Baking and Cooking-Time to Relax

Using healthy ingredients for your recipes can be easy as going to the grocery store. Or sometimes the bulk food store. Baking can relax the mind and the body especially when you know you get to enjoy the end result. I know a number of people that have told me they bake to relax and I can understand that. The simple act of measuring out ingredients and then tucking them into the oven only to have that delicious sweet aroma fill your kitchen can be very soothing. And for some the opposite is true, cooking is more relaxing as creativity can flow when they add ingredients to a dish that in the end will taste divine.
Sometimes the before can be a little frustrating, like finding the ingredients. I always recommend reading the whole recipe before starting to make sure you have all the ingredients and of course knowing if you have time to make them. With baking you may not want to vary too much, changing up some chopped nuts for chocolate chips isn’t too big of a deal but flour and baking powder amounts can altar a recipe drastically. 
When it comes to cooking, substituting shallots for onions or peppers for zucchini usually works and using your favourite spices can turn a recipe that you weren’t keen on into something you really love. Check out the tips in these recipes to see how they might be able to relax you in the kitchen this week. Eating healthy and enjoying doing it can be a great combination. The opening paragraph and tips in a recipe can sometimes answer all your questions to help you on a fun path in the kitchen. And if there are still questions you can always ask a friend or the author.

Mocha Cherry Barley Muffins

Be proud Canada, we grow barley and it’s good for us! With a nutty taste that is high in fibre your health will thank you. Enjoying the aroma of chocolate can make you feel warm and cozy and also very happy. Look for frozen pitted cherries where other frozen fruit is sold in your grocery store. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes

1 1/4 cups (300 mL) barley flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/3 cup (75 mL) oat bran
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking soda
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
2 tsp (10 mL) instant coffee granules
3/4 cup (175 mL) skim milk 
2 eggs 
1/4 cup (50 mL) canola oil
1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) pitted halved frozen dark cherries

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, oat bran, baking powder and soda.

In a small bowl, stir together vanilla and coffee granules; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and oil. Whisk in sugar and vanilla mixture. Pour over flour mixture; stir until just combined. Stir in cherries.

Divide batter among 10 lightly sprayed or paper lined muffin cups. Bake in preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 18 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean.

Makes 10 muffins.

Tip: You can find barley flour in the health section of your grocery store, health and bulk food stores as well.

If cherries are not available use frozen blueberries or frozen sliced strawberries.

Italian Spinach Baked Eggs and Noodles

Cozy cooked eggs are a wonderful dinner for fall evenings. A fragrant tomato sauce is the perfect way to add flavour and poach the eggs to enjoy over noodles. Leftovers also make a perfect thermos lunch the next day.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
2 tsp (10 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp (1 mL) hot pepper flakes
1 bottle (700 mL) passata (strained tomatoes)
1 pkg (5 oz/142 g) baby spinach, chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
4 eggs
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh grated Parmesan
3 cups (750 mL) egg white broad pasta noodles

In a large ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook shallot, garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes. Pour in passata and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Stir in spinach and pepper; cook for 5 minutes or until wilted. 

Crack eggs, one at a time into a small bowl and slip eggs into simmering sauce. Sprinkle with ground pepper. Place in preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until eggs set or cooked to desired doneness.

Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling water, cook noodles for about 8 minutes or until tender but firm. Drain well and keep warm.

Sprinkle eggs with cheese and spoon with sauce over top of noodles to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Tip: Look for passata where pasta sauce is sold in the grocery store. Bottle sizes vary but range from 640 mL to 700 mL, any will do. 

You can use baby kale, arugula or chopped swiss chard leaves for the spinach. And any colour of pepper you enjoy will add flavour and texture to the sauce. 


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