Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Date, Cherry, Almond and Chocolate Protein Bites

Have you been to a restaurant or cafe lately and noticed cute little protein bites for sale? They're all the rage these days and I know I am a bit behind the times in posting this recipe. What I have noticed in particular is that the price of these protein bites is ridiculous. I am not claiming to never have purchased said bites. But when I have purchased them I have been immediately embarrassed that I paid THAT much for a tiny bite of dried fruit and nuts, especially since I know full well how easy it is to make these things.

The combination I am sharing with you here is the perfect melange of chewy fruit and crunchy nuts, and of course, chocolate. I even threw in some protein powder to make them a perfect post-workout snack. The best part about this recipe is that you throw everything in the food processor and a few minutes later, they're ready.

At the end of this post, I will also give you some ideas for other combinations. It's really easy to fool around with this recipe and get the exact flavour you are craving. 

Here is the recipe. I made it up so I don't have to give anyone else any credit at all ;-)


1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
3 large dates, pitted
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp chia seeds (you can leave these out if you don't like to pick them out of your teeth after eating)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp unflavoured protein powder (I use vegan protein powder)
1/4 tsp salt


Place the almonds in the food processor and process until it looks almost like almond butter. This will give you a smoother ball.

Ensure there are no pits in the dates by slicing them open with a sharp knife. If you see a pit, remove it. Toss the dates and the rest of the ingredients into the food processor with the almost almond butter. Turn that sucker on and process for a couple of minutes.

Check the mixture. If you can pinch some together in your fingers and it sticks, it's ready.

I use a 1 tbsp measuring spoon to ensure my bites are all the same size.

Roll the measured mixture into a ball in the palm of your hands. 

Keep rolling - my yield is generally 18-20 balls. Today I got 19 (but you don't see the total in this photo because I ate some - quality control!). These are approximately 80 calories each.


My other fave combo is as follows:

3/4 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted dates
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 tbsp protein powder (unflavoured)
1/4 tsp salt

Use the same method to mix it up. These are approximately 85 calories each.

Some other flavor combos you can try:

1. Dates, coconut, matcha, almond butter
2. Natural peanut butter, oats, coconut, ground flax seeds, dried cherries, raw sunflower seeds, honey, chia seeds, vanilla (tastes like pb&j)
3. Almond butter, hemp hearts, coconut, crispy brown rice, spiraling, mama, maple syrup, sea salt
4. Dates, dried apricots, chia seeds, ground flax, raw pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, white chocolate

Enjoy! And be sure to let me know about your favourite combination.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Beet Fritters with Goat Cheese and Arugula

Every now and then my house starts to look more cluttered than usual (I was going to say cluttered, but the King of Soup would have called me out on that since clutter is common over here). For the past few weeks I have been in purge mode:

·      Magazines older than two months?
o   OUT
o   Except for the New Yorkers, of course

·      Summer clothes?
o   Until the 30+ degree weather started and the bin came back out

·      Kids’ schoolwork from 5 years ago?
o   As my Grandmaman used to say

·      That really boring 700+ page book (By Gaslight) that I couldn’t get into?
o   Let someone else be tortured

Yesterday I decided to attack the leaning tower of Food & Drink magazines that have taken up residence in my kitchen. For those of you who don’t live in Ontario, Food & Drink is a magazine published by the LCBO (Ontario Liquor Commission) and it’s packed with great recipes (and lots of information on what to drink with the food you prepare). Conveniently, many of the recipes can be found online now so logically; it shouldn’t be that difficult to get rid of these things. But first, I had to scour each one to ensure I wasn’t missing any potentially life-altering recipes.

One of the recipes I came across was for beet fritters. In the photo they basically look like a bright red latke. I love beets, and I love latkes, so I decided to tear this recipe out before tossing the magazine. It was from the Autumn 2015 edition, in case you’re wondering.

I made them today because I happened to have most of the ingredients on hand: beets, arugula, goat cheese, carrots, and onions – check. Pistachios – no, but let’s use almonds instead. The recipe is easy, and the end result is lovely to look at and even better to eat. The fritters are crispy on the edges, soft in the centres, and the tang of goat cheese adds just the right balance to the sweetness of the beets; a lovely marriage.

Without further delay, here is the recipe (my edits are in brackets).


2 carrots, peeled and grated
3 medium raw beets, peeled and ends trimmed, grated
½ red onion, grated (I used sweet onion instead)
2 large eggs, beaten (always buy organic free range, please and thanks)
¼ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying (I used peanut because we are out of vegetable)
4 cups baby arugula
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp mint, roughly torn (I had no mint so I skipped this)
1 log goat cheese
½ cup pistachios, chopped (I used almonds and I toasted them)
balsamic reduction (I used balsamic vinegar but not too much)


Combine the grated veggies in a bowl and add the flour, salt, pepper and eggs.

Mix it all together until you can't see the flour anymore.

Use your hands to make small patties – I estimate that I used about ¼ cup of the mixture for each patty.

Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Wait until the oil is hot before putting your fritter in to prevent the beets from soaking up the oil. Test the oil by dropping a bit of the beet mix into the pan – if it sizzles, the pan is ready. 

Fry 4 fritters at a time. 3-4 minutes per side, then drain them on a plate with paper towel.

Put the arugula in a large salad bowl and drizzle with the 1 tbsp olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and the mint.

The recommended serving presentation is to stack the fritters, layering with the arugula mix, crumbled goat cheese, and pistachios. I didn’t do this. I just placed two fritters on a plate and tossed the arugula, goat cheese and almonds on top.

Serves 4-6 people depending on whether this is a main or side dish. If you make these bite-sized, you could also serve them as an appetizer.

Baked Polenta Fries

I have this friend at work; let’s call her Lorraine (because that is her name). She introduced me to a restaurant that serves polenta fries. Whenever we go there together, we share an appetizer of four polenta fries and a tiny little bowl of marinara sauce. I could eat all four for my appetizer, and then four more for lunch and forget about everything else on the menu. I like these polenta fries so much that I decided to learn how to make them myself.

Are you afraid of polenta? Do you think it sounds super exotic and imagine it’s full of things of which you are unsure you will like? Take a deep breath while I tell you that polenta is corn. That’s right. Corn. Corn meal to be exact – that’s cooked on a stove in a similar fashion to quinoa, rice, bulgur, etc. You bring liquid to a boil, add the dried corn meal, stir, and then decide how you want to eat it.

Do you want to eat it creamy right off the stove? Perhaps you want your polenta cooled and sliced and served alongside meat with gravy on top? Or maybe you want to try polenta baked in the oven in the form of French fries. I am pretty sure that’s what you want to do. Here is how to do it (it’s SO easy!).


2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 ¼ cups corn meal
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan (I use a mixture of parmesan and pecorino)


Bring the water and milk to a boil in a pot but don’t turn the heat up to maximum (otherwise the milk might burn). 

Measure out your corn meal and salt.

Get your lucky spoon ready to go. Mine was my Great Grandmother Clara's, and was then used for years by my Great Aunt Eileen. I inherited it when she passed away and make sure to use it as much as possible!

Once there is a small rolling boil on the milk/water combo, immediately reduce the heat to low and add the salt. Then slowly pour in the corn meal, stirring constantly.

Most recipes I have read say to keep the mixture on the heat for 10-20 minutes until it thickens. I do not understand how this is possible because my cornmeal thickens instantly and if I keep it on the heat, it bubbles and flies all over the place. So instead, I am going to ask you to turn the heat off, remove the pan from the stove, and stir until smooth (so you can’t see any lumps). Now you have polenta!

Add the butter and stir until it’s melted. 

Then add the cheese and do the same. 

Now add your pepper. Taste it – is it good? Yes? Great. Needs salt or pepper? Add away! Here you could also add your rosemary but sadly for me, I don’t have any on hand today.

Now you’re going to take an 8 x 8 inch square glass casserole and line it with parchment paper. 

Plop the polenta into the prepared pan and use a butter knife or spatula to spread it out until it’s as smooth as you can get it. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Instead of using plastic wrap, try reusable beeswax wrap. You can wash it after use and use it again and again.

Remove from the fridge when set and grasp the parchment to lift the potent out of the pan. Place the polenta onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the square polenta into “fries”. 

I like to keep them very thick so they crisp up on the outside when I bake them, but they stay fluffy inside (I use my two fingers as a guide for ideal width).

Prepare a cookie sheet by spraying cooking spray onto it, or using a brush to spread olive oil onto it. Place the fries on the cookie sheet, leaving space in between each of the fries to ensure maximum crispiness.

Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes then remove the pan from the oven and flip the fries over. 

Put them back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until they are golden brown and crispy around the edges.

Serve with marinara sauce, or pomodoro sauce – some kind of tomato sauce will do the trick (tomato sauce recipe here: 

You can serve them as an appetizer, side dish with salads or a main course like chicken, or you can bring them to a potluck and watch them disappear.

At the potluck we hosted two weeks ago, someone brought fondue and we discovered that polenta fries taste pretty darn good if you dip them into the fondue (but the tomato sauce is better).