Kefir Chia Pudding

Lizzie Homemaker kefir chia pudding blueberries kiwiberry easy healthy breakfast teacup
Kefir chia pudding garnished with blueberries and homemade kiwiberry jam.

This easy breakfast is a nutritional powerhouse.  It’s also a great weekday make-ahead option which can be portioned out over a couple days.

Kefir is a fermented milk that’s kind of like an unsweetened yogurt drink.  It’s thinner that yogurt and thicker than milk.  It’s made with milk, bacterial cultures, kefir grains and kefir yeast.  It contains more probiotics that yogurt and has a broader range of nutrients.  It’s great for your digestive health and your immune system.

Chia seeds are full of essential fatty-acids, fibre, omegas, anti-oxidants, protein, and vitamins and minerals including calcium and iron, which support good heart, brain and bone health.  They stabilize blood sugar and fight belly fat and inflammation.

If you like yogurt you should give this recipe a try.  I love it and so do the kids!

Kefir Chia Pudding

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe can be made advance and eaten over a couple of days.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of kefir
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste – you can add more if you like it sweeter)

optional:

  • toppings of your choice such as fresh fruit, chia jam, dried fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, coconut flakes

Directions

  1. Whisk together kefir and chia seeds.
  2. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, add salt, vanilla and maple syrup and whisk again.
  3. Refrigerate for an hour or more so the chia seeds plump up.  I often prepare it the night before.
  4. Serve with toppings of your choice.

 

The pudding can end up a little too thick or thin if you don’t measure properly.  To correct this simply add a little more kefir to thin it out or a scant amount of chia seeds to thicken.

A Simple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A bowl of butternut squash soup
This butternut squash soup is delicious, easy to make and incredibly healthy.

I love soups.  They can be made ahead, doubled and frozen.  They work well for lunches and dinners and can be paired with a variety of breads and salads to fill out a meal.  More than that, soups are pure comfort food and incredibly good for you!  This recipe is simple to make and it remains one of my kids’ favourites.

Simple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is packed with vegetables and full of flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • rosemary, sage or thyme (1 tsp dried or a couple sprigs of fresh, stems removed)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (for vegetarian option)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut squash in half, remove seeds, place on baking sheet.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary or thyme and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool, then peel and chop.
  3. Add a little olive oil to a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, add onion, carrot and celery, cook for 5-10 minutes over medium-low heat.
  4. Add diced butternut squash and stock, bring to a boil then lower heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool slightly then transfer to a blender and puree.  Blend in Greek yogurt for a little tang and creaminess if you wish.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian, vegan or dairy-free.  For vegetarian and vegan options use vegetable stock.  For vegan and dairy-free options omit the yogurt.

 

Spinach, Tomato and Feta Frittata

Lizzie Homemaker Spinach Tomato Feta Breakfast Frittata
I often make this frittata on the weekend. It’s so healthy and easy to put together.

This is my go-to frittata.  It’s easy, packed with healthy veg and protein, and I love that I can clean up my prep mess and set the table in the time in takes for the frittata to bake.

Spinach, Tomato and Feta Frittata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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This frittata can also be enjoyed as a light lunch or dinner when paired with a salad.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsps of olive oil or a generous spoonful of garlic confit
  • 142g/5oz baby spinach (or go spinach heavy like I usually do and use 312g/11oz)
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill and/or a couple sliced green onions
  • 1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed
  • 8 eggs, whisked
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Heat olive oil or garlic confit over medium heat in cast iron or non-stick pan.
  3. Add handfuls of spinach and toss as it wilts.  Continue adding and tossing spinach until the entire package has been added.
  4. Add herbs and/or green onions and toss.
  5. Pour eggs over spinach then top with the tomatoes, feta, fresh cracked pepper and chili flakes (if using), making sure to distribute evenly.
  6. Transfer frittata to oven and bake for 20 minutes.

 

To release the frittata run a spatula or knife around the edge of the pan.  You can cut it into wedges in the pan and serve it family style (with one less dish to clean).  Or transfer the frittata to a plate or cutting board and cut it into wedges for a nicer presentation.

I love eating this frittata with chipotle hot sauce or a hot pepper relish.

Chia Pudding

Lizzie Homemaker healthy breakfast chia pudding with cherry chia jam
Chia pudding topped with cherry chia jam, buckwheat groats, cacao nibs and coconut flakes.

Chia pudding has to be the easiest make-ahead breakfast and it’s incredibly versatile.

It’s also very healthy as chia seeds pack a big punch.  These little gems are full of essential fatty-acids, fibre, omegas, anti-oxidants, protein, and vitamins and minerals which support good heart, brain and bone health.  They also stabilize blood sugar and fight belly fat and inflammation.  It’s no wonder this superfood is becoming so popular.

If you find it hard to manage breakfast before work, chia pudding is a great option to have ready to simply grab and go.  My husband often rushes off to work in the morning and loves to bring this to eat at his desk.

At home I take the time to turn my chia pudding into a pretty breakfast bowl with an assortment of fresh fruits or chia jam and sprinklings.  It’s a lovely way to start my day.

The most basic version is simply 1 cup of milk to 1/4 cup chia seeds.  For vegan options you can use nut milks such as almond or cashew, or soy milk if you wish to go nut-free.

Give the mixture a stir after 15 minutes or so, otherwise the chia can clump together which yields an undesirable texture.

Chia Pudding

  • Servings: 1 - 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled and can be made advance and eaten over a couple of days.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of your choice milk (almond, cashew, soy and cow’s milk all work well)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

optional:

  • 1-2 tbsp of sweetener such as maple syrup, agave, or honey
  • toppings of your choice such as chia jam, fresh fruit, dried fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, coconut flakes

Directions

  1. Whisk together your choice of milk with vanilla and chia seeds.
  2. Allow to stand for 15 minutes then whisk again.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight while the chia seeds plump up.
  4. Add sweetener, if desired, and any toppings of your choice.

 

The pudding can end up a little too thick or thin if you don’t measure properly.  To correct this simply add a little more milk to thin it out or a scant amount of chia seeds to thicken.

Cherry Chia Jam

Cherry Chia Jam
This cherry chia jam recipe is healthy and delicious. It contains no added sweetener of any kind so feel free to eat it by the spoonful.

This cherry chia jam was a huge hit with the littles.  They ate the entire jar so next time I will definitely have to make a double batch.

Chia jam is so easy to make and it’s incredibly healthy.  I make some every week with whatever fruit happens to be in season.  And when nothing local is in season I often use frozen fruit instead.  Dark cherry is my absolute favourite in the winter.  It’s perfect with warm oatmeal on a cold winter’s day.

Cherry Chia Jam

This fresh jam can be put together in less than 10 minutes. Then you simply pop it in the fridge and wait for it to thicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • squeeze of lemon

Directions

  1. Add cherries and 1 tbsp of water to a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until the fruit starts to break down.
  2. Remove from heat and mash.
  3. Add a squeeze of lemon and chia seeds.
  4. Refrigerate for several hours while the chia seeds plump up and thicken the jam.

This recipe can easily be doubled. Store in fridge for 4 or 5 days or freeze. Canning is not recommended.

Garlic Confit

lizzie homemaker garlic confit baked in the oven
Garlic confit is an indispensable condiment in our kitchen.  The secret to making it is low and slow.

Garlic confit is incredibly easy to make and it’s a staple that we always have in our fridge.  Compared to raw garlic it is rich, sweet and creamy.  It’s great in marinades, mashed potatoes, sauces, soups and stews.  I love using it as a base when I cook up greens.  You can even spread it on bread.  The garlic infused oil is perfect for roasting vegetables, in dressings and dips and adding to tossed pasta.  Really, it can be drizzled on anything you fancy.  It is so versatile.

There are two ways to make it – on the stovetop or in the oven.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 heads of garlic, peeled (you can easily double or triple the recipe – use as much as you want)
  • enough olive oil to completely cover the garlic

Directions

STOVETOP METHOD

Place peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan, completely cover with olive oil, and slowly poach at a very low temperature for about 45 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool and refrigerate immediately.

OVEN METHOD

Preheat oven to 275F.  Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven proof dish, completely cover with olive oil, and bake for about an hour and a half until golden brown.  Allow to cool and refrigerate immediately.

The garlic confit can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks.  The cloves should be completely covered with the oil.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

lizzie homemaker chocolate chip granola bars
These chocolate chip granola bars are easily one of my family’s all-time favourite recipes.

When I started making these chocolate chip granola bars in the fall they quickly became a family favourite that was put into heavy rotation.  I whip up a batch every week.  They are easy to make, tasty, and infinitely cheaper and healthier than store bought.  They are nut-free and sesame-free, making them safe to bring to school and community spaces with allergy-friendly food policies.  They also keep well.  I pop them into the daughter’s lunch box, and pack them for snacks at the park and for after-school activities throughout the week. My husband also takes them to work to munch on when that afternoon slump hits.  The ingredients are all from the pantry.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  • Servings: 24 bars
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

DRY

  • 4 cups large rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
  •  generous pinch of salt

WET

  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (or another neutral flavoured oil)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2.  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.
  3.  In a medium bowl or large measuring cup combine wet ingredients.
  4. Drizzle wet ingredients over dry ingredients and THROUGHLY combine.
  5. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and PRESS DOWN FIRMLY to shape it into a rectangle (about 11×12 inches). If you don’t press it together well and it’s loose then you’ll end up with granola instead of granola bars.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top starts to turn golden.
  7. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then cut into bars (thirds lengthwise, then eight across).

 

These granola bars can be stored in a container for a couple weeks (if they last that long).

Vegetable Marrow Fritters

lizzie homemaker vegetable marrow fritters
These vegetable marrow fritters make a great lunch but we usually enjoy them as a vegetable side dish for dinner. Either way they satisfy.

I recently discovered vegetable marrow.  It’s very similar to zucchini but it’s a little less watery which makes it great for things like fritters so you don’t have to take the extra step of salting and draining the vegetable to get out the extra moisture.  I am always short of time so I appreciate anything that cuts steps and makes my life a little easier.

Vegetable Marrow Fritters

Pair these fritters with a green salad for a lovely light dinner.

Ingredients

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 large leek, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese, diced
  • 4 medium or 5 small vegetable marrow, grated (about 4 cups)

Directions

  1. Drizzle olive oil in frying pan and cook leeks over moderate heat for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl whisk eggs and milk then add to flour mixture and combine.
  4. Add leeks, feta and vegetable marrow to flour and egg mixture and combine.
  5. Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium heat.  Adding heaping 1/4 cups of fritter mixture to pan and flatten.  Fry for 5-7 minutes flipping halfway through.
  6. Serve with dipping sauce (see recipe below), sour cream or applesauce.

 

Fritters can be kept warm in oven.  You can substitute veggie marrow with zucchini but you should salt it, let it sit, then drain off the excess water.

Yogurt and Dill Dipping Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Directions

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and serve alongside fritters.

 

Vegetable Marrow

Lizzie Homemaker Vegetable Marrow hand artistic beautiful
Vegetable Marrow

I recently came across vegetable marrow at the grocery store.  It’s a summer squash that’s similar to zucchini.  It can grow large but is most tender when small.  Native to North America, I was surprised that we had never crossed paths before.  When I polled friends, very few of them had heard of it either.

Cousin to the courgette, this low-calorie, high fibre veg has many health benefits.  It contains high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron.  Including it in your diet helps lower cholesterol, improves energy, circulation, gastrointestinal flow, and it also helps maintain weight.  It reduces the risk of anemia, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Veggie Marrow is in season August and September. The smaller the marrow, the more nutritious and flavourful it can be.

 

Not sure what to make with this vegetable – try these delicious vegetable marrow fritters.  They satisfy.

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur BBQ barbecue Bar-B-Que sign
The neon sign outside Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, N.Y. The restaurant is housed in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station, built in 1905, overlooking the picturesque Genesee River.

CAGE MATCH!

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Are we in the heart of bbq country? Hell no – but even more reason to clarify the king of pig in this upper NY state city. After driving for several hours in a car with children, it is hard to imagine a time more deserving of bbq. Kids and parents alike go silent when the food arrives and there is no talk until the last finger gets licked. But there is nothing worse than looking forward to bbq and then eating less than perfect pulled pork, brisket or ribs. Admittedly bbq from a chain is kinda sacrilege but when you have kids, your expectations change and practicality reigns. Before we had kids we ate at places like the Pig Out Inn in Natchez, Mississippi, but it ain’t easy to get out that way these days.

Now, to main event, and so that you know where to go …

The combatants:

Famous Dave’s Barbecue

Famous Dave’s claims to be the most decorated barbecue restaurant in history with over 700 trophies. It also ranked 6th on the Daily Meal Top 25 chain barbecue restaurants for 2016.

Dinosaur Barbecue

Dinosaur began as a mobile bbq stand for biker gatherings. Good Morning America named Dinosaur BBQ the best bbq in America in 2009, but that is the most recent accolade, at least on the Dino website. Dinosaur ranked 15th on the Daily Meal Top 25 for 2016.

Brisket

Call me whatever name you want. My heart and soul belong to the Carolinas but my belly, at least when it comes to bbq, resides in the Lone Star state.

Famous Dave’s: The flavour was solid, and the requisite smoke ring proved that the brisket had spent time in the pit. Still, it was dry and needed sauce. Luckily, Famous Dave has some great sauces but really good brisket makes me reluctant to employee any sauce at all.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good flavour; sufficiently moist and just enough fat. Arrived drizzled with bbq sauce, which I don’t love as I like it naked first, and in this case the brisket did not require sauce so it’s a shame it came pre-dressed.

8 ½ /10

Pulled Pork

Famous Dave’s: Good pulled pork. Sufficiently moist, sufficient flavour. Not the best I’ve had, but above average.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very good pulled pork. Sauce again unnecessary, as the pork was very flavourful and moist. Quite good.

8 ½ /10

Ribs

Famous Dave’s: Very tasty, slightly dry. Required sauce. Reminded me that we were at a chain restaurant and that the chef probably wasn’t doing it for love.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very tasty, but not the best cut I’ve had. Moist but still required sauce.

7 ½ /10

Collard Greens

I will eat collard greens every chance I get. Other than meat, there is nothing I associate with bbq more than collards. Might make a vegetarian of me yet. Best thing about collards is that even mediocre collards are good.

Famous Dave’s: Good, nothing special. With bacon.

7/10

Dinosaur: Good, nothing special. Turkey neck twist.

7/10

Fries

Famous Dave’s: Super salty. In fact everything was salty. Okay.

6/10

Dinosaur: Good fries. Not special.

6 ½ /10

Kids’ Meals

No I am not ashamed to finish my plate, Lizzie’s plate, and the girls’ plates. All for the sake of this review, of course; I took no pleasure in eating gluttonously, whatsoever.

Chicken Fingers

Famous Dave’s: Good. On the topic of cluckers, Dave does use cage-raised chickens and eggs. He vows on his website to stop using cage-raised chickens by 2025. That’s like saying, “I’ll quit smoking when I’m dead.” Still, he addresses it publicly. Nowhere on the Dino site does it mention sustainable and ethical practices.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good. Don’t know if they’re cage raised, but moist and tasty. Note that Dinosaur offers kids homemade apple sauce as a side. That’s sweet.

7.5/10

Service

Famous Dave’s: Very good: our waitress was fun, appeared when we needed and disappeared when we didn’t. She was sensitive to the fact that we had kids with us, and they had their drinks quickly, and refills were supplied when a fight broke out over lemonade.

8 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Solid. Lizzie’s request for water required a second ask, as did a reminder that we had ordered a side of fries to share. All responded to promptly.

7 ½ /10

Decision

Famous Dave’s: 50.5/70

Dinosaur BBQ: 53.0/70

TKO – Dinosaur BBQ

They went toe to toe, but the winner of this cage match is Dinosaur Barbecue. It’s not perfect bbq, but it’s a chain that deals in satisfying meat that is properly smoked.

When in Rochester, the Dinosaur BBQ is located in the central business district. You can park on the bridge overlooking the water. If visiting with kids, book an earlier time. We visited at 5:30 which was just before the real rush. Do make a reservation: there is a wait for anyone who doesn’t plan ahead.

Famous Dave’s resides in Greece, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Easily accessible and lots of seating. When we left there was a bit of a wait, but tolerable.