Monday, September 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pals - September


OMG! What a great month of Foodie Pen Pals :) My fabulous pen pal this month was Deborah from Gourmet Mom. Check out her blog it's is great! Deborah and I have been pen pal friends since last May when I sent her a package. This month we were paired together so we each sent a package across the country! I happened to mention that one of my fave childhood treats were Snowballs - marshmallow covered in chocolate covered in coconut....mmmm. And what was one of the first things I saw when I opened her very pretty package? Yes, that's right - Snowballs! I squealed...seriously I did. Heaven.

And then to add to all that happiness, Deborah sent even more great treats.. all of them amazing...but I have to say her homemade cookies blew me away! No flour, refined sugar but full of delicious goodness...pumpkin seeds, raw honey, almond butter, sesame seeds, oats...check out the recipe here.

I brought a curly wurly to work and at least 3 people commented that they used to eat them when they were kids (they used to be called wig wags). My kids loved sharing in the chocolate, cookies and treats. My son absolutely loved the chips and puffs!

Thanks Deborah - you are an amazing pen pal friend!

The Lean Green Bean

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Pen pals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your pen pal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your pen pal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your pen pal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Pen pals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your pen pal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Pen pals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 

You must submit your information by Oct 4th as pairings will be emailed on Oct 5th!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Salted or Dry Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Salted or Dry Brined Turkey -
Perfectly golden skin - my favourite part of the turkey!

I've been using a dry brine on my turkeys for the last three years. There are 2 schools of thought on the salting of a turkey. The first involves salting the bird for three days and then uncovering the turkey for the last 24 hrs to get a beautifully crisp skin when roasted. The other involves a much shorter time frame...just 24 hours but basically the same amount of salt.

I've tried both and I prefer the second method just because of the time factor. Both methods produce amazingly tender and juicy birds. And to be honest, I didn't see or taste a difference in the skin once roasting was complete.
This recipe is adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appetit.


Spiced Salt:

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/3 cup sea salt 
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (I like hot but sweet will work)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder


1 15 pound turkey (neck, heart, and gizzard removed)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile powder, divided
1 large onion, diced
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups  Turkey/Chicken/Vegetable stock


For spiced salt:

Toast cumin in skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Cool and grind finely with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Transfer to bowl. Mix in remaining ingredients. This can be done ahead of time - just store on counter.

For turkey:

A day ahead:

  1. Pull any fat pads and remove any gizzards, kidneys etc from bird cavities  of your turkey. Refrigerate the fat for roasting with the turkey if desired. I don't use the innards but I know lots who do!
  2. Place turkey in roasting bag which you can buy at most grocery stores (you don't have to rinse the bird first - read here); sprinkle inside and out with spiced salt. Close the bag. Place your turkey on a baking sheet and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.

Day of Roasting:

  1. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat your oven to 325°F. 
  2. Combine honey/maple syrup and 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile in small bowl. Set his aside - it will be used to glaze your turkey. 
  3. Now rinse the turkey because you must get rid of the excess salt or your guests will not be happy!
  4. Pat the bird dry with paper towels.
  5. Mix diced onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder in medium bowl. Place half or so inside the main cavity and the rest in the neck cavity. 
  6. Fold the neck skin under and secure with skewer. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Check here for how to truss.
  7. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Spread butter all over turkey (in every little crevice!). Give him a great final massage! Place reserved fat pads in roasting pan; pour in 2 cups stock.
  8. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Baste with pan juices. Continue to roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F to 170°F, basting every 45 minutes, adding water to pan if dry, and tenting turkey loosely with foil if browning too quickly, 3 to 3 1/2 hours longer. 
  9. Brush turkey with your pre-made glaze twice during last 30 minutes. 
  10. Transfer turkey to platter; tent very loosely with foil and let rest 30 to 45 minutes. Reserve roasting pan with juices for gravy, if making (this caramelized onion gravy was part of original recipe - it's great!). 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cauliflower Fried "Rice"

Cauliflower Fried "Rice"

This is one of my favorite all veggie meals and a great way to use up extra cauliflower and veggies. You can add whatever vegetables you have on hand and any of your favorite spices. I also like that it feels more like a meal than just eating plain veggies. I often leave out the eggs but if I want a bit of protein it is a great option. For anyone following a Paleo meal plan or anyone trying to reduce their meat intake, this would be a great meal. It's very filling!


1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 head broccoli
1/2 shredded carrots
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 small zucchini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes
2 eggs (optional), slightly beaten
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce or teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp grated ginger
sesame seeds to garnish


  1. Throw the cauliflower into a food processor and pulse until they are the desired size (think grain of rice). 
  2. Place them in a large bowl. 
  3. Then reuse the processor bowl and do the same thing for the other veggies. 
  4. Heat a large pan over medium heat. 
  5. Add 1 -2 tbsp oil. 
  6. Throw in the veggies.  
  7. Add the ginger, garlic and chili flakes.
  8. Stir fry until cooked - about 7-10 minutes.
  9. Make a well in the centre of the veggies and add the eggs. 
  10. Stir the eggs until slightly scrambled and then mix through the veggies. 
  11. Add the sauce. 
  12. Season with salt and pepper. 
  13. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 
  14. Serve.

Cauliflower fried rice: Within the Kitchen

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Healthy Snacks: Tortilla Chip Review

My kids are heading back to school on Tuesday which means I have to start thinking about lunches and snacks. I want the kids to have healthy meals with the occasional treat but I also need things that are easy to make and not time consuming. As much as I'd like to make everything from scratch - I, like you, don't have time for that (if you do make everything from scratch,  I am in awe of your greatness). 

On weekends I try to make big batches of soups, pasta sauces, frozen casseroles, muffins etc to help us get through the week.When I do buy things for convenience I still look for healthier options. So when i was contacted to try samples of RW Garcia's tortilla chips I jumped at the chance.

According to their website, RW Garcia chips:
  • use only certified non GMO corn
  • use oils that contain no trans fats
  • use organic corn that is certified from seed to milling
  • use spices that are non-irradiated and free of artificial ingredients
  • are wheat and gluten free
The extra seeds add crunch and nutrition.

So off the bat, they have plenty going for them. But it all comes down to taste. Specifically, the taste buds of a 9 yr old and 7 yr old! 

We decided to have a taste-off so we could all have our say about these chips. We tried them with and without dip.

I was sent five bags of tortilla chips:
  • Veggie Dippers
  • 3 Seed Sweet Potato Dippers (flaxseed, black sesame seeds, & chia)
  • 3 Seed English Cheddar Dippers
  • Thai Sweet and Spicy Tortilla chips 
  • Flax Tortilla Chips

Results - rated out of 5 (5 is the best)

7 year old - not a picky eater; likes spice.
Chip Rating  Notes
Veggie Dippers 5 Yum! I like the different colours and shape. 
3 Seed Sweet Potato Dippers (flaxseed, black sesame seeds, & chia) 2 The taste is weird. What's next?
3 Seed English Cheddar Dippers 5 Nice and cheesy! Can I have more?
Thai Sweet and Spicy Tortilla chips  4 Spicy but not too spicy. 
Flax Tortilla Chips 2 Don't want this one in my lunch, Mom.

9 yr old - very picky; hates spice and things out of the ordinary.
Chip Rating  Notes
Veggie Dippers 3.5 Cool colors; is there really spinach in this?
3 Seed Sweet Potato Dippers (flaxseed, black sesame seeds, & chia) 2 I don't like the seeds.
3 Seed English Cheddar Dippers 4 Better than fishy crackers!
Thai Sweet and Spicy Tortilla chips  2 Too spicy.
Flax Tortilla Chips 2 No thanks.

Mom - perfect in every way.
Chip Rating  Notes
Veggie Dippers 4.5 The rectangular shape makes it great for dipping and adds interest to a buffet/table presentation. Love the flavour - not salty, great crunch.
3 Seed Sweet Potato Dippers (flaxseed, black sesame seeds, & chia) 3 A bit too bitter tasting for me.
3 Seed English Cheddar Dippers 4.5 Great cheese flavour. Good alone or with a dip.
Thai Sweet and Spicy Tortilla chips  3.5 Nice flavour but not my fave.
Flax Tortilla Chips 4 Crunchy, not too salty, definitely no sweetness, more texture than regular tortilla chips.

I also loved that the chips were all strong enough to stand up to the dip! I hate wimpy chips! The Dippers are cut in rectangles which is great for dipping. The only problem is that quite a few were broken when we opened the bags - though this is a problem with pretty much any chip on the grocery shelf. 

I will be adding the Veggie and Cheddar dippers to my grocery list. I really like the fact that I can read the ingredients and understand all of the words!! 

Ingredients of Veggie Dippers: Stone ground white corn, sunflower oil or corn oil, brown flaxseed, black sesame seeds, chia seeds, tomato powder, garlic powder, onion powder, carrot powder, spinach powder, red beet powder, parsley flakes, sea salt, water, trace of lime.

See what I mean - no chemically preservatives or scary colourings!

I made a pesto hummus (4 stars from 7 yr old; 2.5 from 9 yr old). Along with the tortilla chips, this or something like it will be going into their lunch bags so they will have the energy to get through their days without any sugar crashes that would have happened if I gave them the processed sweets they sometimes ask for! 

I'll also be adding these chips to my lunch bag - why should all the good stuff be only for the kids ;)

Note: I received samples of these products but comments and opinions are my own.