Roasted Garlic Butter Bean Dip

roasted garlic

This easy and delicious dip makes a great alternative to hummus, and is equally as versatile. Spread it on your favourite crackers, toast, or use it as dip for veggies and chips.

Ingredients

  • 2 x 14oz can butter beans
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 small handful of parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Drain butter beans reserving the can liquid.
  2. Rinse & drain them well.
  3. In a food processor, whizz butter beans, olive oil, lemon juice, roasted garlic, paprika, and parsley with 2 tbsp of reserved butter beans liquid until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste
  4. Transfer to a dipping bowl, drizzle with a few extra drops of olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley.

This recipe came about after a necessary pantry clean-out to get rid of out whatever was approaching its expiry date. I had a few cloves of roasted garlic from a previous dish and decided to whip up something. The end result was  a creamy, garlicky dip with a welcoming hint of lemony zing.

Notes:

  • Roasted garlic is one of my favourite ingredients. Roasting mellows the sharp bite of raw garlic, intensifies the natural sweetness and nuttiness. I usually roast a few heads of garlic whenever I am baking so I can conserve on energy.
  • To roast, slice a thin layer off the top of each head of garlic just enough to expose the cloves. Place the heads on a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil. I usually sprinkle a bit of salt to help tenderize during the roasting process. Seal the foil and roast until cloves are lightly brown and tender, about 40 minutes.

One love,

SC.

[photo: bitchingkitchen.com]

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run + Nutrition Advice and Recipe Ideas

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run

5K races has been a big hit in Jamaica over the past few years. Every year new charity races are formed, with many opportunities for Jamaicans to give back to a particular cause. But probably more importantly are the health and fitness trends that have emerged with this new obsession. Persons are much more concerned about their wellness, evidenced by increased sightings of joggers, yoga practitioners, and a move towards cleaner, lighter cuisines.

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run – The Caribbean’s largest

Sagicor Sigma LogoOne race in particular has continued to attract thousands of excited participants and raise millions over the past 15 years. Since the first staging of the event in February 1999, Sagicor’s SIGMA Corporate Run has raised a total of JMD 124.5M (approx. USD 120K) towards enhancing healthcare services for Jamaicans islandwide. The Run is a 5.5 Kilometer (3.4 mile) event that is open to runners and walkers of all fitness levels and abilities. It is different from all other road races as the focus is on company teams. With over 22,200 registered participants this year, SIGMA continues to be the Caribbean largest 5K race.  This year race will kick off promptly at 7:30 a.m. on February 16 along Kingston’s hip-strip Knutsford Boulevard, and is under the patronage of Lady Patricia Allen, World and Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and season five winner of The Voice, Tessanne Chin.

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Check out Sagicor’s website for more race details. [Race photos courtesy of Sagicor]

Let’s Talk Nutrition

When it comes to runners’ nutrition, it can get pretty technical, especially for longer runs such as marathons and half marathons, but for shorter runs such as 5K and 10K races, it’s pretty simple. Good nutrition should be an integral part to any runner’s diet, but different foods are healthiest and most important at different times of the day. The key thing here is knowing what to eat, and when to eat it. Here are a few tips.

The night before:

You want dinner the night before to be somewhat carb-heavy (so as to carb-load your muscles) with a fair amount of protein to keep you from feeling ravenous in the morning. Ensure to make it regular white pasta or rice rather than brown. Even though whole wheat products should star in your usual fare, studies have shown that too much fiber causes intestinal distress while running. Many runners have complained about the need to go during a run. There surely aren’t any pit stops along the way for Sigma. Oh yea, please sleep. The 7-8 hour kind.

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Check out this delicious bow tie pasta dish with protein, calcium and omega 3 rich sardines and tuna. Also, here’s a foolproof way to cook the perfect pasta every time.

The morning of:

For such a short distance, the body doesn’t really need much added energy. In fact, just a cup or two of black coffee will give you an extra boost needed to shave a few seconds (minutes) off your PR. However, because coffee’s energizing effect comes from it being a stimulant, you may need to supplement this with true energy calories. The best bet is a carb-rich fruit such as a banana or an apple, or a simple peanut butter sandwich (white bread, as whole wheat takes longer to digest) or a bagel. Skimp on the cream cheese though; excess fat has the unwanted effects of retarding digestion and can lead to intestinal distress during a run.

apple-mango-banana smoothie

apple-mango-banana smoothie

Smoothies are also a good choice as they deliver a rush of vitamins and nutrients without weighing you down. Blend a frozen banana with low fat milk and some of your favourite nuts. Whatever you do, do not stuff yourself in fear of becoming hungry during the race. Sad to say, I learnt this the hard way and almost threw up half way through one of my races. I’ll give you time to stop laughing and compose yourself. Good. Hydration is also key: you want to down at least 8 ounces (one glass) of water an hour before the start of the race.

This delicious Apple-Mango-Banana smoothie loaded with good carbohydrates and natural sugars will definitely fuel your run. Or this delectable bruschetta with gorgonzola cheese and coffee-flavoured honey.

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

During the race:

The only thing you should worry about during a 5K is finishing the race, and possibly mild hydration. Most runners can complete a 5K without the need to rehydrate. I surely can’t because I sweat like a farmer’s horse. There’s a proper way to hydrate. If you’re feeling thirsty during a run then you’re already dehydrated. Avoid this by making use of the water stops. There should be about 2 stops for a 5K race. You really don’t need any more than that. Sip, don’t gulp. Plain water should do the trick, but you may benefit from the added kick of electrolytes and glucose found in sport drinks. Also, room temperature is best. If you need to eat during a 5K then you should probably consider another activity. I suggest a diet.

After the race:

So, you’re on top of the world because you (hopefully) clocked your best PR. In the meantime while you wait for your buddies to cross the finish line, you want to head straight to the free food, mostly so that you can be first in line. JK. But seriously, your body is now craving all the energy, nutrients and water you’ve expended. Your best bet here are three key things: liquid, preferably a sports drink to rehydrate and to replenish lost electrolytes; carbs to restore glucose levels; and protein to rebuild muscles.

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

A good all in one is a glass of chocolate milk. Or make this quick but nutrient rich recovery shake that is sure to replenish your energy levels and kick-start your recovery process. Or, try this tasty and protein-packed low-fat frittata with ricotta cheese that will fill you up with muscle-replenishing protein.

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Provided that you’ve been eating right (for the most part), you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Remember, it’s 3.1 miles, not an eternal 26.2 grueling, knee-shattering, shin-splitting, asphalt-pounding mile marathon.

All the best,

SC

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

lemons for Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

When life (read: a co-worker) gives you lemons, you make lemon-cake-with-coconut-vodka-cream-cheese-frosting, duh. I mean, what else?

Now, if you’re a keen ROF follower, you’ll notice that there aren’t any dessert-related posts on the blog. I am really not a big fan of sweets, nor do they fit into my healthy lifestyle regime. (Or, quite possibly it’s because my baking skills aren’t at a level where they can be shared with the world.) But I surprised myself over the weekend when I attempted to make this cake from my recently-acquired lemons. One of my favourite desserts hands down is a good plain cake, and this come pretty close.

With total inexperience – (this is my second attempt at making a cake from scratch; the first was a banana cake some years ago, and it was pretty average) – I had to do a little research for the basic proportions of a plain pound cake. After I grasped that concept I decided to make the recipe my own. This is what I came up with:

  • 1½ cups AP flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp (⅜ cup) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously coat a Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift flour along with baking powder and salt.
  3. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and continue creaming until sugar crystals are fully dissolved into butter and mixture doesn’t feel grainy. With the mixture at a low speed, add eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate. Add the vanilla.
  4. Alternating dry and wet ingredients add the flour mixture and lemon juice and zest in small batches and mix until smooth.  (You may have to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula to fully incorporate flour).
  5. Pour mixture in to greased Bundt pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Gentle shake pan until all sides are loosened. Place on a desired serving platter and invert pan to remove cake.

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting (sliced)

BUT WAIT.

We’re not done yet. Even though the cake is delicious as is, there’s always room for a little booze. And cream cheese. Here’s what you’ll need.

Coconut-Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4oz (½ block) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup coconut-flavoured vodka
  • ¼ cup water, to be used as a thinner as necessary

And here’s how to make the magic happen:

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter. Add cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and whisk to incorporate. Add sugar and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add vodka and mix thoroughly. Mixture should be the consistency of a thin porridge. Use water to thin mixture as necessary. If mixture is too thin, continue stirring over medium-low heat until desired consistency is achieved.
  3. Spoon hot frosting over cake and allow to cool at room temperature.
  4. Slice cake and enjoy.

Yes, it does taste as awesome as it sounds. And it really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe Notes:

  1. Sifting the flour along with the rest of the dry ingredients does two main things: it allows lumps and other unwanted particles to be removed, while aerating the flour allowing for a lighter cake in the end. Sifting also allows for the rest of the dry ingredients (in this case, the salt and baking powder) to be properly incorporated into the flour before it’s mixed into the rest of the batter.
  2. Using lemon zest really makes the cake that more lemony as opposed to using just the juice. The zest contains essential oils packed with lemon flavour. To zest a lemon, you can rub the lemon along a fine grater, rotating each time, ensuring only to grate the top layer of yellow skin. Avoid pressing too hard and grating the white pith, which is extremely bitter and will spoil the taste of your cake. You can also use a zester and gently scrape the holes of the zester along the surface of the lemon from top to bottom, also rotating as you go along. You’ll end up with longer ribbons of zest, which u can then chop into finer pieces.
  3. Ingredient temperature is an important factor in baking. If a recipe calls for something chilled, best you chill it. Just as important is allowing ingredients to be at room temperature before incorporating them. For example, room temperature eggs will disperse more easily through the batter and allow for a fluffier cake. Cold butter does not beat well. Cold milk (or water) will coagulate and create clumps in the batter, requiring extra beating time to mix the ingredients. The easiest way to get your baking ingredients to room temperature is to simply allow them to sit at – room temperature.
zesting a lemon - thekitchn

Zesting a lemon [photocredits: thekitchn.com]

P.S. Thanks to my handy little helper, Corve, who thoroughly enjoyed the process and end result. Also, apologies for the crappy photos; my camera (phone) is out of commission for now.

One love,

SC

Stephen’s Cream Cheese and Smoked Marlin Spread

Recently my workplace celebrated its 25th anniversary, and boy was it fancy! The lobby that usually welcomes eager staff members and corporate heavyweights alike, along with the adjoining business auditorium that hosted many an event were now transformed into Kingston’s newest nightclub. Well, at least that’s what it felt like.

Anywho, I somehow got involved in the planning process. It started when I was consulted on the alcohol line-up for the night’s proceedings. And no, I am not an alcoholic, but I was pretty adamant that there needed to be a bar, with a seating area, and white rum, and red wine. Again, I am NOT an alcoholic. In all of the excitement, the idea for a cheese station transcended my thoughts and landed on the ears of the planning committee. Suddenly it became a thing – my thing. Thanks Bev! I found myself negotiating cheese prices with a distributor, setting foot in strangers’ (yes, more than one) houses to source cheeseboards and fancy crockery, and coming up with a lavish but practical way to present all that was happening in my head.

Stephen's smoked marlin cream cheese spread 2

In addition to a cheese plate (I ended up using white cheddar, pepperjack and muenster) I had an idea for a cheese dip of sorts. I’ve never attempted this before but I figured it couldn’t be that hard. And thankfully it wasn’t.  Here’s how I did it.

You’ll need:

  • Three 8oz blocks of cream cheese
  • Two 4oz packs of smoked marlin
  • 4oz sour cream
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice from 2 limes
  • handful of fresh parsley (flat leaf), stems removed, roughly chopped
  • fresh dill, roughly chopped, about 2 tbsp
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Accompaniments: pepper jelly, pesto, (flavoured) honey

Cheese plate

Method:

  1. Ensure cream cheese and smoked marlin have come to room temperature so it’s easier to work with.
  2. In a food processor, add room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, onion, garlic, lime juice, parsley and dill and process well.
  3. Add smoked marlin and pulse to combine. Ensure not to over process.
  4. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and allow to chill for at least 8 hours in order for flavours to develop.

Cheese station - accompaniments

This will yield quite an amount, so you can adjust the portions accordingly. I find this goes best with plain crackers, and the suggested accompaniments (pepper jelly, pesto and flavoured honey) make a good pairing. The spread improves on taste over time, so make it a day ahead. You can substitute your favourite fresh herbs, but the dill really elevated this recipe.

Stephen's smoked marlin cream cheese spread 1

This recipe was a huge hit and makes for an impressive appetizer for any occasion! I’m still receiving compliments and recipe requests.

Oh yea, we had a GREAT time. Let’s leave that there.

Staff party

One love,

SC

Maintaining Healthy Habits During the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, you may (should?) be worrying about maintaining the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop during the year. Never-ending Christmas dinner parties and free booze make it rather challenging to stay focused on low-carb diets and high-cardio regimes. For me, and possibly everyone else, Christmas is the time families are united over a dinner spread fit for a (ravenous) king. Moreover, who wants to be that guy who refuses the fruitcake and wine? Psshhh.

The holidays will throw every bit of temptation in your face, and sure as hell it’ll be delicious, but you can still stay winning. Here are a few tips how:

1. Be True To Yourself

If you’re planning to lose pounds during the holidays, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to maintain your current weight and fitness level. You’re not off the hook so easily; you have to make time for some amount of exercise. It may not be your ideal 40-60 minutes uphill sprint, but a quick 20 minutes maintenance run should do the trick in burning that extra glass of Merlot you managed to gulp down while saying your goodbyes. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does this. Right?)

2. Pre-game Before Heading Out

No, I don’t mean to gulp down booze, (actually, you may want to skip this), but actually to snack on something light and healthy (some veggies, a pack of nuts, fruit) before storming out to that Christmas dinner. This will avoid being too hungry to think when you’ve arrived and not caring about what makes its way to your mouth, and ultimately to your thighs (or in my case, everywhere but).

3. Portion Control 

Portion control should be part of your regular yearlong regime, and it’s no different during the holidays. In fact, it’s even more important now that calories abound, masked by delicious and free. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you can’t feel your ribs. Take a stroll around the buffet before you start loading your plate with every item. Choose wisely. I usually skip carbs and head straight for meats and veggies. But be careful, those too can pack a caloric punch. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. Portion control should also be extended to beverages, both alcoholic and not. A glass of your favourite drink can pack more calories than a dinner plate.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is probably the simplest (not necessarily easiest) strategy here. And there are a few reasons why this is important. Firstly, the body often-times confuses hunger with thirst as the symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) are pretty much the same. Also, for people like myself whose inhibitions for booze consumption is rather minuscule during this period, staying hydrated is really vital. As a rule of thumb, to avoid dehydration for every cocktail you consume, drink a glass of water.

5. Get some Zzz’s

With all the festivities and frolic, it’s very easy to lose track of the hours and a good night’s rest. The good thing is that being the holidays, you are able to sleep in late. Nonetheless, don’t make this a habit. Your body needs a good, undisturbed 7-8 hours of sleep in order to rebuild cells and maintain a healthy immune system. Lack of proper sleep is a main cause for a host of ailments, including weight gain.

Christmas is a time for fun, family, and certainly food. But it doesn’t have to mean regret and frustration come January. Neither should it mean denying yourself your favourite holiday foods. Just be smart about it.

Happy holidays,

SC

Okra Roti Wrap w/ HoneyKist® Pimento Gourmet Honey

Many persons are opposed to consuming okras because of their slimy texture. But this dish is sure to please even the most squeamish.  Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see for yourself.

Okra Roti Wrap

Warning: This dish is on the spicy side owing to the addition of ½ scotch bonnet pepper. However, the sweetness from the honey balances out the heat and helps to round out the rest of the flavours. If you’re still scared, you can go ahead and reduce the pepper to your taste. 

cut tomatoes okra_raw cooked okra

Do not wash the okra before cutting. Instead, wipe with a damp cloth. Washing will increase the chances of the okra being too slimy when cooked. If it needs to be washed for whatever reasons, use paper towel to dry properly before cutting. To reduce sliminess even more, leave cut okras uncovered in fridge overnight.

Happy cooking,

SC.

Cooking Guide For Veggie-Lovers (Infographic, Adapted)

Veggies [should always be] welcomed in one’s diet. But knowing the proper way to cook them may cause trepidation towards these innocent ingredients. Luckily enough, the kind-hearts at Domestic Superhero have come up with a quick cheat sheet that will eliminate the guesswork and allow you more time to enjoy some of the most popular vegetables.

 

VeggieCookingInfographic

 

Most veggies are best enjoyed when roasted, as roasting naturally enhances their flavour and has the added benefit of avoiding nutrient loss that may occur during boiling. It’s always good to coat with a little (olive) oil so as to reduce water loss during roasting and maintain moist, evenly cooked veggies. This is especially important for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Steaming is also a great option and much preferred to boiling , so grab an in expensive steaming basket when next you visit the store.

There are many recipes out there but some of the simplest include tossing your vegetables in olive oil, S&P, lime/lemon juice, and topping with your favourite herbs. A good home-made vinaigrette is always a good choice. Have fun with it.

One love,

SC.