12/03/2015

Orange Carrot Loaf

Change is in the air, can you feel it? It’s still cold and snowy here in Montreal but not as cold and not as snowy as it has been. The other day, I actually went outside without gloves or a hat, and in a coat I reserve for the first weeks of November. Baby steps, but still. Change is coming.

I always try to savour these transitional patches in the calendar. They feel unique and full of energy: charged weeks in-between what was and what will be. I take the time to notice when and how winter is bleeding out and when and how spring is thumping its first beats. 

This year, it’s been all about light. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and watching, a cup of coffee or tea in hand, usually in the morning but sometimes in the afternoon. Our living room has big, wrap-around windows and it’s amazing to see how the light chases itself across the space in a given day. Even better: how it fluctuates as we draw closer to spring. 

The light feels brighter and cleaner and stronger than it has in months. Makes sense, I guess.

Besides the light, we’ve been eating our way through this liminal time: plenty of optimistic citrus. Isn’t it the best right now? Orange and grapefruit, lemon and lime. I love the zest most of all. Grate it finely and that bittersweet husk adds surprising flavour to any dish, sweet or savoury. 
Orange Carrot Loaf
This loaf cake was born one afternoon when I felt like making something simple. Layer cakes, cookies and pies are just fine but sometimes you crave humble motions and unadorned bites. This loaf is that.

This loaf is moist and just-sweet and scented with orange zest and cinnamon. It’s meant for slicing thickly and eating right there, standing in the kitchen on a sunny afternoon. Make it in a single bowl with just a whisk and a wooden spoon. Eat it in one day, no leftovers.

Recipe makes one small loaf

Ingredients:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar
the zest of one orange
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated carrot

Preheat oven to 300. Grease and line a small loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and orange zest. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; stir until combined. Fold in grated carrot.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. When ready to eat, run a knife along the edges of the loaf before removing. 

06/03/2015

Women in the Kitchen: Kate Matheson


Kate Matheson is the founder of E.A.T. Meal Planning Co. She's based in Toronto, Ontario. 

Describe your home kitchen... 

Living in Toronto has taught me the art of minimal living and small spaces. My home kitchen is compact and functional. It’s actually a great U-shape that works really well for cooking. Nothing is ever more than a quick swivel away!

How does being in your kitchen make you feel?

I have always found cooking to be quite meditative. Thoughts of everything else get pushed away and I can stay really present. Being in the kitchen is often the only "me" time I get so I love that I still find it so relaxing and enjoyable.

What sparked your interest in food? 

I grew up with foodie parents and a mom who is an excellent cook so I've been a taste tester of new experiments for years. When I was in high school, I developed some food intolerances. At that time "gluten-free" was not nearly as popular as it is today so it really made us step up our game in terms of culinary experimentation. Ever since then, I've found so much satisfaction in making traditionally unhealthy foods healthy!

Favourite dish to make? 

I tend to go through food craze phases. Right now my favourite dish to eat is asparagus fries with lemon garlic aioli. I've recently started making my own mayo, so anything I can use to dip works just fine, but these savoury, crunchy fries are satisfying and guilt-free.

My favourite dish to actually prepare is shepherd's pie with a cauliflower and parsnip mash. I love taking the time to develop really great flavour and the end result is so satisfying. Plus, the leftovers are a nice bonus!

Tell us a bit about your business E.A.T Meal Planning Co. How does it work? What inspired you to get started with this project? 

E.A.T. (Eat and Thrive) is a weekly meal planning service that delivers your meal plan, grocery list, recipes and prep tips straight to your inbox every week. It's designed to take all the guesswork out of what to eat, what to buy and how to make it, so you can eat well without wondering "what's for dinner"? All our meals are gluten-free, low in dairy and focus on fresh, clean and simple ingredients.

I was inspired to start E.A.T. after designing a cookbook of my go-to recipes for a friend. It ended up being a hit with other friends and family who were constantly looking for a new dinner recipe that was quick, delicious but also really healthy. I realized a lot of people were looking for this little bit of guidance in the kitchen. I've always been a meal planner so it was a natural fit to offer the plans I use to others and help them save time, money and eat better!

On your website, you say that cooking is “an art not a science.” I couldn’t agree more. Can you elaborate on this idea? 

I learned to cook both through my mom and trial and error—neither involved using recipes. Nowadays, I'll often think of a flavour profile or traditional dish and build on it from there. It’s not like baking where everything has to be so precise. Cooking to me is fun, creative and a bit free flowing. That's part of the fun of it—there are no wrong answers (for the most part).

Describe your food philosophy in three words.

My cooking philosophy is smarter, faster, better. 

My food philosophy is anti-inflammatory, satisfying, simple. I am a huge proponent of eating in a way that allows you to thrive and really feel your best. For most people, whether they realize it or not, I think that means a diet that reduces chronic inflammation. Do that and you will just feel better!

As much as eating healthy is important to me, I cannot simply eat salads all day long. I need meals that are satisfying and feel a little bit indulgent. That doesn't mean that everything is filled with butter and cheese, but I need to make sure I don’t feel deprived. This is where my love of experimentation comes in. Finding ways to use simple ingredients and flip them into something else is huge. For example: cauliflower turned mashed potato, turned pizza crust, turned alfredo sauce. Score on the simple front (it's just cauliflower) and score on satisfying (who doesn't love pizza, pasta and potatoes)!

Kitchen tools you can’t live without? 

My zester and my julienner. I use at least one of them for every meal.

Least favourite kitchen task? 

Washing dishes. Hands down. 

What’s your go-to snack? 

Coconut date balls. I'm a sugar fiend so they satisfy my sweet tooth and are so filling,

Do you have favourite cookbooks, blogs or food magazines? 

I love Food52. Their images are beautiful and they do a great job of combining healthy/delicious. I also love the book The Flavour Bible. Its more of an encyclopedia than a cookbook but it allows you to look up an ingredient and see an infinite number of flavour combinations that work well together.

You’re hosting a dinner party and you can invite anyone, living or dead. Who do you invite? What do you serve?

I love playing host and I’ve found there are three things that make a great dinner party (aside from good company, which is a must)…

1. I make food that doesn’t require me to be hovering over the stove all night. Braised, roasted or make-ahead dishes are the best way to stay out of the kitchen and actually enjoy the party.

2. Serve little picky things that people can assemble, play with or eat in rounds. It keeps things fun, casual and with so many different dietary restrictions these days, it’s often easier to accommodate everyone.

3. Free flowing (potent) drinks are the basis of good conversation.

That said, I'd serve a taco bar with fish tacos, pork carnitas and spicy roasted veggies, lettuce wraps, corn tortillas and a variety of slaws, salsas and sauces. Again, people can mix and match to suit their tastes and it can all be made ahead. The cocktail would be a grapefruit-jalapeƱo margarita, and for dessert, light and fresh dairy-free coconut lime pie cups. I've never made that but I envision it being a mix between coconut cream pie and key lime pie. Yum!

Who would I invite? This is an easy one. I've lived all over and have met and lost touch with so many amazing people. If I could invite anyone, I'd bring all the friends I've met over the years, as well as my closest current circle. To be surrounded by good friends and good food—there is nothing better.

Follow Kate on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and check out her website E.A.T Meal Planning Co. for healthy tips and recipes for better living. 

02/03/2015

Milk Chocolate and Salted Peanut Blondies

The plight of the food blogger: we have to make food for people who don't actually get to eat our finished product. We usually accomplish this taste without a taste via photos (multiple is best) and meaningful text. Description is good, maybe a story to give the dish some context.

I'm on board with all of this. As you can see, I've done it again and again; I've cooked and baked with you, the reader, in mind. But this time, I didn't. This time, with these blondies, I baked just for me, but in the end, they were too good not to share. That's why there's only one photo today (not my best, is it?) and no real story. I'm sorry but I'm not sorry: these blondies speak for themselves.

Milk Chocolate and Salted Peanut Blondies
I whipped these up on a quiet Sunday afternoon in the middle of a House of Cards marathon. I was craving something sweet, a gooey bite to go with a cup of tea.

My chocolate chip supply was running dangerously low and so I substituted some salted peanuts for part of the chocolate. The result was a blondie that tastes like an elevated O'Henry bar. I haven't eaten a chocolate bar in years but that's what they remind me of: a better version of Halloween candy. Indulgent, sure, but cut them into little squares and you'll be just fine.

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a cup), browned and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (unbleached) flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch round baking dish.

In a large bowl, stir together browned butter and brown sugar. Add egg, vanilla and salt and stir until smooth. Fold in flour. Fold in chocolate and peanuts.

Spoon batter into prepared dish and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and still slightly soft in the middle. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.