Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vietnamese Meatball Lollipops with Dipping Sauce




Tis the season for parties galore... and appetizers, don't forget the appetizers. I've been scrambling for some good recipes and some of my latest attempts have been bombs. Luckily, this one wasn't. If you're taking this to a party, I'd lighten up on the oven time, so when you reheat the meatballs on site, they aren't too dry. I'm keen to try this with ground pork next time, but the beef was delicious.















From: http://www.bettycrocker.com/

Serves 4-6


Ingredients


For the meatballs

  • 1 1/4 lb of lean ground beef (turkey or pork will do too)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped water chestnuts from an 8oz can
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 t ground pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soya sauce
  • 2 T packed brown sugar
  • 2 T chopped fresh chives
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper

Method

Heat oven to 400F. Line cookie sheet with foil.


In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients until well combined. Shape the meat into one inch balls and place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the balls over halfway through the cooking time. The meat should read 165F in its centre when done.


In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Heat the pan on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.


Insert the bamboo skewers into the balls, place on a plate and serve with the warm dipping sauce. 






Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles



There appears to be a pattern developing over my choice of desserts for this food blog. For one, I dig cream cheese and over the life of this Eat, Belch, Fart adventure, have been putting it into all variations of dessert. Second, I get a kick out of puddings and custards. I like their texture and simplicity and maybe the fact that I can fit it in a cup. Here is yet another pudding concoction that is worth a try. If you like sweetness in moderation, I would put in half to two thirds of the sugar into the pumpkin, cream cheese mix and add more to suit your taste. This a lazy man's pumpkin cheesecake, or depending on your perspective, a clever man's pumpkin cheesecake. 



Adapted from: http://kikicuisine.com/

Serves 4


Ingredients


  • 2/3 cup of graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 T, melted unsalted butter
  • 1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 750 ml of whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 ground cloves
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ginger

Method

Combine the melted butter and graham wafer crumbs in a bowl. 

Whip the cream in another bowl until stiff peaks form. 

Using a standing mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the pumpkin until well incorporated and follow with the vanilla and spices. When well blended, fold in half of the whipping cream.  

Assemble the dessert by adding a few spoonfuls of the graham wafer crumbs to the bottom of your serving cups or bowls. Next, add a few spoonfuls of the pumpkin mix and follow with a few dollops of whipped cream. Repeat and top with whipped cream.




Kale Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette



Had a memorable dinner at a nearby neighbourhood restaurant called Belgravia Hub last weekend and it inspired me to recreate a kale, bacon and egg salad I had as a starter. Bacon and eggs in a salad? Woohoo! In fact there was very little else in that salad, but perhaps its' simplicity is why I enjoyed it so much. A mustard infused vinaigrette and soft-yolked egg bring this dish to life. It also makes me wonder how I'll ever eat a salad without bacon and eggs in it again.

Adapted from: http://www.justataste.com


Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of green kale
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Eggs (1 per serving if desired) 
  • 6 slices of bacon and reserved bacon fat
  • 2 T minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t packed brown sugar
  • 2 t grainy Dijon mustard

Method

Wash and tear the kale from their spines. Gather the leaves on a chopping board and cut them into thin strips. Toss the kale with the pumpkin seeds and red onion and set aside.


Cook the bacon to your desired texture and reserve the bacon fat. Chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces and add it to the salad. Using the same pan on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the fat (supplement with olive oil if you do not have enough) with the shallots, caramelizing them over the course of about 8 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar, brown sugar and mustard until blended. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing in stages in with the salad to meet your desired dressing coverage.


Using the same pan with a little of the bacon fat to coat, crack as many eggs into the pan as servings intended for the salad, frying it to the consistency of your preference. I like my yolk soft, so when it breaks in the salad, it oozes into the kale, adding another dimension to the flavour. Serve individual portions of the salad, adding an egg on top of each serving.  Topping the salad with parmesan wouldn't be a bad idea either!


Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet Shallot Sauce


One way or another, I was having a nice piece of beef this weekend. The question was whether to make it myself or have someone make it for me. With a bottle of red waiting to be opened and the ingredients for a kale salad with bacon vinaigrette on hand, I shuffled out to find beef tenderloin. The results were divine. 

Like with pork tenderloin, the best advice I've seen with respect to cooking a lean piece of meat is to sear it first before roasting. This seals in the juices and keeps the meat moist. I boiled a few baby potatoes as a side, but if you're using fresh thyme in this recipe, as per the instructions, roasting the potatoes with the rest of your thyme and some other seasonings would be a better way to accompany the beef.  The kale salad recipe will follow shortly and is definitely worth pairing with this or another nice roast, if beef tenderloin isn't your thing or is out of your budget. 


Enjoy!


Adapted From: http://www.canadianliving.com

Makes 4-6 servings


Ingredients


For the beef

  • 2 lbs beef tenderloin (try a roast format vs. a steak one)
  • 1 T black peppercorns, roughly crushed (I used a mortar and pestle to get this effect)
  • 1/2 sea salt
  • 1 T olive oil

For the sauce
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 t fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/8 cup brandy
  • 1 T corn starch

Method

Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the salt and pepper and spread the seasoning on a flat surface. Roll the tenderloin in the salt and pepper mixture to cover it evenly. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Sear the beef in the pan on all sides. 

Once seared, place the beef in a shallow roasting pan, uncovered. Roast for approximately 40 minutes, checking periodically to ensure you are not overcooking the roast. A rare piece of tenderloin should read 140F in the centre. 

For the sauce, sauté the shallots in half of the butter until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar, thyme, bay leaf and garlic and continue to sauté until the shallots have caramelized, about 6 minutes.

Add the stock, wine and brandy and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes in order to reduce the sauce by half. Whisk the cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and add it to the sauce, stirring it until completely incorporated. Add the roasting pan's juices. Bring the sauce to a boil and whisk in the remaining butter. Serve with the beef.







Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Leaner, Easier Chicken Pot Pie



My cooking philosophy changes as often as my mood. I enjoy making as much as I can from scratch, but I cheat often. I soak dried beans one week and buy canned the next. I make a cake from scratch for a birthday and then use a mix for brownies. Any number of factors influence my decision to do it one way or another. The decision to try this easy recipe was also easy. It looked and sounded like a simple and delicious way to make more of the comfort food I've been craving. I was sure glad I took a short cut in this case: I was out of time by the time I got to making dinner. Cheating or not, this chicken pot pie is delicious.


Serves 6

Ingredients
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can of low fat cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup no salt added or low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • salt and pepper to tasted

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large casserole dish coated with nonstick spray, layer the chicken onto the bottom of the dish. Top the chicken with the carrots, celery and frozen peas. Whisk together the stock, soup and salt and pepper if needed in a separate container. Add the mixture overtop of the chicken and vegetables. Combine the milk and Bisquick mix, whisking well to remove any lumps. Pour the batter over top of the pie. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the top of the pie has browned. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pumpkin & Mushroom Risotto with Chocolate & Coffee Glazed Short Ribs


When I first saw this recipe, I drooled a little, but then did a double take at the work involved in preparing the dish. After having made all elements of it once, I can tell you that it is not as complex as it may appear at first. The trick is to plan ahead. Too bad I didn't. The beef needs to marinate overnight and I had trouble finding short ribs in the first place. When I finally did, I had to cut down on the marinating and cooking time in order to have the dish ready later that day. This isn't a meal that affords short cuts. Follow the recipe and you should be wowed. 


The second issue I had was my choice of meat. Had I had more success at finding quality short ribs, I would have picked some that were cut between the bone instead of through it. I suspect I would have been able to shred the beef with ease had it been cut differently too. 


Despite my experiment's shortcomings, I still enjoyed the meal. The pumpkin risotto was particularly yummy and can be made on its own. The ribs are spicy so if spice is an issue, I would omit the chipotle peppers. If not, add more!



From: http://www.thedevilwearsparsley.com


Serves 8


Ingredients


For the short ribs


  • 3lbs short ribs
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 beef or veggie broth
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 cup beer (recipe calls for porter or a chocolate stout, but I used pumpkin ale0
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 2 chilis in adobo, chopped
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t ginger, minced
  • 2 T soya sauce
  • 1 T dijon mustard

For the mushrooms

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t fresh chopped sage
  • 1 t fresh chopped thyme
  • 1, 8 oz package of crimini mushrooms

For the risotto

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup pumpkin beer
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/4 ground pepper

Method

For the short ribs


Place the ribs, the cayenne pepper and lemon juice in a freezer bag and shake well. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, squishing the bag every so often to mix the marinade with the beef.


Once marinated, remove the beef from the bag and pat dry. Heat oven to 375F. Heat a pan on medium-high heat and add the oil. Sear the ribs on all sides and set aside.


Turn heat down to medium and add the onions, stirring for about 5 minutes. Once softened add the garlic and cook for another minute.


Add in the cacao powder and stir until all the onions are coated. Add the broth to deglaze the pan, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the molasses until incorporated and then add all other remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper to the mix.


Transfer the onions and sauce to a dutch oven and add the ribs. Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, or until the ribs are very tender. Remove the ribs from the dutch oven and place the oven on the stove on medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half.


When the ribs have cooled enough, remove the meat from the bones and add the meat back into the dutch oven (my ribs weren't shreddable...long story, but were added anyways). Keep warm until the risotto is ready.


For the mushrooms


In a pan over medium heat, add the oil and the mushrooms, cooking until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Blend in the thyme and sage and cook for 1 minute more. Set aside and keep warm.


For the risotto


Mix the pumpkin puree, beer and stock in a pot over low heat. Reserve with a ladle on hand. 


In a second pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and onions, stirring frequently and letting them sweat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice until coated with the oil and browned slightly. Add one cup of the liquid and stir until absorbed by the rice. Continue adding the liquid, half a cup at a time until half the liquid is gone. Add the mushrooms, stirring well. Keep adding the liquid in half-cup increments until the rice is al dente. Portion the rice into shallow bowls. Top with the rib mixture and serve.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shepherd's Pie for the Sophistimacated


Oh the weather outside is...well you know what it is. In the spirit of Mad Men, I am considering getting an apartment near work, not so I can have a mistress like the male cast members, but so I can avoid a two-hour commute home when the bad whether socks in. 


It's a good thing I had comfort food waiting for me when I got home. Thick, rich, whipped potatoes, blended with Greek yogurt and parsley and buried underneath: a bed of ground beef, vegetables and spices. This is a leaner version of Shepherd's Pie and one worth making on the weekend because it makes for great leftovers. I call this recipe sophistimacated because I doubt the Irish had all the spices and perhaps even the vegetables available for this version. Luckily, I do!


Only slightly modified from: http://jenessasdinners.blogspot.ca


Serves 6

Ingredients


  • 1lb lean or extra lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of green peas ( I used frozen)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 1/2 cups of stock
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 t dried thyme 
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 T corn starch disolved in 2 T water
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I chose 2%)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the potatoes. Boil for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.


While the potatoes cook, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots and thyme and cook until soft. Blend in the tomato paste. As the vegetables cook, break up the ground beef in a bowl and mix in the oregano, half of the parsley, coriander, cayenne and allspice. Add the seasoned beef in small amounts to the vegetables that are cooking until all is added and cooked through. Add the peas and stock and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.


While the beef mixture is simmering, drain the potatoes and mash them, adding the Greek yogurt and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. 


Once the stew's stock has reduced, add the corn starch mixture, stirring well. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and top with the potatoes. Place under a broiler on high until the potato topping peaks is golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Remove and serve with the remaining parsley sprinkled on top of the pie. 



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes & Mushrooms



I didn't realize it was already time for my annual thumb grating culinary fiasco, but here we are again. While cooking this morning, I attempted to pull off the guard on my new microplane and ended up shredding my right thumb in the process. Last year was the left with a mandolin. It appears my thumbs are taking turns sacrificing themselves in order to give each other a break.

My sous-chef did much of the preparation on this recipe due to my wound. Handling raw chicken with an open cut isn't sanitary for the chicken or the cook, so I needed a spare set of hands. I was grateful for the help and he was grateful this recipe was easy. 


My take on this dish is as follows:

While the dressing seasons the chicken quite nicely, the selling point of this recipe is the vegetable combination. It is bright and light as a side to the chicken. It was also welcome on Edmonton's first snow day of the season. If you've got a piece of fish you'd like to use, I would expect good results swapping out the chicken for your fish.

Adapted From: http://www.domesticate-me.com


Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1, 3lb chicken or chicken parts (I used 4 chicken breasts & modified the instructions to suit)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced and 2 sliced
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 4 large basil leaves
  • 1 large red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • fresh arugula or spinach leaves for serving

Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk the vinegar, oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. 


In another bowl, combine the onion, mushrooms and tomatoes. Pour a third of the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.

Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry. Pour a third of the dressing under the skin of each of the breasts. Place a lemon slice, a few slices of garlic and a basil leaf under each of the breasts (if you are using a whole chicken, visit the website for prep instructions.






Pour the remaining third of the dressing over the breasts. Rub the dressing all over the meat to coat it well. Place the breasts in an uncovered casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the breasts, baste them with the juices lurking in the bottom of the dish and cook on their other side for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the vegetables around the chicken, tenting the dish with foil before returning it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven again (last time!) and place the vegetables and juices in a pan, simmering until the juices thicken. Once thickened, serve the vegetables and chicken on a bed of fresh spinach or arugula.








A Soup Affair

Thai sweet potato bisque
 On this do-nothing October weekend I have defied the odds and done something: cook! Soup is on the menu and it's going to be a doozy, due to the multitude of soup recipes I've found that I must try. Ruedi is sporting his baking hat and is all over the bread. One cannot experiment with soup without plenty of crusty bread.

First off is a Thai-inspired sweet potato bisque. For those of you who don't do spicy, omit the jalapeño. Heat or no heat, you'll still get a delicious soup. I opted to add sambal oelek in addition to the jalapeño because I'm on a heat kick. After tasting this soup I added minced basil to it. I felt it needed a bit more oomph and basil was the ticket.



Italian parsley soup with ricotta spaetzle
Following this, I experimented with an Italian parsley and ricotta spaetzle soup. Spaetzle is a German pasta or dumpling which is often served as a side dish. This time, it was added to a clean-tasting, but flavourful soup. The recipe calls for watercress leaves, but I had spinach on hand. Just make sure to trim your greens' stems well to avoid the stringy remains in your blended soup.


Thai Sweet Potato Bisque


From: http://jillyinspired.blogspot.ca


Serves 6

Ingredients
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1, 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 reduced salt bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top of the soup
  • 6 cups of water
  • Canola or coconut oil for cooking
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk (I chose light)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Lime zest from half a lime
  • 2 T, minced fresh basil
  • To serve, wedges of lime, basil (thai if you have it), ground cinnamon and sea salt

Method

Place the red pepper face down on a foil-covered cookie sheet and broil on high for 10-15 minutes. The skin should be blackened at that point, but if not, keep broiling until blackened. Remove from cookie sheet and place in a bowl, covering to allow to steam for a few minutes longer. Once cooled, remove the skins, chop and set aside.

In a large pot, saute the onion and jalapeño in a little oil until the onion has softened. Add the potatoes, ginger, bouillon cubes and water to the pot. Cover and bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Add a dash of cinnamon to the pot. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Add the lime zest, basil and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with lime wedges and any combination of the seasonings mentioned in last bullet of the ingredients section. While this soup can be served immediately, it ages quite well. 


Italian Parsley Soup with Ricotta Spaetzle


From: http://www.playinwithmyfood.com


Serves 4-6

For the Soup

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch of watercress, washed with stems removed (I used spinach)
  • 2 cups fresh italian parsley, washed with stems removed
  • 1 t sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a sauce pan and add onions, sautéing until softened, but not browned. Add the potato and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick, add a little stock to loosen the vegetables. Add the spinach, parsley, stock, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Set aside while you make the spaetzle.

For the Spaetzle

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 1/4 t ground all spice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method

Sift the flour, salt and pepper in one bowl. In another, whisk in the remaining ingredients until blended. Add the flour in batches until completely combined. 

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Spoon some of the batter into a colander placed over the pot (I used a slotted spoon since I didn't have a colander with large enough holes). Push the batter through the colander. The batter will drop into the pot in chunks and once blanched, rise to the top of the pot. With a slotted spoon, scoop the spaetzle out of the pot and into the soup. Continue cooking the batter until all of it has been blanched. 


I ended up with more spaetzle than I knew what to do with, so I set some aside for other, yet to be determined uses. This soup can be eaten immediately. I topped mine with a bit of leftover parsley and served with some crusty parmesan french bread.
















Monday, October 14, 2013

Everything Green Salad


I suspect you'll be reading this after you've gorged on one or several turkey dinners. If this is the case, my timing couldn't be better. You will likely be looking for something on the light side. This is a summer salad filled with summer ingredients and I made it in July when all the vegetables in this pictures were in good form. At this time of year, your selection of greens will look a little different, but that's okay. What makes this salad unique is the dressing. It is magic when combined with fresh feta and good veg. Those with allergies should not despair. Having made a sunflower seed pesto the other day confirmed that substituting sunflowers seeds in nut-based recipes is no sacrifice. Seeds in this dressing would make this salad just as interesting. Now, go finish up that last piece of pumpkin pie.


From: http://www.chatelaine.com


Serves 4


Ingredients

Salad

  • Head of green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces
  • Head of butter lettuce, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of sugar snap peas
  • 4 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small zucchini, cut in ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 T freshly chopped dill
  • 2 Baby cucumber, sliced
  • 2 oz feta cheese, diced

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1T Dijon mustard
  • 1 t granulated sugar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 finely chopped pistachios
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the salad dressing:


Whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, mustard and shallot until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add in the oils until emulsified. Stir in pistachios and season with salt and pepper. 

For the Salad:

In a large pot of boiling water, add the peas and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and dump the peas in ice water to stop them from cooking any further. Repeat this blanching process with the asparagus. Once the peas and asparagus have cooled, remove them from the cold water and set them aside to dry before adding them to the salad. Combine the remaining salad ingredients into a large bowl. Add the peas, asparagus and salad dressing, tossing well to allow the dressing to coat all elements of the salad. Serve immediately.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Plum Cakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies



Baking on a Sunday morning isn't for everyone, but the payoff is pretty sweet when you make the effort. My rewards include a kitchen that smells like goodies and a large inventory of baking. 

Now baking was just part of the day's cooking bonanza, but let's focus on one item at a time. First, the plum cakes. In an effort to sway those health nuts out there, I should refer to the cakes as muffins instead. They are lower in fat and nutritious enough that I'm in the process of making a second batch for the week's afternoon snacks. The butter amount is reduced thanks to the addition of avocado and they aren't loaded with sugar. My favourite touch is of course the plum wedges that top them. If plums aren't in season, top them with another pitted fruit. 


The cookies, on the other hand are my answer to an ongoing household debate: what constitutes a good cookie? Ruedi is a wholesome treat eater. His favourite cookies contain items like orange zest, ground almonds, seeds of some kind, squirrels' teeth, you know, nature's little gems.


My favourite cookies include of a lot of processed crap. Cream cheese, candies and artificial fillings really do it for me. I can't help it. I dig that shizzle. The recipe below is one my mom first introduced me to as a kid. It's just a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, using milk chocolate chips and vanilla pudding. Even though Ruedi has his principles, I did spot him scarfing a few down between naps. What a trooper. 


Plum Cakes


From: http://dailyburn.com


Makes 12 cakes muffins 



Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T avocado
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1/3 sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of low fat milk
  • 1T raw sugar (optional-I opted out)

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Apply cooking spray to a 12-portion muffin tin. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, flax, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. In the bowl of your kitchen mixer, combine the butter and avocado, mixing until blended, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and blend for another minute. Pour in the sugar and egg, continuing to mix until combined. Finally, add the milk and flour mixture in 3 phases with the wet ingredients.  Once well blended, spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin and let cool completely on a wire rack.


Chocolate Chip Cookies



Makes 3 dozen
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 cup butter (room temp)
  • 3/4 cup of golden sugar
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 package (100g) of instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional-I opted out)

Method

Preheat your oven to 350F. 

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. In the bowl of your kitchen mixer, combine the butter and both sugars until smooth. Incorporate the pudding mix in with the wet ingredients until well blended. Add the eggs, vanilla until combined. Finally, fold in the chocolate and nuts using them, into the dough. Spoon 12 tablespoon-sized portions of the dough onto your cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool before storing.  



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins



I've had such a long summer break, I've almost forgotten how to write. What a summer it has been! Fun, sun and a LOT of eating. Having just returned from booze and treat-infused vacation, I felt the desire to look into some fit-inspired recipes. This is what you'll see over the next few weeks. These are items that are lower in carbs, higher in protein and natural with respect to ingredients. That last item isn't new. Synthetic doesn't usually appeal to me. 


Anywho, I have two friends who have made these muffins and enjoyed them. This is key because you won't catch me eating something I don't enjoy. The second piece of good news is the recipe took me 15 minutes to assemble and pop into the oven. I actually baked on a weeknight. Obscene! If the idea of savoury and/or meat-filled muffins don't appeal, I'll keep trying. 


Adapted From: http://www.bodybuilding.com


Ingredients


  • 2 lbs ground chicken or turkey
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup cooking oats
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 2 t ground mustard
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 t chipotle pepper powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or 2 T garlic powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced

Method


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-piece muffin pan with a non-stick spray or coat ever-so-lightly with butter smudged on a piece of wax paper.  Mix all ingredients into one bowl and blend with your hands. Roll the mixture into balls and place them into the muffin tin. Bake for 40 minutes.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blackened Salmon with Mango Salsa & Coconut Yam Mash


I'm very leery of open flames, unless my cooking tool is a stick and my food is in wiener form. Guaranteed this girl would lose her eyebrows if left in charge of the barbecue. Thankfully, I have a co-chef for recipes such as this. His challenge this evening was to get the salmon on one end of the fillet the same kind of delicate, grilled consistency as the other side. This is difficult when the ends vary in thickness.  The level of difficulty increases further when you add the fact that the salmon is sitting above an open flame. We usually wrap ours in foil for this reason and/or watch our fish like a hawk. Anyways, the co-chef conquered and this dish made the we should make this for guests-list. The yam mash doesn't sound very summery, but I happened to have leftover coconut milk and a yam and I found a recipe combining the two. The combination was heavenly, by the way. Coconut rice would rock this dish too. Don't have a recipe? Well, look at that: http://www.lefork.com. The internet delivers yet again.



From: http://www.againstallgrain.com

Serves 4

Blackened Salmon
  • 750 g of filleted salmon (skin left on one side)
  • 3 t melted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 t paprika
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • 1/4 t cayenne
  • 1/4 thyme

Mango Salsa
  • 1 large mango, diced
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 T red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 t sea salt

Method

Remove the salmon from the fridge to allow it time to reach room temperature. Heat the bbq to medium-high heat. Combine all the spices, garlic and melted butter and paint both sides of the salmon with the mixture. Place the salmon skin-side down on your top grill for 1-3 minutes, depending on the the thickness of the fillet. Carefully lift and flip on its' skin side and continue to grill for up to five minutes. Remove from the barbecue.

For the salsa, combine all your ingredients and toss lightly. Serve on top or with the salmon.


Coconut Yam Mash

Serves 4
  • 2 large yams
  • 2 t butter
  • 1/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 t thyme

Method

Preheat the oven to 425F. Poke the yams with a fork and place in the oven until the interior is soft (mine took about 45 minutes). Remove from oven and peel off the skin while still hot. Place in a bowl with the butter and beat with an electric mixer. Add the coconut milk and thyme and blend until the consistency of the yams is smooth. 




Monday, May 20, 2013

Weeknight Cooking Part 3 of 3: Screw dinner, we're moving straight to dessert!

Whippity do da!

Last weekend I tried a berry cheesecake that knocked my socks off. Trees Organic Cafe in Vancouver was serving it, Ruedi discovered it and I ate it. That's all you need to know. 


This is a cheater's version. Wish I could attempt to make the air-dried bison we ate too, but that's a little above me.


No-Bake Berry Cheesecake


Adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com


Serves 4


Ingredients



  • 4 glasses, mason jars or other individual serving dish
  • 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 T melted unsalted butter
  • 1, 250g package of cream cheese
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
  • 2 T coconut milk
  • 2 T condensed milk
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • fresh raspberries
  • fresh whipped cream as a topping

Method

Combine the melted butter with the graham wafer crumbs and using a spoon, tamp the crumb mixture into the bottom of each serving glass.

In a mixer, combine the cream cheese, berries, coconut and condensed milk until smooth. Scrape down the edges and add the vanilla. Spoon the mixture into each glass until evenly distributed. Top with raspberries, whipped cream and more raspberries. Eat and get gas from all that dairy.
 






Thursday, May 2, 2013

Weeknight cooking Part 2 of 3: Polenta with Sage, Goat Cheese, and Mushroom Ragout.



It happened to snow the night I made the ragout, which seemed fitting for this "Porridge of the evening". I guess this label doesn't sell it. Let me work on it. 


Anyways, a warm mushroom ragout was just what the doctor ordered. Cheesy, warm and subtle in its range of flavours, I enjoyed it for dinner and for lunch the next day. "Yuppy slop" Is that better?



From: Cavich, C. (2008). High Plains: The Joy of Alberta Cuisine. (pp.108-9). Calgary, Canada. Fifth House Publishers.


Serves 4 as an entree or 8 as a side


Ingredients 


Polenta


  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T butter
  • 200ml goat cheese
  • 1 T chopped fresh sage leaves

Mushroom Ragout

  • 8 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • sprigs of fresh wild or garden sage

Method

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add salt and butter. Slowly add the polenta to the pot in a steady stream, whisking as you go to prevent lumps from forming. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese and sage. Keep warm.


To make the ragout, melt butter in a wide pan and saute onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add sliced mushrooms to pan with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms give up their liquid and begin to soften.


Add stock or wine, increase heat, and simmer until liquid in the pan is reduced by half. Stir in cream and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute until ragout is thick.


Serve polenta in deep bowls, topped with the mushroom ragout. Garnish each bowl with a sprig of fresh sage. 



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Weeknight Cooking Part 1 of 3: Chinese Chicken Salad



On the quest for quick, wholesome meals, I went digging for recipes that can be prepared in pinch. I narrowed it down to three, the first of which is tonight's entry. In the case of this particular recipe, I would modify how the veggies are chopped if you need to quicken the pace a little. This took me about forty minutes to prepare. 


I was surprised by how good this salad was. It certainly looked test-worthy as depicted in this month's Chatelaine magazine, but it exceeded my expectations. This was a contribution of Gwyneth Paltrow's and while her version included steamed chicken infused with ginger and star anise, I opted out of the steamer and chose my frying pan and some oil. Easy peasy and a little less perfect than Gwyneth's recipe. You'll get over it.


The version below is my modified version. If you want the original, check it out: http://www.chatelaine.com


Serves 4 as an entree


Ingredients


Salad


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 T canola oil
  • Head of Romaine lettuce, finely chopped
  • 1 cup snow peas, julienned
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 3 T loosely chopped cilantro
  • 2 red chilis, diced (optional)
  • 1 T toasted sesame seeds
Dressing
  • 3 T hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 3 T rice vinegar
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 t salt

Method

Heat the oil in a large fry pan on high heat.  If you find the breasts aren't thick enough to cook all the way through when pan fried, slice them in horizontally in half. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper before adding them to the pan. Let them cook for 3 minutes each side or until cooked through. Remove from pan and when the chicken has cooled enough to handle, tear the chicken into bite-size strips.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the salad ingredients and set aside. Next, combine the dressing ingredients, mixing well with a whisk. Finally, add the chicken to the salad and toss well. Serve the salad in individual bowls and dress accordingly...no white after Labour Day. Gawd, I'm clever!



Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Black Rice Diaries






Here's what you should know about black rice: its hull contains more vitamin E, a known immune system booster, than brown rice and it has more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries. Does it sound like I know what I'm talking about? Well I don't, but someone at Health.com does (http://www.health.com).

The health benefits of black rice had nothing to do with my decision to experiment with it this week. I liked the look of it and found a bag of Thai glutinous black rice at Superstore. Chinese black rice is another type worth looking into. In fact, the black rice bowl may be better served with this type of rice.

Black Rice Bowl

Adapted from: http://kidcultivation.blogspot.ca

Makes 6 servings


Ingredients


  • 1 1/2 cups black rice (recipe calls for Chinese black rice, but I used the Thai version)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 T sunflower oil, plus 2 T for cooking the chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 2 serrano chili peppers, diced
  • 1 T fresh lime zest
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh snap peas ( I didn't have them)
  • 2 small, ripe avocados
  • cilantro to garnish
  • sambal oelek to garnish

Method

Note: The original recipe prepares this dish as a salad. I chose to turn it into somewhat of a rice bowl. If you want to prepare and serve it as a cold salad, let the rice cool for an hour or so before mixing it in with the dressing and other ingredients. Note the original recipe did not include chicken.


Combine 2  and 3/4 cups of water and the rice into a large pot. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover, cooking for about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. 


To prepare the chicken, heat the 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a frying pan. Cut the breasts into bite size pieces and toss them in with the oil. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until all the pieces are well browned. Set the chicken aside. 


In another pan, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and add the onion, cooking for about 1 minute and then the chili peppers. Cook until the onions become translucent.

In a large bowl, combine the lime zest, juice, vinegar, fish sauce and salt in a bowl. Stir well and set aside.

Pour the rice and chicken into the bowl with the dressing, tossing well until all the dressing has coated the rice.  To serve, spoon the rice mixture into individual bowls and top with slices of avocado, cilantro and sambal oelek or whatever chili sauce you have on hand if heat is your thing. 



Coconut Black Rice Pudding


Makes 6 servings



Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup black rice
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 3 T shredded coconut
  • 1/2 t salt

Method

In a medium saucepan, bring the coconut milk and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer , uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile, to toast the coconut, preheat the oven to 350F and spread the shredded coconut across a cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar and salt and simmer for a few more minutes until the rice reaches your desired texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Serve in individual bowls, topped with the coconut. I had a few almonds hanging around that looked like a good addition, so used them as a garnish as well.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Velvety Potato Soup


I was drawn to this recipe for two reasons: first, it's a lower fat version of the potato soup recipes I've found online. Second, I was given hoards of potatoes from my mother-in-law (thanks U.E!) and needed a use for them. Delicious with a nice green salad and a collection of toppings such as bacon bits, grated cheddar and green onions. 

From: http://backtoherroots.com


Serves 4-6

Ingredients


  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 T butter
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, etc for garnish

Method

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until cooked through and browned. Remove from pan, crumble and set aside.


Add butter to the bacon grease and melt. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic, cooking until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and celery cooking the veggies for about 7 minutes or until tender.


Add in the potatoes, stock, milk, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.


Blend the soup using an immersion blender, food processor or stand alone blender. I pureed my first batch and enjoyed the velvety texture. Stir in the Greek yoghurt.


Ladle the soup into bowls and top with bacon bits and other desired toppings.