Category: apples

Dill-icious (Quick & Healthy Crispbreads)

Ahhh… the holidays. Between shopping, wrapping, cooking, planning, organising, cleaning, shovelling, discovering that you’ve got a big hole in the toe of your boot only after you step into a puddle of slush… sometimes it begins to feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day. Many people also tend to pack on the pounds at this time of year, going from one gathering to the next, stuffing their faces with greasy fried appetizers and pounding back the cocktails. If you’re nodding your head at these statements, beware: the combination of stress and bad eating is sure to leave you feeling bloated, nauseated, and all-around sluggish.
Stop! Breathe. Relax. Enter simplicity. Allow me to make your entertaining a little easier and a little healthier this year, with a few ideas for homemade, nutritious hors d’oeuvres that’ll wow your guests, and please everyone – from the foodies to the health-conscious.
Instructions: Start with a box of Kavli Crispy Thin, FinnCrisp Rye Crisps (or any other crispbread that you like), top with spread of choice, and finish with a sprinkle of spice & a chopped herb. Pictured above: Dill, greek yogourt & cumin crisps. Super easy, super healthy, super fast.
Why crispbread? 
Ordinary store-bought crackers are often loaded with fats, oils and contain sodium levels that are off the charts. Don’t even be fooled by the ‘multi-grain’ variety! Multi-grain often only means that they’ve taken your ordinary white-flour cracker and thrown in a few flax and sesame seeds – these additions do nothing to lower the high fat, salt or carb content, and the majority of the calories are coming from refined white flour. Now, I won’t deny how delicious a Ritz cracker is, but that’s the danger: at nearly 1g of fat EACH, a handful of these crackers contains the same amount of fat as an entire chocolate bar, and will fill you with over 200 calories – yet they will not leave you feeling full in the least.
And then there’s crispbread: these thin topable delights generally have just a few simple ingredients and contain nothing artificial. They’re often made from rye flour, which is much easier to digest than wheat and significantly more nutritious. 6 Kavli crispy thins offer up 4g of dietry fibre (to keep you feeling fuller longer), contain zero grams of fat, and have only 100 calories all together. Top them with a spoonful of non-fat greek yogourt (loaded with protein), a sprinkle of cumin and some chopped fresh dill, and you’ve got yourself a pretty, easy, and nutritious hors d’oeuvre. These also make an excellent light lunch or dinner, or a healthy midnight snack.
Other topping ideas
  • Start by spreading one tbsp of greek yogourt on your crackers, and top with any of the following combinations of veggies, fruit & herbs…
    • shredded beets & sea salt
    • black beans & cilantro
    • corn kernels, chopped tomato & cilantro
    • sliced olives & oregano
    • cucumber slices & dill
    • apple slices, cinnamon & nutmeg
    • lemon zest & honey
    • shredded carrot, ginger & cinnamon
    • slivered almonds & agave nectar

A Nutty November

Look out, boy – I am currently infatuated with another. 

Though I hate to admit it, I accidentally fell in love… While I long believed that I hated the nut, our paths crossed one faithful night. It was tough at first to crack him, but once he came out of his shell,  I felt completely satisfied. He was more tender than I had imagined, and though at first a little bitter, he became surprisingly sweet in the end. Lately, I’ve been going to him for a late afternoon pick-me-up…


O, Walnut, how I lust for thee…

My mother used to keep walnuts in our pantry. I’ll never forget them – I don’t know what on earth she used them for, but they were there for as long as I can remember – chopped up and stored in a recycled glass jar that was in the shape of a teddy bear. One day – most likely out of rainy afternoon boredom – I decided to grab a handful out of the jar to eat as a snack. Now, perhaps they had gone rancid, perhaps they were simply stale, or perhaps my palette had not yet fully developed… but all that I can recollect is a vivid memory of my immediate heaving and spitting straight into the garbage pail.

For years afterward, this popular nut remained banished from all that I cooked, baked, and consumed.

Recently, I visited a small Italian resto on St. Denis. I was deep into conversation when the waiter showed up to take our orders. As per usual, I hadn’t yet taken a long enough glance at the menu to know what I wanted – feeling pressured as everyone sounded off their choices, I ran a split-second menu scan, spotted the words “cream,” “mushrooms,” and “pasta.”
Done and done.

Half a litre of wine later, a horrifying plate was placed in front of me:  I received a dish of pasta covered in… you guessed it… walnuts. Now, I do not like handing anything back at restaurants – if you’ve seen the movie Waiting, you’ll understand why. Moreover, I was not going to let my (relatively new) friends think that I, Allison the Foodie, was a picky eater. So – I dug right in, fully ready to paste on a fake smile (all while I prepared a napkin in my lap, for secretive spitting purposes…)

And that’s when it happened. That was the turning point.
I. Like. Walnuts.

Later that week, I attempted to replicate the mushroom walnut cream sauce (which I did, fabulously, by the way), and served it over a spinach and mushroom tart. Sorry to break your hearts, but you won’t be getting the recipe for that today. You can blame the boy, and I guess you can also blame it partially on myself – we polished that sucker off before I could even fathom taking a second photograph. (Or writing down what the recipe.) Oops.

Instead – I bring you something tantalizing – an autumn twist on a year-round staple. You may have been searching for a superior banana bread recipe for years, and just haven’t found one. Or, perhaps you already have your own recipe for banana bread, and you’re wondering why you should switch away from your tried-and-true.  Here are a few reasons why this bread is awesome: three huge bananas, whipped butter, cinnamon and vanilla. And now, here are a few reasons for the health conscious people: fibre(fruits, nuts), protein(nuts), vitamins(fruits), and a ton of added fat-free moisture – in the form of diced apples.

Yeah. That’s right. I put diced apples in my banana bread.
Do it. I dare you. You won’t regret it.

Banana Apple and Walnut Bread
 an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
•    1 cup sugar (½ cup more if a sweeter cake is desired)
•    ½ cup + 2 tbsp softened butter
•    3 mashed bananas (about 1 cup)
•    2 tbsp cinnamon
•    2 tbsp lemon juice
•    2 tbsp vanilla
•    3 eggs
•    2 cups flour
•    1 tsp baking powder
•    1/2 cup walnuts
•    1 tbsp brown sugar
•    3 medium sized apples, peeled and diced

how to do it: bread
•    Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 10” angel food cake (or bundt cake) pan.
•    Mix sugar and butter together in a medium mixing bowl until completely blended. Add banana, vanilla, 1 tbsp lemon juice and eggs, mixing well.
•    Add flour, baking soda and 1 tbsp cinnamon, mixing just until moist.
•    Coat apples with the rest of the lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon
•    Stir in nuts and apple mixture.
•    Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake 50 minutes to 1h.

how to do it: muffins

•    Divide mixture among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

One Minute Powerhouse

Although I’m mid-rushing-around-getting-ready to go out, I just HAD to come on here and tell the world about my fabulous concoction. Want a nutritional powerhouse breakfast that you can whip up in under a minute, no fancy tools required? Or how about an afternoon snack that’ll kick plain old yogurt to the curb? Well, here it is, readers of the interweb!

Apple Cinnamon Yogurt

1 cup plain yogurt (I prefer the unsweetened kind)
1 tbsp honey (or more to taste)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 apple, sliced

Just mix it all up and enjoy!

Pomme Cannelle

The arrival of autumn comes hand in hand with the comforting aroma of cinnamon in my kitchen. Handfuls of freshly-picked apples are constantly baking in some form in my oven. My apples have taken many forms this season: apple pies, apple crisps, apple sauce, failed-apple-crumble-turned-discovery-of-gigantic-apple-cookie, and, my absolute favorite, apple cake. Other than it’s perfectly balanced taste, something else makes this cake my favorite: it’s simple. Now, I’m not a shortcut kind of girl. You’ll never see me with a cake (or heaven forbid muffin) mix in hand. Not that I’m a food snob, I just truly enjoy the satisfaction of making something entirely from scratch. That being said, I do enjoy a recipe that allows me to whip up something fabulous in a snap, then leaves me with very little to clean afterward. The toughest job here? Peeling the apples. Plus, I usually coax someone else into doing that part anyhow.

Two-Bowl Apple Cake
adapted from Second Helpings, Please! By Norene Gilletz.

what you’ll need 
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
• 5 apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
• a few tbsp cinnamon
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• dash lemon juice
• dash vanilla


how to do it (long version with all the details)
First, peel your apples. Slice them thinly, so that you have half-moon shapes. Now, halve your half-moons. See the photo above for what your apples should look like. Don’t worry about making them perfect, you won’t see them once they’re in the cake! Coat them immediately with lemon juice (orange or apple juice works just as well, but the acidity in the lemon keeps them from browning!), brown sugar and cinnamon. I’ll leave the amount of cinnamon that you use up to you. I just throw a few dashes in, about 3 tbsp. You can put more or less, depending on your taste. Now, wet your hands. Mix it all together, turning the apples well into the sugary cinnamon mixture. Make sure they’re all coated. Sometimes, I’ll add a dash of vanilla here, or, if I’m feeling nutty, a dash of amaretto. Now, put the mixture aside. (Put the bottle of amaretto aside too.)

In another bowl, combine eggs, sugar and another dash of vanilla. Beat with a fork just until blended. Pour the oil in. (Now, this part might be tricky if you haven’t blended oil much before – using your fork, beat the oil, like you’d beat an egg, spinning around the bowl. Start from the outer edges, and work your way into the middle. Beat vigorously, as you want to make sure that the oil doesn’t separate from the rest.) Once this is all done, add your flour and baking powder. Yes, into the same bowl. Mix it all together, again, folding the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Once it’s blended, you’ve got your batter ready. Told you it was easy.

Now, time for the apples and batter to mate and make a beautiful cake baby. Preheat your oven to 350F. Spread half of the batter into the bottom of a 9×9” cake pan. I lined mine with parchment paper, but if you don’t have any on hand, grease the pan with spray or a very light coating of oil. Spread the apples over the top of this. Now, spread the rest of the batter on top. A tip – wet your hands and spread it by hand. Wet hands won’t stick to the batter, and it should spread perfectly. Don’t worry if an apple or two are peeking out. Your baby is ready for the oven.

Bake it for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden and your entire kitchen smells like heaven.