Holiday Treats Roundup, 2013

December 12, 2013 — 2 Comments


holiday treat recipes2013

Every Christmas season my waisteline makes a mad dash for Santa-like proportions, and it’s the time of year where it’s okay to splurge every now and then to enjoy the goodies that we havent had a chance to enjoy since last christmas Thanksgiving. January is for painfully long gym sessions anyways.
Just when I thought I was done with list posts I realized that Pintrest has gone mad for last year’s Holiday Treat Roundup (go figure that my adventures in Quinoa are largely ignored). In honour of the holidays and in the spirit of giving people what they want – I’ve updated my Holiday Treats Roundup to include my favourite recipes for Christmas 2013.  And, before diving into these goodies why not check out these fun tips about spending less on your christmas baking.

Recipes: From Top Left, Clockwise

Reindeer Christmas cupcakes by Mari Williams at the BBC
Peppermint Chocolate Roll from Naomi over at Bakers Royale
Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps from Martha Stewart
Christmas Cake Pops from Jayne Cross
Chocolate-Fig Palmiers from Rhianna over at Cream and Sugar
Strawberry Santas (center) from Jeanette’s Healthy Living

flourless oatmeal banana cookies

There’s something great about not having to pull out that huge tin of white flour when baking so I thought I’d try out another flourless cookie alternative this week. This one is less…controversial than my chickpea cookies so they appeal to a broader audience, but they’re still relatively healthy.

These cookies don’t have any flour in them and that gives them a dense chewy texture that makes they more like a breakfast bar* that your standard oatmeal cookie, but they’re still sweet and chewy enough to fill your craving for a cookie.

Basically these cookies are just oatmeal bound together with a mashed banana, and some peanut butter, which I just added to make things stick. The end result a fiber dense treat that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth.

*Note to self: have these for breakfast. 

Flourless Oatmeal Banana Cookie Recipe

Flourless Oatmeal Banana Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ⅛ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mash banana with a fork until it’s a sweet gooey paste.
  2. Add rolled oats, egg, peanut butter, and flax seeds and mix until it forms a soft dough.
  3. Mix in chocolate chips and spoon onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes.

chickpea chocolate chip cookie

These don’t have most of the ingredients that you’d expect from a cookie. No white sugar, no flour, no egg, or oil. But they’re delicious, despite being comprised mostly of… chickpeas.

I know it sounds disgusting, but I tried them myself and was pleasantly surprised by the taste. I knew I needed to get some honest feedback on these so after making a batch I left them out on the counter and went to the gym. While I was out Daniel ate a few and said they were pretty good. He rated them a 7 out of 10, saying that he would have rated them higher, but he expected a trap of some sort. When I quizzed him about the secret ingredient he thought I had thrown in some flax seed (which I do to regular peanut butter cookies).

The Cookie

Credit where credit is due. While I got this particular recipe from a co-worker I’ve seen these floating around on Pinterest for a while now and Texaneran makes claim to the ‘original chickpea chocolate chip cookie’ recipe.  This was my first real attempt at gluten-free cookies and it turned out surprisingly well because the recipe really couldn’t get any easier. None of those expensive gluten-free flour mixes – just a a can of chickpeas, honey, peanut butter, and some chocolate chips.

These cookies dance a fine line between hummus and peanut butter cookies, and the result is a spongy cookie full of peanutbuttery chocolaty goodness. And they’re actually pretty good for you so they’re a great way to satisfy a craving for sweets. What do you think? Will you give it a shot?

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

1 cup canned chickpeas (rinse thoroughly and drain)
1/2 cup peanut or other seed butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/3 c. dark chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Add all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips to a food blender. Blend until the mixture comes to a smooth hummus-like consistency.
3.  Add chocolate chips and incorporate them evenly.
4. Spoon dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 13 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool.

How did this happen?! How does it work?!

shaytardsBefore my friend Miranda could even finish telling me about DietBet I had already signed up, paid my dues and was psyching myself up for weigh-in morning.

Her and I have done countless weight loss challenges over the years, and Dietbet is the new-fangled way to put your money where you mouth it. You pay to join a pool of people who are all working towards the same goal. If you meet the goal by the end of the challenge you split the pool with the other winners. If you don’t meet your goal you get zilch and you lose the money you initially put in.

Terms of the DietBet

I joined the “ShayLoss Shaytober DietBet” team because Mir is a lifelong fan of the SHAYTARDS and at $30.00 the stakes are high enough that I’d like my money back, but not so high as to be devastating if I lose (which I won’t).

The terms of the bet are that you need to lose 4% of your body weight in October. You put in $30.00, and submit a dated ‘before’ shot of yourself standing on the scale to the moderators. At the end of the 30 days you submit a photo of your weight and an ‘after’ shot to the moderators. If you meet the 4% goal you split the pot with the other of the winners. Did I mention that the SHAYTARDS have a huge fan base? There are 2,339 players and $70,200 in the pot. While I want everyone else to succeed I also want a cut of that sweet sweet dough.

The Bet so far

As of today there are 12 days left in the challenge and I’m 48% of the way there. It could be better, but with Halloween candy being a constant menace that number could be far worse. I’m fully motivated to buckle down and finish off the next few weeks a little stronger than the firs two. could also be far worse. I’m fully motivated to finish this thing. After all somebody has to pay Pearl.

DietBet Caveat

I think that DietBet has the potential to be unhealthy if the stakes are too high. I know there would be some people out there starving and throwing up to make $150 bucks back, but  I think that a smaller amount like $30 dollars is enough to keep you interested without causing any negative behaviour. I don’t know if they do or not, but I hope they cap the amount you can wager at the beginning of each bet.

What do you think? Have you tried DietBet with any succcess? Is it a good idea?

Ever since I took the plunge and tried beet hummus I’ve been hummus-crazy. Not only is it a tasty snack – it’s healthy, full of protein, and easy to make.
It’s so easy to make, in fact, that it’s one of those things I won’t buy from the grocery store anymore. It’s cheaper, it tastes so much better and has no preservatives or other questionable ingredients.
More importantly this hummus recipe lets me put my magic bullet to use and it all comes together in just a few minutes. If you want to see the pro’s do it go check out Joanne‘s blog, but anyone can make delicious hummus. I pop a can of chickpeas, a couple cloves of garlic, a lemon, and some tahini into my magic bullet and have fresh hummus in moments.
Easy Hummus
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 16oz can chickpeas
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (add or subtract based on garlic preference
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • olives, parsley (optional garnish)
  1. Rinse the canned chickpeas thoroughly under cold running water
  2. Add all the ingredients except the water to your blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Based on desired consistency add up to 3 tbsp of water and blend.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, and a few olives or chopped parsley for garnish.

Want to take it to the next level?

While I prefer the convenience of a good quality canned chickpea you can take your hummus to the next level by rehydrating your own chickpeas. This bypasses the BPA and sodium problems persistent with canned goods, and it results in a smoother creamier hummus because the dried chickpeas likely won’t have skins. You can rehydrate chickpeas by allowing them to soak overnight completely covered in water. Discard the water and boil in fresh water for an additional 50 minutes to get the soft texture of canned chickpeas.

After weeks of deliberation I’m so happy to welcome the Arc Base dining table from West Elm. I’ve been wanting to replace my monolithic rectangle table from Ikea and I finally took the plunge and bought little puppy as soon as it went on sale. I’m still using my old West Elm Klismos chairs, but I’m hoping to replace them never when funds become available.

west elm klismos dining chair

the Arc Base dining table from West Elm

Overall I’m happy with my new purchase.Things always look differently in the store (or online) than they do when they’ve arrived in your home, but the Arc Base is an attractive table,and is the perfect size for my dining room. I live in a small space so I was looking for something big enough to seat friends at dinner, but not so big as to overpower the space.

The key to finding a table, especially for a small space is to pay special attention to dimensions – both the surface width and also the height. I find that in general a round table is best in a small space, but a smaller rectangle can be equally effective – visually separating the ‘dining room’ from the ‘living room’ in an open concept space. Here are a few of my favorite condo appropriate dining tables:

Condo Sized Dining Tables


Condo Friendly Dining Tables for Small Spaces

1. The Arc Base Pedestal Table. Sculptural and dart, this table is classic and can comfortably seat 4 people. From WestElm for about $400
2. Pocket White Extension Table. Engineered wood top in glossy white lacquer seats four, and expands to seat 6 when you have company. From CB2 for about $600
3. Pink & Brown Saarinen Tulip Dining Table. The white base with the grey-veined marble top is classic and no one hates this thing. The table above is a Saarinen inspired table used by Yanic Simard in his own small condo space. From The Modern Shop for about $1800
4. Blox Dining Table. This one is a little larger than the others, but it’s stunning and well worth it if you have a little more space up for grabs. From CB2 for about $600.

This time of year we’re literally surrounded by Pumpkin and whether you process your own pumpkins puree or you buy it straight off the shelf you’re bound to have some in your kitchen. Why not grab yourself a nice hot pumpkin spice latte and get to work making one of these delicious treats? The Best Pumpkin Recipes for the Holiday Season!

Pumpkin Recipes for the fall

Photo sources and recipes, clockwise:

Mini Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes via Lacy & Nathan at WannaBite
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Caramel Swirl via Alexandra Rowley at Delish
Pumpkin Crisp via Sweet Anna’s Tasy Kitchen
Pumpkin Squares as seen in FamilyFun Magazine via Spoonful
Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes via Making the World Cuter
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping by Stephanie Foley via Delish

Butternut Squash Baked Pasta

October 11, 2013 — 1 Comment
This baked pasta is creamy, sweet, and cheesy and it really hits the spot on a cool fall evening. I was a little dubious about this recipe because I’ve had questionable results with Butternut Squash in the past, but it turned out to be a pretty big hit at my house.
This recipe is only slightly altered from Gina’s Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls because I’ve never had the patience for lasagna layering, and I wanted this to be gluten free and as quick to prepare as possible.
Fair warning – I made this on a weeknight because I was feeling ambitious, but this might be best suited for a weekend. There are several steps and while it’s not incredibly time consuming it does generate a lot of dishes for a Monday night. Still – totally worth the effort.
butternut squash pasta
Butternut Squash Baked Pasta
Butternut Parmesan Sauce:
  • 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 package of gluten free noodles. I used Tinkyada’s brown rice spirals.
  • 1 bunch of spinach, chopped
  • 300 g ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper
  • Shredded Italian Blend Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
Butter Nut Squash Sauce
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add butternut squash and cook until soft. Strain, reserving 1 cup of the water and set aside.
  2. Mash butternut squash until smooth and add half of the reserved liquid to thin it out.
  3. While this is happening warm the olive oil in a pan and soften the onion and garlic – this should take 4 or 5 minutes on medium low.
  4. Add the squash to the softened onion and garlic, add some of your reserved water to thin it out to the desired thickness and remove from heat.
  1. I used the same pot to prepare the pasta per the package directions – reducing cooking time by a quarter because the pasta will continue cooking in the oven.
Cheese mixture
  1. Combine the Spinach, Ricotta and egg.
  2. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  1. Spread a thin layer of butternut squash sauce across the bottom of your dish.
  2. Follow this with a layer of pasta and finally a layer of the cheese.
  3. Repeat until you dish is full or you’ve used up your ingredients and top with some shredded Italian cheese.
  4. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until cheese is melted.
  5. Serve with Salad and GF Garlic Bread, or all on it’s own.


dandelion root tea

Jillian Michael’s Detox Tea

After a long weekend visiting family (ie: eating copious amount of pie, cookies, and other treats) I got back home feeling lethargic and bloated. And what better time than to try out a detox tea recipe that I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for a while?Water, Lemon Juice, Cranberry Juice, and Dandelion tea steep to form a bitter concoction that’s meant to help you body detoxify and reduce bloat. According to Jillian Michael’s herself this detox tea will help you shed 5 pounds of unnecessary water weight if you consume a pitcher a day for 7 days.

The jury is out on the weight loss, but regardless this is a great way to improve hydration, cleanse the liver, and reduce uncomfortable bloating. Aside from having to stop by a health food store for the dandelion tea and the pure cranberry juice this stuff couldn’t be easier to make, and the insanely bitter taste does seem to curb my appetite for sweets a little.

One thing I’d strongly recommend is to brew the dandelion tea separately and add it to the mixture. I find that if you leave the teabag in overnight it’ll have an incredibly unpleasant aftertaste.

Jillian Michaels Dandelion Detox Tea
Serving Size: Makes 61 oz of water for one person
  • 60 oz distilled water
  • 1 Tbsp. 100% pure cranberry juice (no sugar added, non-cocktail)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 dandelion root tea bag
  1. Steep dandelion tea in hot water
  2. Combine water and juices in a pitcher and add tea.
  3. Drink the tea throughout the day. Consuming one pitcher a day for 7 days.

beet hummus

I know I know – You’re either beet people or you’re not. Whenever I think of beets I have nightmarish flashbacks to my childhood when my mother tried to make me eat a) beets and b) turnips. I’ll never get behind the yellowy beige mush of the turnip, but every now and then I’ll try out a recipe with beets because despite tasting like soil they’re incredibly healthy.

My co-worker brought this recipe to work telling me that it was a great even for the non-beet lover. I can vouch for the non-beet people that I’ve tried it. I like it, but fair warning – if you eat too much it will exit your life the same colour that it entered it.

Beet Hummus
beautiful fuschia coloured hummus. Serve with vegetable sticks, crackers or baguette.
  • 3 medium beets
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 19-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Clean beets and trim off stalk.
  2. Boil in large pot of water for 45 minutes, until tender.
  3. Allow to cool and then rub skins off with a paper towel.
  4. In processor add garlic, beets, drained chickpeas and remainder of ingredients.
  5. Process until smooth, scraping down sides occasionally.
  6. Check seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed.
  7. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to one week.

no cook oats

When it comes to breakfast the quicker the better. My usual go-to meal is some scrambled eggs, or a green smoothie, but when I know I won’t have any time in the morning I make oatmeal the night before. It all comes together pretty quickly and it’s easily customizable based on whatever berried you have on hand. It’s been a hit at my house, and I hope you’ll try it!

Overnight Oatmeal
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • ¼ cu
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 mason jar
  1. Couldn’t be easier! Add all of the ingredients to the jar, shake, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Use whatever berries you have on hand and add nuts or shaved coconut.
  3. Serve chilled.


Well call me nana, but I think it’s time for another trip down memory lane. Last summer I went on an amazing working vacation in France and my colleagues and I spent a lot of time in Paris’ orderly but bustling subway system.

We were surprised to find that somewhere in the depths of the Parisian metro system lurks an homage to one of american television’s best characters of all time….

This is the billboard for a French play called “Comment L’esprit Vient Aux Femmes” –  see that balding guy with the dollar bill behind him? Striking resemblance to George Costanza, no? Or at the very least to his Spanish brother Jorge.

I’ve been searching everywhere for a playbill from this – I think it would look great framed in my den, right?

jason alexander

looks like george costanza

to drive my comparison home…