Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

With all the cakes and desserts I’ve been posting lately, I figured I might as well level my blog out by posting another recipe for vegetables. This one is quite simple, similar to the popcorn broccoli that I’ve been making for a while now.

I find the easiest and best ways to have vegetables are not to fool with them too much. Of course, I do enjoy the odd way-too-time-consuming vegetable dish such as maple-butter carrots, or scalloped potatoes, but I honestly can’t think of more than a handful of times I’ve bothered cooking that way. Mr. Cake’s family steams their vegetables, usually with no salt at all, and I tend to prefer that.

However, when I want a bit of a treat, I tend to lean towards adding just a smattering of bacon or cheese to my vegetables (rather than boiling them in broth or roasting them with just a drizzle of oil, which is what I usually do). Or butter, like I do with broccoli.

This recipe was inspired by the time we decided to order groceries online from a local organization in Edmonton that sold things like local bacon. We kept ordering local bacon and I had to find things to do with it. We have since stopped ordering after a little fiasco with a whole bunch of bug eggs being sent in our organic brussels sprouts (yes, there are times I am willing to try organic — unfortunately, sometimes it ends that way, and I feel that is my punishment), but we still do, of course, buy bacon.

And as long as we have bacon, we will hopefully have..

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus:

  • A 1.5″ bundle of asparagus (4-8 spears, depending on size) per person
  • 1 slice of bacon per person
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • toothpicks
  1. Preheat oven to 400*C.
  2. Trim about 1-2″ off the end of the asparagus. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper, and separate into individual bundles.
  3. Wrap with bacon, securing each end with a toothpick.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes.

Nutritional info per bundle: 76 calories, 5g fat (1.5g saturated), 8mg cholesterol, 4g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 1g sugar, and 5g protein

Boston Banana Cream Pie

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Sunday was Mr. Cake’s birthday. And for Mr. Cake’s birthday, we made unhealthy cake.

I know what you’re thinking .. “Omg but you just did a poor review of a government diet! And you could’ve done reduced-sugar this and organic that and replaced some of that butter with <blank> and used this ‘lighter’ ganache recipe and ..”

And I know that. But Mr. Cake doesn’t like that, and I’m not going to force him to eat it.

Also, it’s his birthday. It’s not like he’s going in for heart disease surgery or anything (in fact, Mr. Cake is a whopping 5’7″ and 133lbs. Even I’ve got 1/2″ and 4lbs on him 🙂 ).

I believe in eating in moderation, and moderation means birthdays! Woo!

(And Valentine’s, apparently, because I made a cakey thing for that too. Whoops).

I also believe in people doing what they want, to an extent. Mr. Cake stands 8 hours a day and walks 45 minutes a day. I’d say that’s enough. I like a half hour run and lifting weights about 10 mins a day. It’s no excuse, but as long as you’ve made a good habit of something, one ‘off’ day every few months isn’t going to ruin anything. In fact, I just recently had a week off of ‘dieting’ (I use the term loosely because I was eating at my caloric maintenance, right now I’m slowly losing about 1/2lb a week so my muscle will show). Then again, I subscribe to the bodybuilding ‘hivemind’, which some say is unhealthy, but I say is a-okay if you want to put on muscle and protect your heart while being quite active. There is still a lot of controversy as to whether eating 1g of protein per pound of lean bodymass can cause kidney or liver troubles, but so far I have seen little evidence of it as long as you’re not on a zero-carb diet (which obviously I am not if I am still eating cake once a month, lol).

I also made cookies, because screw it. He likes cookies, I like cookies. Most people like cookies. And believe it or not, I made my own peanut butter for the cookies, too. I recently bought myself a Vitamix just after Christmas and wanted to see if it actually CAN make peanut butter in 1.5 minutes flat. It can. The peanuts I used cost 84 cents for 3 1/2 cups, and made a $3-4 jar’s worth of peanut butter 🙂 (not that it’s going to pay off the $500 blender right away … but I had fun regardless!).

So if it’s ever YOUR birthday and you want to make some Boston Banana Cream Pie, well, here it is 🙂 :

(Sorry for all the smiley-faces in this post! They kind of do that on their own. Creepy!)

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Boston Banana Cream Pie:

Cake:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease and lightly flour a 9″ pan.
  2. Beat eggs for 4 minutes on high. Add sugar, and beat another 4 minutes on high. You want a result that looks almost like soft peaks. Fold mixture into flour and baking powder. I find it’s easiest to use a spatula to do this.
  3. Heat milk and butter in saucepan until butter is melted and milk is scalded. Add to rest of batter, stirring constantly.
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cake should be golden and ‘spring’ to the touch.

Filling:

  • 1 1/4 cup milk (using a higher fat milk, like whole milk … custards have trouble ‘setting’ with low-fat options, and may get watery as a result)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • 2 sliced bananas
  1. Combine sugar, flour, salt, and milk in saucepan.
  2. Cook on medium until bubbling, then for 2 more minutes (I suggest using a whisk so the mixture doesn’t clump).
  3. Temper egg in separate dish and add to pan. Cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stirring in butter and vanilla.
  5. Set aside bananas for assembling cake.

To prepare cake: Cut cooled cake in half width-wise (like the photo, you want it to look like a big ‘sandwich’). Spread with half of filling. Top with bananas. Spread with other half of filling (I just flipped the other half of the cake over and spread it on that instead, like a sandwich) and gently replace top. Top with ganache, which I have listed below:

Ganache:

  • 4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 4:1 mixture Callebaut ‘dark’ and ‘milk’ chocolate chips, but you can use any sort of chocolate as long as it’s not too sweet)
  • 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
  1. Place cream in saucepan and gently bring to a boil over medium.
  2. Add chocolate, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and glossy.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool until just slightly warm.

You may have extra ganache, depending on how good you are at topping cakes. I had about 1/3 left over. It can be used as a dip for strawberries or pretzel sticks if you don’t want it to go to waste. You can also top doughnuts with it, drizzle it on cheesecake or shortcake, or even ice-cream if you’re more of a gourmand.

Tips: Ganache will adhere better to a chilled cake. I suggest putting your cake in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before pouring on the ganache. You can do this while you are making the ganache.

I use a spatula to help the ganache adhere to the centre of the cake, and then kind of turn it around so it spreads by itself. Any ‘thin’ spots can be covered with extra ganache, as long as it’s still slightly warm.

Ganache will not harden right away (takes about an hour at room temperature, or a few in the fridge). Expect it to ‘set up’ like the topping of a good-quality doughnut. That’s when you can safely cut the cake without making a mess! 🙂

Enjoy!

Nutritional info per 1/8 of cake: 423 calories, 15g fat (9g saturated), 109mg cholesterol, 133mg sodium, 65g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 47g sugar, 7.5g protein

Popcorn Broccoli

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A little while ago, whilst surfing the bodybuilding.com forum (I love that website way too much), I saw someone raving about how they slathered their broccoli in butter, baked it, and that it ended up tasting like popcorn.

“Pffffft.. hah!” I told myself, “That’s impossible!” These starving fitness fanatics are probably just confusing one food for another in a haze of post-workout hunger.

Broccoli tasting like popcorn? Yeah right.

But then I got thinking. Well .. I need better ways to make vegetables. Ways that will make me actually eat them. So I tried to recreate the mythical popcorn broccoli. And boy did it work.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this broccoli is not popcorn. What it is though, is quite mythical in itself. The broccoli wilts slightly and caramelizes. It gets ever-so-slightly crispy on the edges of the crown. It has kind of a sweet, savoury, and buttery thing going on, all while retaining the natural ‘bite’ the broccoli has if you leave a bit of stalk on. If that’s not your thing, you can totally popcorn-ify just the crown if you’d like something that melts in your mouth. Because sometimes, chewing is for chumps (probably why I drink at least one smoothie a day, actually).

Broccoli used to be my second or third favourite vegetable (with salad and brussels sprouts being the winners). Now it is my favourite. And I hope this recipe can do the same for you!

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Popcorn Broccoli

  • 2 broccoli crowns, chopped into large, bite-size pieces (broccoli will shrink to about half its size after baking)
  • 2 tbsp butter or oil (I use 1 tbsp of each)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • dash of onion and garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Mix oil and/or melted butter and spices in a bowl, and stir to combine. Add broccoli and toss until evenly coated.
  3. Place broccoli on non-stick pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Flip broccoli, reduce heat to 375*, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using salted butter: 147 calories, 12g fat (7g saturated), 30mg cholesterol, 319mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, and 4g protein

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using oil: 167 calories, 14.5g fat (2g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 238mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, 4g protein

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using 1 tbsp of each: 157 calories, 13g fat (4.5g saturated), 15mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, 4g protein

— By the way .. in the back of the photo is pork tenderloin dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg, and white pepper. If you’d like some of that, just cut a tenderloin into 3 pieces, moisten the meat with olive oil (I do this using my hands — just pouring oil on my hands and rubbing the meat, then I wash my hands later), and dust with cinnamon, nutmeg, and white pepper. Then you bake it uncovered at 400*F until it has an internal temperature of 145* (took mine about 20 mins). I like to cover this with a bit of mandarin orange salad dressing. The sweet spices go well with it. Consider this your reward for reading to the very end of my post 😉 you little trooper, you.

Protein Pudding

Protein pudding is a little concoction I have been living off of (well, not literally) when I can’t exactly decide what to snack on. It tastes strongly of protein powder but also kind of like pudding. Because of this, my suggestion is to find a protein powder you really like first before making protein pudding with it. My favourites lately have been Vanilla Caramel Whey HD by BPI Sports and Vanilla Cake by Muscletech Platinum.

Some people may look back on protein powder and shudder (I used to), but I promise you, in the last half-decade alone, protein powder has evolved drastically. It no longer tastes like chalk! In fact, the 2 I listed above taste pretty close to frosting to me. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been eating ‘clean’ long enough to appreciate less-desirable food (well, not less desirable .. but more healthy, really — and ymmv on what ‘healthy’ means), or perhaps it’s because I’ve been used to supplementing with tons of smoothies and powders during my 3 years without meat back in the day. However, those looking to jump on the fitness bandwagon have no fear — there are wonderful websites out there like bodybuilding.ca where you can order samples of protein powders for under $10. And these aren’t just little sample packets either. You can get a 5-7 serving tub for about $10, so you can really see if you like it before you buy a bigger size. They ship from Richmond, too, so it only took like 6 days (and $5 for shipping!) for my order to get to Northern Alberta (and I believe they have another warehouse in Ontario for those on the other side of Canada, but forgive me if I’m wrong). They also have a US website! (which I don’t get as excited about, because almost everything has a US website 😉 ).

No, I’m not affiliated with these guys in any way whatsoever. I just really, really love that website because I am indecisive. I’m so indecisive that I ordered 8 different samples of vanilla-based flavors alone. I wanted to make sure I could have a staple in my cupboard that I am absolutely sure I love. So if you’re tired of the sugar content of RTDs like Boost and Ensure; and you’re tired of the price of Vega ($70 a tub in some places! Ack!), it’s certainly an option!

proteinpudding1

For this photo, I used my good ‘ol faithful, Isoflex Chocolate. It’s nice to find a product you can get locally, and you can find that particular brand in many grocery stores these days. Even Wal-Mart has it! I know a lot of people knock Wal-Mart for having poor quality supplements (and to me, their Pure Protein and IsoFemme powders taste like ass), but it can be handy when you need it. And heck, for those of you who are on a budget, or go there often enough anyway, I fail to see the difference between Wal-Mart and some of the generic GNC-brand stuff that’s 3x the price. Alas, I am getting off topic.

Protein pudding. It tastes kinda like pudding but it has protein.

Anyyyhoo. Here’s the recipe:

Protein Pudding:

  • 1 serving protein powder. Use any you like!
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk, depending on the thickness of your protein powder (if your shakes come out the consistency of pancake batter – use more milk, if they come out more like the consistency of milk – use less milk .. some brands are thicker, some thinner, so it’s best to experiment a bit)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp coconut oil, depending on how creamy you like it
  1. Scoop or weigh protein powder in a bowl. Add coconut oil.
  2. IMPORTANT – heat your milk in the microwave for about 15 – 20 seconds. This makes it warm enough to melt the coconut oil, but not hot enough to ‘cook’ the protein powder. If you heat it too much your protein powder could clump as the protein denatures. That was the mistake I made the first time I tried protein pudding (then I tried it cold and the coconut oil stayed solid and became chunky). This is what makes the recipe.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk and stir, stir, stir!
  4. Enjoy!

Note: The nutritional information on this will vary wildly depending on the amount of oil, and types of milk and protein powder you use. Protein powder is generally 100-200 calories a scoop, and milk can range from 40 calories a cup for unsweetened almond, to 160 a cup for whole or goat’s milk. My suggestion is to use whatever fits your goals.

Happy (Not) Valentine’s Day!

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to make a quick post to say a happy [belated] Valentine’s to everyone and hope you all enjoyed it, single or not!

I made some red velvet banana bread for the occasion. Yes, red velvet banana bread! (It’s not protein powder!) And thought I would share it with you all. Well … to the extent that I can, that is! If I could pass some through the computer screen, I surely would. But seeing as that is not possible (yet!) here it is:

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And the beauty of it is how easy the recipe is. Simply take your favourite banana bread recipe, and replace the dry ingredients with red velvet cake mix. Whether homemade or store-bought, that is up to you! Mine consisted of red velvet mix, 3 bananas, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs, and a cup of dark chocolate chips — baked at 350 for about 50 minutes. I always cover my banana bread with foil the last 10 minutes of cooking to make sure the top is cooked through. I also made my own frosting using 1/2 a block of cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 tbsp of butter, and 1/4 tsp vanilla.

Enjoy!

PS: Check out these gorgeous flowers Mr. Cake got me. 🙂 Pretty neat, huh?

flowers

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Shake

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Here’s yet another concoction I’ve come up with in the past few days having to do with protein. I know what you guys are thinking, “What’s with all the protein, man?!”

Well, to be honest, I was diagnosed with a heart infection right before I started this blog. The pinnacle of health, right? Why should you be following someone’s health blog when they have/had a heart infection?

It wasn’t my fault, I swear. I just happened to get a fever when I was camping last August and it went a little too deep for comfort. Probably started with strep bacteria because my throat was mighty sore at the time. Believe it or not, heart infections are actually somewhat common in people my age (I am 23). I felt a little bit of chest pain starting in October … nothing major, just a bit of burning. Kind of like acid reflux but a bit to the left. Went to the doctor in January when it wouldn’t go away, and BOOM, pericarditis.

Did you know that your body usually goes for muscle first if you’re an active or dieting individual? I mean, active enough that carbs don’t even have a chance. What muscle does the body like to choose, of all things? The heart muscle. And because my habit of staying healthy includes running 3 miles a day and eating in moderation, I figured it would be best to up the protein just in case my body decides to have a little snack on my ticker.

I’ve also been taking 600mg of advil a day, a bit of potassium citrate every other day (about 1/4 tsp pharmaceutical grade powder, roughly 600mg), and 200mg magnesium citrate every other night. Electrolytes are important when the heart is involved. I can also afford to eat a bit of salt because I have a low resting blood pressure.

However, if you ever get something wrong with your heart, I highly, highly suggest you go see a doctor. That’s not something to be screwing around with. The only reason I am is because I was directed to take that much advil a day, and my test results came back completely normal, so it’s likely just a very mild infection. Even my thyroid was normal, which is unusual, because it’s autoimmune (I know, I’m sooo healthy, right? That one is hereditary, though!). Only 1 in 3 people experience spontaneous thyroid remission. I guess I have good gambling odds.

Anyhoo, in order to force more protein into myself (my macros are about 35% fat/ 35% carbs/ 30% protein right now, it is recommended that active individuals looking to burn fat/maintain muscle eat between 20 – 40% fat, 20 – 40% carbs, and 30 – 50% protein), I’ve been tinkering around with a bunch of recipes involving protein powder. I even just had a whole stash mailed to me from bodybuilding.ca so I can find the best vanilla flavour ever (even though I did find a pretty good one from Superstore in the meantime, the Vanilla Whey Isolate – PC brand). But I’m not sure what to do with vanilla (yet!), so on with the chocolate!
chocolateshake2(Look, it’s my blue sippy-cup again! Boy do I love that thing. You can get a whole set — orange, purple, and blue — from Costco, for about $20.)

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Shake

  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • sugar or sweetener to taste (I used just a few drops of stevia)
  1. Place everything in the blender; almond milk first, followed by sweetener, protein and cocoa powder, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ice on the top.
  2. Blend for a minute or two.
  3. Pour and serve.
  4. Mmmm.

Nutritional Info using unsweetened almond milk, 2% cottage cheese, regular cream cheese, and Isoflex: 267 calories, 9.5g fat (4g saturated), 450mg sodium, 9.5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, and 38g protein

Protein French Toast

Cooking with protein is a hot button in the fitness industry. Always has been, always will be.

Some people are brave and can whip together a scoop or two of protein powder with some eggs and call it a pancake. I’ve tried that. It didn’t come out well! Fell flat and was more of a crunchy disk than anything. But hey, any way people are willing to get their macros, am I right?

I find the trick to cooking with protein is using a light hand, and trying not to deviate from the original recipe too much. Whey protein is not a flour. It doesn’t really have its own substance and won’t really add ‘bulk’ to any recipe. Rather, it will readily dissolve into liquids leaving you with a sort of flat concoction if you use too much. It really likes to absorb liquids. Thus, you have to add it into something it’ll readily dissolve in. Something you’re not afraid of tasting like that particular flavor of protein powder. Something with extra moisture added into the recipe in the way (or whey, heh) of oats, eggs, applesauce, peanut butter, bananas, or other ‘soft’ ingredients that will give it some texture.

French toast is an easy place to start, since it is simple and already uses milk and eggs 🙂
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Protein French Toast:

  • 2 slices fibre-rich bread (I prefer Squirrely or something extra dense like that)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 scoop (8 grams) protein powder (I used Isoflex)
  • (optional) 1 tbsp maple syrup, for topping
  1. Preheat a pan to medium on the stove.
  2. Whisk together egg, milk, and protein powder in a small dish. Pie plates are perfect for this. You can add some cinnamon or vanilla extract if you’d like extra flavor.
  3. Soak your bread in the mixture for about 20 seconds per side. Breads that are high in fibre make a good sponge!
  4. Give pan a good once-over with cooking spray (use a coconut-oil one if you can find it), and gently nestle your bread in there. Cook it for a couple minutes each side.
  5. Serve with maple syrup, berries, or anything else you fancy on top 🙂 caramelized bananas are my favourite when I have time to make them!

Nutritional info (without toppings): 324 calories, 10g fat (2g saturated), 190mg cholesterol, 450mg sodium, 45g carbohydrates, 10g fiber, 9g sugar, and 24g protein