I added in chunks of tofu marinated in BBQ sauce and then baked and cooled. You could use chicken — in fact, I’m sure my darling meat-a-tarian husband would have preferred it, but hey, she who holds the ladle rules the world! Or menu, at least.

Want to make this easy dish yourself? Let’s get to it!

 

5 from 1 vote
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PESTO & GARDEN VEGGIE COUSCOUS SALAD

This easy yet hearty summer salad uses pearl couscous tossed with pesto and garden fresh veggies, topped with chunks of bbq'd protein, to make a refreshing but hearty summer dish. 

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 c. pearl couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 2 heaping tbsp. pesto
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 pickling cucumber, chopped
  • 1 ear corn
  • 1/2 c. bbq'd protein (I used bbq'd tofu)

Instructions

  1. Boil pearl couscous in water for 10 minutes or until cooked to your taste (it's just like boiling pasta). Drain.

  2. Cook ear of corn (I cooked it for a few minutes in the microwave), and remove the niblets. 

  3. Add pesto to drained couscous and let cool. 

  4. When cool, add together pesto couscous, chopped tomato and cucumber, and corn niblets. 

  5. Stir, then top with chunks of bbq'd protein. 

  6. Chill to let flavours meld, and then serve. 

 

I strongly prefer to use pearl couscous in this salad, both for mouth feel and for presentation, but if regular couscous is all you have, you do you, boo. As with the veggies, it’s all about using what you’ve got! And what you’ve got with this dish, is a hands down hit for a potluck, work lunches, or dinner on a hot night. Even better is if you’re able to use pre-cooked protein, leftover from another meal, or even from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Less cooking means less time in a hot kitchen and more time eating and socializing! And I’m all about the eating!

Next Post: Any requests? I’d give you my own version of fried green tomatoes, but I know many people have strong feelings on the subject. Maybe something with seasonal fruit? Mmm…fruit! I’m pretty sure fruit is my spirit animal. 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, Happiness is Homemade, and Clever Chicks Bloghop! As well as Full Plate Thursday!

Shake n’ Bake Tofu (aka Tofu for Tofu-Haters)

Chunks of bbq’d and breaded goodness!

As a vegetarian, I’m always trying to make sure I eat enough protein, and as an expectant mum, I’m being doubly careful to feed my bebe-to-be all the nutrients she needs. So when I tried a tofu dish at a friend’s party…and LIKED it, I knew I had to develop my own variation. Basically, this is a tofu dish that will even convert the non-tofu-eaters in your life  to the realization that tofu isn’t all bad. I plan to eat all my tofu this way from now on!

This dish is pretty easy to make. All you do is chop up the tofu into cubes, marinate it in a BBQ sauce of your choice, toss the cubes in a homemade shake n’ bake mixture, and bake!

I’ve given you my homemade shake n’ bake recipe here, but as always, I encourage you to make it your own. Have some ground flax seed? Add it in! Have panko crumbs instead of breadcrumbs? Use those! Don’t have breadcrumbs but have some dried out bread husks? Toast and blend those up and use them instead! I’ve added in some psyllium husk to this mixture, but you could easily leave it out. Again, make it your own!

Let’s get to making, baking, and most importantly…eating!

5 from 1 vote
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SHAKE N' BAKE TOFU

These easy marinated, breaded, and baked tofu chunks will convert even the pickiest of eaters to the tofu side!

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pkg. firm tofu (must be firm. Silken or soft tofu won't work in this recipe)
  • 1/2 bottle BBQ sauce (or make your own!)
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsps. psyllium husk
  • 2 tbsps. flour
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Chop tofu into cubes, and marinate in BBQ sauce overnight.

  2. Mix up all remaining ingredients, including the oil, to make the shake n' bake mixture. 

  3. Individually roll the marinated tofu cubes in the shake n' bake mixture, and place on a foil-lined baked sheet. 

  4. Bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, turning once at the 10 minute mark. 

  5. Eat and enjoy!

I love this recipe because not only is the shake n’ bake mixture easily customizable, but you can use the final product in so many recipes! I plan to use the breaded cubes in any dish that normally would have called for chunks of chicken: to top a salad with, to use in a wrap, as chicken nuggets, and so on. It’s an easy way to get a vegetarian protein into a picky eater! Try shake n’ bake tofu out and you’ll love it too!

True conversation with the DH, the guy who grew up on a cattle ranch:

Me: So, do you like the tofu? 

DH: It’s ok. I prefer real meat. 

Me: Well, I love it. I’m only making tofu this way from now on! 

DH: *goes to kitchen to get another helping of tofu* WHAT!?!!! There’s no more?!!???? Whyyy????

The moral of the story is…even my darling meat-a-tarian husband ate it and liked it! You will too!

Next Post: Maybe Pesto Couscous. Or…something baked with fruit? Another yummy recipe, at any rate!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday and Inspire Me Monday! As well as at The Clever Chicks and Happiness is Homemade! Plus, at Full Plate Thursday!