Have you ever heard of the food network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate? It showcases a bunch of celebrity chefs going berserk over their favourite foods. I had a moment like that last night. I sat there at the dinner table and could do nothing else but close my eyes and allow my taste buds the experience of a lifetime. I kid you not, folks – I think I just found the best thing I ever ate. And what a treat: I made the recipe! I get to make it again! I couldn’t have been more ecstatic!
I’ve always been a huge fan of falafel. Those crispy little morsels showcase the best of Mediterranean food: garlic, parsley, onion, and chickpeas, all melded together to create a crispy patty. Slather them with Tzatziki, roll them into a soft pita and top them off with a little lettuce and tomato. Voila! A healthy Mediterranean street food dish that was surprisingly easy to make at home.
For this recipe, I found it easiest to pop everything into a bowl and coat the falafel base ingredients with the dry ingredients before transferring it all to the food processor.
They turned out so cute and authentic looking. I brushed each side of the patties with Mighty Trio cold pressed canola oil, to get them crisp them up without having to pan fry.
I baked them at a pretty high temperature, because I was very very hungry while I was making them, and they turned out so crispy and perfect. (Baking them at a lower temperature would have cooked the middle a little more, but I was too hungry to wait for that.) Just look at the crisp on those babies! Hmmm… This is the type of recipe I have epic dreams about. For the pita assembly, cut open a soft Greek pita (I used Happy Camel’s multigrain pita), and slather one side with tzatziki (I used the tzatziki from Theo’s Greek Kouzina – I need to make a little segue here about Theo’s. I have been buying his tzatziki regularly for the past couple of months and I still can’t seem to get enough. Not only is the owner extremely happy and a delight to buy from, but the texture and flavour of the tzatziki brought me back to the one we had in Santorini on a family vacation way back. I have never had more authentic tasting tzatziki, and I might have crossed into borderline obsession over it.)
Top your pita with lettuce and tomato and enjoy possibly the best thing you ever ate!
Crispy Baked Falafel
You will need:
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp whole grain flour
- 3 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 medium-sized pitas (Happy Camel‘s soft Greek pitas work wonders here!)
- 2 tbsp each Tzatziki (Make your own or pick up some authentic Greek Tzatziki from Theo’s Greek Kouzina)
- Shredded lettuce
- Diced tomato
Preheat oven to 425. Combine all falafel base ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and toss evenly to coat. Transfer to a food processor (If yours is big enough – Huzzah! You only have to do this step once!), and pulse the falafel until all ingredients are roughly chopped and incorporated (You are not looking for a smooth paste here – This isn’t hummus, it’s a tasty falafel, so keep a close eye on it as you process). Transfer back to the bowl and form your patties by using an ice cream scoop or a rounded spoon to form a ball, then use your hands to flatten them out and turn them into little disks.
While most falafels are fried, these are baked. Brush each side of the falafel patties with canola oil and add to a baking dish. Bake at 425 for about 15 mins, remove from oven, and carefully flip each one. Bake for another 15 mins.
While you’re waiting, assemble your pita. Cut open the pita, and slather with tzatziki. Fill with lettuce and tomato. When your falafels are ready, add two disks to the pita. Enjoy, oh so very much!
Of all the ways that pregnancy has changed my body so far, one of the most interesting, frustrating and illuminating has been the way that it has changed my relationship with food. From day one, my taste buds and stomach have been altered by this beautiful little life growing inside of me. I’d like to take you on my journey with pregnancy eating, so far.
From the get-go, I noticed a change. I could smell everything, including the good and the bad. There is an urban dairy farm not too far from Parkallen. On days when the wind is right, I can smell the awfully distinguished aroma of dairy cow. Uggggh. But on the flip side, I could time my steam popped popcorn in the microwave (using our handy dandy epicure silicone steamer) to my nose, preventing burnt kernels and maximizing overall popedge.
My taste buds were also exploding! Every bite of food was so much more flavourful and I just could not get enough healthy nutrients (lucky baby!). I wanted dark, leafy greens, like broccoli and brussel sprouts, and nutrient rich whole grains. I remember telling Justin one day that I could “Taste the sun!!” when eating a particularly tasty meal. Oh boy, did I not have a clue of what was coming…
Texture, Nausea and Aversions
I classically began to feel morning sickness and queasiness around 6 weeks. Sadly for me, this fell right around the Christmas holidays. That super strong sense of smell and taste that I loved so much the week before became my mortal enemy, turning my stomach at the slightest whiff of whatever my belly didn’t want to eat at that particular moment. Various complex textures would turn me off so easily: the stringy, chewy texture of cooked chicken or turkey would completely turn me off. Fish, with its strong smell and flaky texture, had me pushing my plate away. I could only pick at rich foods like a honey-glazed ham or a classic comfort meal with all the holiday fixings.
And how my preferences changed on a dime! No longer could I stomach the smell of dark leafy greens, and I quickly developed a strong aversion to all cooked vegetables. That included my once-favourites: roasted veggies, steamed broccoli, sauteed peppers and baked cauliflower. The smell, sight and texture of each sent me running to the washroom. I also gagged at the very mention of any baked goods – Cake, pie and brownies all turned me off and made me feel queasy just thinking about them…
While it didn’t take away how badly is sucked, my doctor told me it was all 100% normal and that my baby was growing nice and strong. When I expressed my worry about not getting enough healthy nutrients for baby, she told me not to worry about it, that it was temporary and that I was in survival mode.
For me, survival mode meant consuming anything that didn’t make me want to hurl. That meant a lot of starchy carbs that lined my stomach and (partially) kept me full: Crackers, bagels, granola bars, and the dreaded peanut butter toast. I had many evenings where I would try and be a little creative in the kitchen by making what would have resembled a regular Parkallen Home Kitchen meal (like my go-to curry, or an easy pasta), and my stomach would turn, and I wouldn’t be able to finish. Still hungry, I’d turn to go-to stomach stabilizer: Peanut butter toast or a bag of goldfish crackers…
In the first half my my pregnancy, I was always hungry. I kid you not: I would eat breakfast, head to work and be ravenous the minute I got there. I began packing obscenely large lunches just to prevent me from heading down to Timmies for a breakfast sandwich every single day. I got a few gentle teases that my pile o’ snacks at work was getting a little large and that my lunch bag was laughably huge, but hey – what can you do when you’re literally starving one hour after you just ate?
When I gained 8 pounds in a month, I started to get worried that this would become a trend, so my doctor gave me strategies on how to keep my ravenous belly full for longer: eat more lean protein including non-fat dairy and low fat cheeses, reduced fat nut butters and pulse dips like hummus. Also, keep hydrated – a dehydrated belly is a hungry one. Luckily, following her advice and keeping active, things started leveling out and began to improve for me.
New Discoveries and Cravings
I noticed a very curious change to my eating habits through the upheaval: Things that I had never before thought to reach for began to become incredibly appealing. I’ve never been one to crave cookies, but I couldn’t get enough of that that chewy, sweet, melty chocolatey flavour (hence my attempt to make them a little healthier). Another weird craving: Salt and vinegar chips. I am so not a fan normally, but one day, a coworker was eating them and I got a whiff, sending me into a tailspin of “needing to eat them right now.”
I was delightfully surprised when I began to crave a nice cold glass of milk. (While I’ve always loved all dairy products, I have never been one to pour myself a cold one.) I also deeply craved fruit in shapes and sizes, particularly tropical fruit. Bring on the mangoes, papaya and pineapple. I am also loving all apples, oranges and grapes. Baby loves fruit, I guess!
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
At around 13 weeks, I began to feel better and my cravings began to subside. While there were moments that my belly would still keel at the smell of broccoli, and I would get sick over a bag of mini donuts, I was able to stomach a wider range of food, and to put aside the peanut butter toast for a while (thank GOD!). Slowly, my aversion to all veggies began to wane (Welcome back, bell peppers! I missed you! Hello mushrooms! I am so happy to see you!), and I could be creative in the kitchen once again (huzzah!)
While I know that my journey is far from over at only half way there, I am happy to add more variations to my diet and to feed my little one a variety of tasty foods.
Mommas-to-be, what has your experience with pregnancy eating been like? Did you have a rough first trimester? What were your cravings like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Not too long ago, Justin asked that I pick him up some instant Quaker oat packages from the store for breakfast on one of my weekly grocery trips. I have to say that, after having worked for an amazing organic grains farmer on and off for the past two years, I was a little horrified. I figured, why buy instant oat packs when I can just as easily put together my own little packages, with tasty organic oats and and controlled amounts of sugar and spices?
Of course, I used Gold Forest Grain‘s organic quick oats as the base. (Would I have used anything else?)
Then I threw in some dried fruit from Steve and Dan‘s, along with some sunflower seeds for texture, and some sugar and cinnamon for flavour. That’s it!
Organic Instant Oats
You will need:
2 cups organic instant oats
1 cup dried fruit
1 cup sunflower seeds
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp sugar
For preparing and serving:
1 cup milk
An extra splash of milk to serve
Divide the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and sugar between 4 plastic baggies. (This recipe makes 4 oat packs). When ready to cook, add 1 cup milk and microwave on high for 1.5 – 2 mins, depending on your machine. When ready to serve, add an extra splash of milk and serve hot for breakfast. Enjoy!