Fun Friday

For all of those people who like to make fun of me for putting soy sauce in my oatmeal. (You know who you are! *points accusing finger*)

The System

The System

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Cranberry Apple Bran Muffins

I felt like baking over the long weekend, so I whipped up some muffins to take for this week’s breakfast. They’re a great way to get some bran into your diet if you’re looking for more fibre.

Cranberry apple bran muffins

Cranberry apple bran muffins

Cranberry apple bran muffins
Adapted from a Kelloggs All-Bran recipe.
Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients
1 cup/250 ml All-Bran Buds or Original cereal
1 cup/250 ml light plain soy milk or skim milk
1 egg
1/4 cup/50 ml vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup/300 ml whole wheat or all-purpose flour
2/3 cup/150 ml granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp/12 ml baking powder
1/4 tsp/1 ml salt
5 ml/1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp/pinch of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup/175 ml chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, or dried cranberries
1/2 cup/125 ml peeled and diced apples

Optional topping:
1 tbsp/15 ml granulated sugar
1/4 tsp/1 ml ground cinnamon

Directions
Mix the cereal and milk together and let it sit for a few minutes until the cereal has absorbed as much liquid as possible. Beat the egg and add it and the oil to the mixture and stir.

In another bowl, take the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix throughly. Add this to the cereal mixture and stir until combined. Add your cranberries and diced apples. (If you use fresh or frozen cranberries, your muffins will be moist. If you use dry cranberries the muffins won’t be dry, but you may want to eat them with a glass of milk to wash everything down.)

Preheat your oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and temporarily set aside.

Grease or line your muffin pans and fill with the batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping if desired.

Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes or until firm.

Dinner Factory, St. Albert

While on the Easter egg hunt from Kerstin’s Chocolates, I ended up buying a meal from a meal assembly store in St. Albert called Dinner Factory.

I didn’t want to buy a whole bunch of meals without having tried any of their food before, so I was happy when they said it would be no problem if I were to just make one dish. All assembly tools (bowls, measuring cups, food processors, etc.) are laid out next to each station, all the ingredients are pre-chopped and laid out, and assembly instructions are provided. Each station = one recipe. Each entrée generally will make 4-6 servings. Menus change monthly.

All-in-all, it probably took me about 20 minutes for a quick tour of the assembly area, the assembly of my meal, and payment.

And what did I pick for my meal? Well I couldn’t pick just any old thing (although quite a few of the menu items sounded interesting).

Slice of Italian meatloaf with alpaca

Slice of Italian meatloaf with alpaca

Yes, that’s right. I bought alpaca. (Specifically, alpaca from Morinville’s Belle Valley Farms.)

The ground alpaca meat was mixed with panko breadcrumbs, onions and milk, and then rolled around a mix of spinach, mozzarella and sundried tomatoes, making a large Italian-style meatloaf.

Italian meatloaf with alpaca (unsliced)

Italian meatloaf with alpaca (unsliced)

The recipe was very tasty and my kitchen filled with wonderful scents as it cooked in the oven. Served with brown rice that came with the meal and a salad, it made for a lovely dinner.

As for the alpaca itself, I found it to be an interesting new experience. If you find bison to be gamey and are looking for a lower calorie, cholesterol and fat alternative to beef, you should definitely think about using alpaca. The meat tasted very close to ground beef, but with a slightly sweeter tang.

Now I just have to clear some freezer space so that I can go back and make more Dinner Factory meals.

Dinner Factory
#111, 1 Hebert Road (just off of St. Albert Road)
St. Albert, AB
www.dinnerfactory.ca

Oatmeal convert

I didn’t mean to double post today but I’m just so surprised at this revelation that I have to share.

For years and years, I’ve always thought the only good oatmeal was the kind that you ate in cookies or bars. Baked with lots of sugar, yum.

I’ve tried eating oatmeal for years (instant, non-instant, with dried fruit, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, with milk, and so on and so on), and every time I would shove it down reluctantly, repeating the mantra – “it’s good for me” until I was finished with the bowl.

Last month Serious Eats posted an article about Mark Bittman’s savoury oatmeal. It’s something I’ve kept in mind since, but since I really don’t like oatmeal I have been reluctant to try it. Well today, I finally did. Holy cow does it taste good with soy sauce! Why didn’t I think of this years earlier! Why didn’t my Chinese parents force feed me this before?!

You can click on the above link for specific instructions but basically you make your oatmeal like you regularly do, then add some light soy sauce and some green onions/scallions for garnish and a bit of crunch. The dish ends up tasting more like a brown rice jook (a.k.a. congee) than any oatmeal I’ve ever had before. (And by the way, I’m actually using a 5-cereal blend that includes oats, but now I think I’ll  a bag of steel-cut oats to my grocery list.)

Doing a quick Google search reveals that there are many other suggestions to make savoury oatmeal interesting. Adding a cooked egg, with the yolk dripping into your oatmeal, adding ginger and/or garlic to the water during the cooking process, using soup stock to cook the grains, making an oatmeal risotto… there are so many possibilities. I feel like yelling “Eureka!” as new world of breakfast has been opened to me. Excuse me, I think I’m going for a second helping.

More milk recalls

So Hong Kong announced that they’ve found melamine in some Pocky and Lotte Koala Biscuits (Koala shaped cookies with chocolate cream inside) too. Is there no Asian snack food that is safe anymore?? (Other than dried squid and preserved plums, I mean.)

I still haven’t thrown out my milk tea yet. Every time I open that cupboard I see the giant bright yellow boxes sitting there. I know they’re mocking me. I know I should throw them out, but deep down I keep waiting (in vain) to hear that the tests were a mistake and that my boxes are perfectly fine. Go ahead, you can mock me too.

Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety – melamine tests

Food recalls

I’m starting to wonder if any processed food is safe.

After the spinach E.coli problems and massive listeria recalls, I now see the China milk and melamine scandal affecting products that I’ve eaten in the past or have at home. Today the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recalled three kinds of Mr. Brown instant coffee that was imported from Taiwan and may contain some of that tainted milk powder. Now I don’t drink coffee, so ordinarily that wouldn’t affect me. But I do drink milk tea, and bought some Mr. Brown instant milk tea while I was in Hong Kong as I had a hard time finding it here. That a Mr. Brown product was being recalled set off all sorts of alarms in my head, and I immediately hopped onto Google. To my dismay, I find that Taiwan recalled all the Mr. Brown coffees AND milk teas, and that Hong Kong is doing testing on the products.

Oh and apparently, White Rabbit candy is tainted too. I don’t have any of that at home, but I brought some to work this past summer. I feel so great knowing that I poisoned my coworkers as well as myself.

Edited to add: The New York Times is reporting that the milk issue was discovered back in December 07, and was hushed because of the Olympics. That means if they had actually owned up to the problems before hand I wouldn’t have bought tainted milk tea (and consumed some during my trip)!