Blueberry Crisp

August 9, 2012

Last week my mother brought me a large basket of blueberries she had picked with a friend, and I shared with you a delicious recipe for Blueberry Scottish Oatmeal Pancakes (just be sure not to forget to add the oil and blueberries, like I did this past long weekend when I made some for our friends at their cottage; they did not taste anything like they should have – sorry J & C, but next time I’ll get it right!).

Well, seeing as I had forgotten the blueberries in the fridge at home, once I returned from our friends’ cottage I got to work using up the antioxidant-rich berries. I made two dozen Bananaberry Oatmeal Muffins and a 9 X 13 inch glass casserole dish of Blueberry Crisp. Today I will share with you the recipe for the crisp. My sister-in-law shared an apple crisp recipe with me many years ago and it has by far my favourite oatmeal crumb topping, although I have made some healthy substitutions and modifications to the original recipe. Some of my favourite fruit combinations are apple/pear, strawberry/rhubarb, and blueberry/peach. You can try out any fruit or fruit combination you like, but trust me – the topping from this recipe is a winner.

Filling

6 cups fresh blueberries*

1/4 cup agave nectar (or 1/3 cup granulated sugar)

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp grated lemon zest**

2 tbsp lemon juice**

Topping

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup margarine (I prefer to use Becel’s unsalted margarine)

1/2 cup to 1 cup nut meats (my favourites are pecans or walnuts) – optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all filling ingredients in a 9 X 13 inch glass baking dish.

In a separate bowl, stir together first four ingredients. Add some cinnamon, if you like. Add margarine and work the flour mixture into the margarine until a crumbly consistency is attained. (I use my KitchenAid paddle attachment to accomplish this quite effortlessly, however you can also use your fingers to rub the flour into the margarine.)

Spread the oatmeal crumble over fruit. Sprinkle with nut meats (if using) and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Tastes great with greek yogurt (or vanilla ice cream when you’re looking for more of a treat!) Keeps well in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.

*Note – if using a firmer fruit, such as apples, you will need to cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an addition 10 – 15 minutes.

**Orange zest and juice instead of lemon also taste great with the blueberries.

What’s your favourite fruit in a crisp? What’s your favourite crisp topping recipe?

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My sister-in-law served us this amazing fruit salsa last summer and I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to share it with you. Today, my brother and his wife visited us, and together my sister-in-law and I prepared this healthy and tasty snack/treat. I’m sure it will be a big hit with you and your family and friends, too! Thanks, Stephanie, for this amazing recipe!

What’s your favourite way to enjoy berries?!

Summer Fruit Salsa

Ingredients (we didn’t measure anything, so all measurements are approximate!):

1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries (I used “Europe’s Best” frozen “4-Field Berry Mix”, which is made up of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries)

1/2 peeled and chopped apple (my sister-in-law also uses pears and kiwi, I just didn’t have any on hand today)

2 Tbsp strawberry jam (I used my homemade strawberry jam, the recipe and directions for which I will post very soon!)

2 Tbsp Agave nectar and/or honey and/or maple syrup (adjust according to taste)

 

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until almost smooth. Taste and make any necessary adjustments. Transfer to serving bowl. If you are using fresh berries, refrigerate before serving, as the salsa tastes best cold.

 

Cinnamon & Sugar Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

2 – 4 whole wheat tortilla breads (I used pita bread today, since that’s all I had on hand and they turned out great, too!)

1 – 2 Tbsp melted butter

2 – 4 Tbsp cinnamon and sugar, mixed together

 

Directions:

Brush tortilla breads with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Cut into triangles  (works best using a pizza cutter!) and place onto cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tortilla triangles are crisp, approximately 4 minutes.

 

Mango-Lime Frozen Yogurt

June 28, 2012

One of my favourite ways to “beat the heat” is by enjoying some frozen yogurt. By far my favourite is this Mango-Lime Frozen Yogurt, which I have been making for several years, and always impresses guests despite it being very simple to prepare.

Amazingly, there are only four ingredients, and since I use agave nectar to sweeten it, this delicious treat is also sugar-free (please read a recent post to find out why this is so important)! Although I use an ice cream maker, you can just as easily make this using a blender.

What’s you’re favourite way to “beat the heat”?!

Ingredients:

2 mangos, peeled and chopped

juice of 1 lime

1/4 – 1/2 cup agave nectar (or, you can use 3/4 cup granulated sugar)

1 and 1/2 cups Greek plain yogurt – my favourite is PC’s 0% Greek Plain Yogurt (or, you can use sour cream as per the original recipe, which can be found in “125 Best Ice Cream Recipes” by Marilyn Linton and Tanya Linton)

Directions (if using an ice cream maker):

1. In a food processor or blender, puree mango, lime juice and agave nectar (or sugar) until smooth.

2. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in yogurt (or sour cream). Cover and refrigerate until completely cold or overnight. (When I want to reduce the amount of time it takes to get the mixture “completely cold”, I put it in the freezer for a while, but make sure it doesn’t actually freeze!)

3. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Directions (if NOT using an ice cream maker):

1. Place chopped mangos in an airtight container and freeze.

2. Place frozen mango, lime juice, agave nectar (or sugar), and yogurt (or sour cream) in a blender and process until smooth. You can either enjoy the frozen yogurt immediately, or return the mixture to the airtight container from step 2 and place in freezer for a while until desired consistency is achieved.

I’m curious to know what you think if/when you try this recipe, so please leave me a comment when you get a chance!

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a cold, refreshing beverage. One of my family’s favourite afternoon “snacks” is a Refreshing Fruit Smoothie (though they also make for a great way to start your day!). They are quick and simple to make and are packed with great nutrition because I use plain Greek yogurt and plain kefir as the base of my smoothies. What I add to the base depends on who I am making the smoothie for and what I have in my freezer and in my fruit basket. Mostly, I use ripe bananas (fresh or frozen), frozen berries, a splash or two of orange juice, and a little agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup. However, banana and mango, or banana and pineapple also make super yummy combinations! Feel free to scroll to the very bottom of this post for the recipe, however I would encourage you to continue reading for some (what I feel are important) nutritional information related to this recipe.

Why do I insist on using plain yogurt and plain kefir? Because they are much lower in sugar than their flavoured counterparts. For example, compare PC brand’s 0% Plain Greek Yogurt versus their 0% Vanilla Greek Yogurt: per 3/4 cup, the plain yogurt contains 2 g of sugar while the vanilla yogurt contains 13 g of sugar! I also like that the plain Greek yogurt does not contain any gelatin or other unnecessary, not-so-good-for-you ingredients. In fact, the ingredient listing is simply “Skim Milk, Bacterial Culture”. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other good brands of yogurt out there – I would just encourage you to read the label of your current yogurt to be aware of what’s actually in there. And true, by adding agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup to my smoothies, I’m basically just adding the sugar that has been left out of the yogurt – but at least I can control the amount and type of sugar added.

Aware of the risk of getting too analytical and technical, I would like to briefly explain why the type of sugar is important. It’s because of something called the “glycemic index” (GI). It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy that I even heard of this term, and indeed it is an important tool in managing one’s diabetes. However, I believe that the GI index is an important tool for everyone and this is why I’d like to provide you with a simple definition: “The glycemic index measures how fast and how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with higher index values raise blood sugar more rapidly than foods with lower glycemic index values do.” (Click here for the source and a more detailed definition.)

Our goal should always be to incorporate mainly “low GI” foods into our diet and to keep “high GI” foods to a bare minimum. Examples of “high GI” foods are white bread, white rice, refined breakfast cereals, white potatoes, and candy. Examples of “low GI” foods are large flake oatmeal, bran cereals, whole grain bread, brown rice, legumes, nuts, quinoa, apples, berries, yogurt, and milk. Essentially, you want what you eat to be as un-processed as possible. And when it comes to “sweeteners”, you are better off using agave nectar, honey or maple syrup (in order of lowest to highest on the GI index) in place of the highly processed sugar our current generations are seemingly addicted to.

Here is an excellent link to some more in-depth information about the glycemic index, in case you’re interested!

And finally, here is the recipe for my “Refreshing Fruit Smoothie”!

Ingredients:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I prefer PC brand’s 0%)

1 cup plain Kefir

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 – 2 ripe bananas (fresh or frozen) (Whenever I have too many ripe bananas on hand, I either whip up a batch of my Bran & Flax Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins or peel them and put them into an air-tight container and into the freezer.)

1 and 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries or other preferred fruit

1 – 2 tsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup

<strong>Directions:

1. Add first three ingredients into blender (or beaker if using an immersion blender as I do). This becomes your “base” and you can then add any fruit combination you would like!

2. Add fruit and sweetener. Blend. Add kefir for a thinner smoothie. Add more sweetener for a sweeter smoothie. Add more fruit for a fruitier (?!) smoothie. Serve. Enjoy!

What is your favourite summer beverage?!

Have you ever heard of the glycemic index and do you use it in your daily food-consumption decision making?!