Chasing Tomatoes

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Goodbye, For Now

Over the past week, my family has been struggling with some news and it is with a heavy heart that I'm going to close down Chasing Tomatoes indefinitely. I thought that maybe I could maintain this space but I realized today that I can't be tied to writing when my family needs me now more than ever.

You will still find me on Instagram, Twitter, and my personal Facebook pages.

Thank you so much for all your support, love, and opportunity over the years. I've learned so much and had so many great experiences that I'll never forget.

Much love to you all. xo
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Friday, September 1, 2017

Wheat free Fruit Crumble

fruit crisp

Fruit crumbles are probably one of the easiest desserts you'll ever make, and a fantastic way to use up leftover fruit. What drew me to them initially was that I've never been a fan of pastry, so a traditional pie has never been my thing-not to mention that pastry making was kind of my nemesis for awhile as I learned and practiced how to make it.

Years ago we used to go to a little restaurant that would have all kinds of crumble choices; peach and raspberry, pear and cranberry, apple, and more. Feel free to play around with whatever fillings you want to create with this recipe-it's pretty open to whatever your heart desires! In the pictures I made plain apple and then apple and blueberry, because I had berries to use up but not enough for a solid blueberry on it's own. You can change the amount of sugar in the filling (more if you want, less if you want, none if that's how you roll), and even the thickening agent. Some fruit needs a little help to not become watery, such as frozen blueberries. Some is pretty thick from natural pectin all on it's own.

The amounts for the filling is also open to interpretation. Generally, I fill up my dish nearly to the top before piling the topping over the fruit, making sure to cover every little space. It may look completely overfilled and impossible at the time, but remember that the fruit will cook down. I love to have a good amount of fruit to hold up against the oatmealy topping.

Fruit crumble is fantastic not only as dessert topped with creamy vanilla ice cream, but I am known to eat it for breakfast with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt. Hey, it's fruit and oatmeal, why not?

Yield: a 9x9 inch baking dish (or about 6 servings)

Ingredients:

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup whole barley flour (if gluten free sub the barley and sunflower flours for gluten free flour)
1/4 cup sunflower flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup rolled oats

Filling: 

Blueberry
5-6 cups of fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp barley flour, all purpose flour, or 2 tsp tapioca starch (gluten free)

Apple, peach, or pear

4-6 medium/large apples OR peaches, OR pears (try a combination!), peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp barley flour, all purpose flour, or 2 tsp tapioca starch (gluten free)

Directions: 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Find a 9x9 inch ceramic dish, or you can use two smaller dishes and make 2 different kinds of crumbles if you like.

cutting in

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the oatmeal and then, using your hands, squeeze clumps of the mixture together to make some chunks of topping. You want there to be some so that when it cooks you'll have chunks of filling that become almost cookie-like. Put the bowl in the fridge so that the clumps harden up a little.

topping


3. Next, prep your filling while the topping chills. Toss it all together and fill up your baking dish.

unbaked crisp

4. Pull the chilled topping out of the fridge and pile the oatmeal goodness over the fruit, covering it all to the edges. Place the dish on a pan so that it catches any overflow and  place in the center of your hot oven.

5. Bake the fruit crisp about 50-60 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling and soft. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

blueberry crumble

6. Try not to eat it all one go.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Honey Mustard Harissa Chicken Breasts

finished chicken

I love easy chicken recipes, especially ones that can be made ahead and set aside for later. These chicken breasts are fantastic re-warmed on a hot late summer night, sliced and tossed into a salad, or tucked into a bun for a sandwich. The best part is the topping uses only 3 ingredients, so you can make it when you don't have much else in the house.  I love to have a little extra honey mustard sauce on the side at the table for dipping.

Ingredients: 

2 chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp of good dijon mustard ( you can sub some whole grain mustard if you want)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 - 1/2 tsp harissa, or smoked paprika if you don't want a little heat. No harissa? Try a pinch of cayenne

Directions: 

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a small baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in your dish.

2. In a small bowl, stir together mustard, honey, and harissa. Pour evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

honey mustard chicken

3. Bake the chicken for about 20-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer in the center registers 165 F. make sure to check after about 10 or 15 minutes-if the sauce starts to get a little too browned in the pan, add about a tablespoon of water.Baste it once or twice while it's baking.

4. Once the chicken is cooked through, let cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving. Drizzle the pan juices over top and serve with a little extra honey mustard sauce at the table!


baked chicken
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Spiced Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cups

Last week I was missing in action, mostly the result of some nasty allergy experiences. When I have a bad one it usually sets me back for a few days or up to a week, and instead of playing catch up I decided to let things go. You were fine, right? Of course you were.

Anyway, moving on!

oat cup2

Being diagnosed as allergic to wheat, corn, soy, and rice really limited the snacks I could eat, and sometimes a girl just needs something, you know? Enter these oatmeal cups. Not really a true muffin, they kind of are like a cross between a granola bar and a muffin - a little more toothsome and more texture than a muffin, but not as chewy as a granola bar. I tuck them into my bag for a snack when I need a pick me up, and both my guys kept raiding the freezer and eating my stash as soon as they discovered how good they were. I eat them after the gym, as a grab and go breakfast with some sausage patties, or will likely tuck them into my bag once school starts as a midday pick me up. 

Don't get scared when you make these. They look totally impossible, like there's too much liquid and there's no possible way that they will turn out, but they always do. You can sprinkle the tops with some mini chocolate chips if you like, or leave them plain.

Yield:12-15

Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats-not quick or minute oats  (Only Oats if you are gluten free)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (wheat or corn free if you need)
2 mashed ripe bananas
2 Tbsp light tasting olive oil
1 tsp vanilla (optional: skip if you are corn free)
2 cups of 2% or whole milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Prep your muffin tins with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the rolled oats, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder.

3. In a different bowl or large measuring cup (I like to use a big 4 cup Pyrex one), whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in the mashed banana.

4. Pour the works into the bowl of oatmeal and give it a good stir. It's going to be weird and liquidy.

5. Divide the mixture among the muffins cups. I use my cookie scoop to make it easier, so an ice cream scoop would likely help. The mixture should fill about 15 of them or so. You want to make sure that they have lots of oats along with liquid, because the oats will suck up the liquid and become soft.

unbaked oat cup 2

6. Sprinkle the tops with mini chocolate chips if you like,  and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and set. Let the cups cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pans and cooling completely on a wire rack.

7. Once they are fully cooled, you can freeze them in a sealable freezer bag for about a month and pop into lunch bags or defrost in the microwave as needed.



Oat cups





Adapted slightly from The Merchant Baker
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pan Roasted Root Vegetables

roasted beets

I love to cook ahead. This summer when it was ridiculously hot outside, I tried as much as possible to make things far ahead and then stick them in the fridge to re-heat or eat cold later. These vegetables are not only really good for you, but they are delicious and versatile. You can eat them as a side but one of my favourite things is to toss them in a salad with quinoa or millet and then pile the works on some fresh spinach and arugula mix. Don't worry, that recipe is coming too!

You can play around with this recipe as much as you want, but the method is much the same. Reduce or increase the veggies as much as you want, omit the ones you don't like altogether, it's all up to you. Rosemary can be substituted with thyme, you could try seasoned salt if you wish, or fresh cracked pepper. I find that the beets tend to cook slower than anything else so when you cut them into small wedges or moons, try doing them fairly thin.

If you think your kids will never eat this, I challenge you to get them involved in the prep (except peeling purple beets, maybe-unless you have a hose nearby). In my experience cooking with kids,  they will often say they hate things but when faced with a roasted, slightly caramelized vegetable, they can't resist. It's all in how you cook those vegetables, folks. You will be surprised. Trust me. Get them to help stir the veg in some oil and arrange them on the pan. Be careful, though. Once those kids zero in on a favourite vegetable you may not get to eat any.

Yield: around 10 cups of vegetables

 Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
4 carrots
3-4 parsnips
2 medium purple beets
2 medium golden beats
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

2 springs fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp light olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Toss the Yukon gold potatoes with 2 tsp of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a good pinch of minced rosemary. Spread them on the baking sheet.

root veg pan2

3. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tsp of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a good pinch of minced rosemary. Spread on the baking sheet beside the Yukon golds.

4. Continue with the other veggies in the same manner-tossing with oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and spreading on the sheet. The reason I don't mix them all together is that sometimes the veggies are finished at different times, and this  makes it easier to remove some from the pan early if I need to. Also, because those purple beets will change the color of everything if you toss them all together.

roasted veg pan

5. Bake the veg for about 35-50 minutes, checking frequently, until fork tender and lightly browned. Some may be finished ahead of others, and because you've divided the vegetables into rows it will be easier to scoop say, all the parsnips off the pan and let the beets cook longer.

6. Let the vegetables cool on the stove top before serving, or cool to room temperature before putting in a sealed container in the fridge. The vegetables will keep for about 4 days and you can use them as a side, toss them in salads, etc.



Inspired by Eating Well 


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Tomatillo White Bean Chicken Chili

chicken chili

Chock full of beans, spicy peppers and tender chicken, this chili is something spicy to brighten up your day. I have brought it to work often year round, and every time I heat it up in the microwave, people are inevitably drawn to the staff room by the smell.

“Oh my goodness,” they peer into the bowl and inhale deeply, “What ARE YOU EATING? It smells amazing!” Honestly it really does. I’d daresay I’m addicted to this chili, if I were to be completely truthful. I’ve made it more times last year than any other soup or stew. Besides the fact that it’s delicious, it also packs really well in a lunch box and stands up to the freezer, which is a must in my house.

Tomatillos, which were a mystery to me at the grocery store, can be found in the produce section. In Superstore I found them with their papery husks removed, encased in plastic film on a styrofoam tray. In Save on Foods, they are often in a basket with the paper husks still hiding the green fruit within.

What is a tomatillo, you ask? Check out this great article from What's Cooking America. They look like a green tomato once you peel off the husk, but they are actually related to a gooseberry.

You don’t have to do much with them in this recipe other than wash and the roast the tomatillos and a hot pepper in the oven before chopping and adding to the pot. They add some wonderful flavour and your tomato hating children may let mild (and yet tasty!) tomatillos pass without knowing what they are. Use this to your advantage!

A word about hot peppers while we are here; always start small. I usually use 1/2 of a seeded hot chile, and that’s enough for me. You can use more if you wish, and here is where you may want to experiment a little so that you can judge for yourself and your family how much heat is appropriate. Also, be sure to prick the pepper well with a knife before you roast it; otherwise, the little thing will explode all over your oven and you’ll have nothing left for your chili. Roasting the chile allows flavour without as much bite. If you choose to not roast the chile but instead saute it along with the onions (which I have done before when I forgot the roasting step), be sure to use caution. Not only are those hot pepper juices going to make your dish hotter than if you roasted it, but I’ve had long lasting burning sensations in my fingers just from handling hot peppers for chopping. Not to mention if you forget and rub your lips or eyes-ouch! Gloves would probably be a good idea. I remove the seeds of the chile, and therefore a good deal of the heat, but I’m finding that the chiles I’ve been using still have a good amount of bite even without the seeds.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients: 

1/2 -1 hot chile (I use the mixed hot Gusto ones from Windset Farms)
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
3/4 lb  to 1 lb of fresh tomatillos
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot starch, mixed w/ 2 Tbsp cold chicken broth OR 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
small can of green chiles
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups white beans (cannelli or white kidney beans, or other small white bean)
1 lime

Directions: 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

scored tomatillo

2. Score the bottom of each tomatillo with a knife in an X shape and give the hot pepper a good stab or two. If you don’t do this, they will explode in your oven as they roast.

3. Roast the tomatillos and peppers for about 15-20 minutes until they are softened and browned a little. Once they are cool enough to handle, chop the tomatillos and hot pepper. While you are waiting, chop the stems off the bunch of cilantro and set the leaves aside. Chop up the stems finely.

roasted tomatillo
The roasted tomatillos become all browned and squidgy, just perfect to chop for a chili

4. In a large, deep skillet, saute the chicken thighs over medium heat with a bit of oil until browned on both sides; remove to a plate and set aside. Once they are cool enough to handle, chop into bite sized pieces.

5. Add the onions, sweet red pepper, garlic, hot chile, and cilantro stems to the pan. Stir and cook until softened and fragrant; about 3 – 4 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin, salt, pepper and coriander. Continue to saute about a minute longer.

6. Sprinkle flour (if using. If not, skip this step) over the vegetable mixture and continue to stir and cook another minute or so. Gently add the broth, stirring and loosening up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. If you are using arrowroot starch mixed with a little cold chicken broth as your thickener, add it here. Stir and heat through.The mixture will thicken slightly.

7. Add the beans, roasted tomatillos, roasted hot pepper, canned green chilies, and chicken. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

8. Before serving, zest the lime over the pot before cutting it in half and squeezing in the juice. Chop the cilantro leaves and add to the chili just before serving. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You can top the chili with crushed tortilla chips and/or avocado slices when serving, if you like.

chicken chili 2
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Everyday Allergy Friendly Granola



granola jar
Date and cranberry granola

When I originally wrote about granola here, I claimed that I didn't eat it much because it can be high in fat and sugar. That was true until I learned how to make my own-and wow, was it delicious! I used to eat it often, but when allergies reared their ugly heads, granola was put on the back burner for awhile.

In the last few months, I have figured out how to make granola for myself that is nut, soy, corn, rice, sulphite, and wheat free-which is pretty fantastic. (Note: the 'free-ness' of this granola depends on the products you use. I am okay with things that are labeled "may contain" or produced on the same lines as my allergens, but if you are not you have to do your own research) It has become my go-to breakfast, replacing the peanut butter toast that I ate almost daily for many years. Instead I now shuffle down to the kitchen, put about 1/4 cup of granola in a bowl, add another few tablespoons of puffed quinoa for good measure, top with about 1/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and then a sliced banana or some fresh blueberries.

It's a great way to start the day. You should try it!

This recipe is super easy and pretty forgiving. Don't have hemp hearts? No biggie. Just add more sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Basically I need 1 cup of nutty/seedy things and 1 cup of dried fruit in there, so you can adjust things to your heart's content. The original recipe calls for pecans, but I mixed it up and tried whatever I happened to have on hand. I like hemp hearts (pictured below) because they are nutritious and add some great flavour. Mine are from Bob's Red Mill, and they are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility. 

hemp hearts
Hemp hearts from Bob's Red Mill

Besides breakfast the granola makes a super tasty munchie snack late at night if you toss in some mini chocolate chips, too.

Yield: Approximately 6 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

3 cups rolled ONLY OATS  (this brand is certified gluten free)
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup shelled unsalted sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp hemp hearts
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (sulphite alert: be sure to get one that has NOT been processed with sulphur dioxide)
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (check for sulphites!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp light tasting olive oil
1/2 cup chopped dates (did you know dates are sulphite free?)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins, to be specific, if you want sulphite/nut/gluten free)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 300 F, and line a really large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, sesame seeds, flax, coconut, and brown sugar.

3. In a small sauce pan, warm up the honey, olive oil, salt, ginger, and cinnamon until it's all liquidy and combined.

4. Slowly drizzle the honey/oil mixture over your giant bowl of oats and stuff, mixing as you go. Try not to spill it all over the counter, like I occasionally do.

drizzle
Tip: put a damp washcloth under the bowl while you toss this so that the bowl doesn't move.

5. Once you've tossed the oats and seeds in your honey and oil spice mix, give it a good stir to make sure things are coated and then tip the works out onto your lined sheet pan. Spread it out.

6. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes, taking the pan out EVERY TEN MINUTES to stir it around. Don't forget to do this, or your granola will be half cooked in some spots and burned in others (I've done it. Trust me). The granola is done when it's a deep golden brown. Set the pan on your stove top and let it cool.

granola pan2

7. Stir in dried dates and craisins and toss them around before transferring everything to a big plastic container (or a bunch of Mason jars, if you like them better). The granola should keep for quite awhile, but honestly I eat most of the batch by about 3 weeks or so.

granola pan
I have a hard time not eating it right off the pan when it's warm.
Note: I have not received any compensation or encouragement to mention particular products in this post. I have done so because they work for me and my health needs, and I would like to share the information with others who may have similar challenges.You should always read packages and contact companies if you are unsure that a product is safe for you. DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. Products will differ from country to country (I'm in Canada) and what is safe here may not be where you are. Always read the label.
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