Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheers to 2011! You treated me well and now for 2012....

Happy New Years Eve people!

It's New Year's Eve and so I'm going to keep this post short and sweet since my good friend Ashley from Calgary is due to visit any time. We've got a quiet night in planned of catching up, some drinks (non-alcoholic for me sadly what with being preggo) and making a meal from Quinoa 365 - The Everyday Superfood which she gave me as a Christmas present this year. Thanks Ashley! Anyway, I'm super excited to give the cashew chicken and broccoli on quinoa from my new cookbook a try tonight to get the new year off to a healthy start.  Post to follow....

On another note, I thought I'd share this yummy roasted chicken, chickpea and tomato dish which I've madeTWICE in the past few weeks since it's so quick and tastes like it came from a gourmet restaurant. So good. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken with Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Paprika (serves 4)
from Bon Appetit, May 2008 via Epicurious

Total cooking time: 35 minutes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
4 chicken breast halves
1 15 ounce can of drained chickpeas
 1 12 ounce contained cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro divided

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Pour one teaspoon of this mixture into a bowl and mix with yoghurt and set aside for sauce. Place chicken on a large baking tray and rub chicken with 2 tablespoons of the oil mixture.

Add beans, tomatoes and 1/2 cup cilantro to remaining spice/oil mix and toss to coat. Pour bean mixture around chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro and serve with yoghurt sauce.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Fry To Remember....

I confess that I'm a fry junkie..what's more indulgent than a big ol' basket of hot, salty, greasy fries with a nice cold drink? Even better served with a juicy burger or a tasty sandwich of some sort. So when I stumbled upon this incredible recipe for chickpea fries from the Rouxbe Cooking School website, I knew I had to try them. The fact that they have chickpeas in them makes me think they must be pretty healthy...right?

We actually made these last saturday night as part of our saturday night feast that we decided to make since we had no other plans. We also made incredible Po'Boy sandwiches with deep fried breaded oysters, see picture below, which was also incredible but I'll save that to blog about another day. Needless to say it was an incredible meal to remember which also prompted me to head straight to a yoga class the next day. But oh SO worth it.

Chickpea Fries with Romesco Sauce
by Dawn T at Rouxbe Recipes

1 clove of garlic
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp fresh italian parsley
1tsp fresh rosemary
1 1/4 cups chickpea flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
31/2 cups cold water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
olive oil for frying
parmesan (optional)
lemon wedges for serving (optional)
Romeso sauce for dipping (optional)

Line a 13" x 9" -inch baking tray with non-stick aluminium foil (or use a good non-stick tray) and set aside.

Next, finely grate the garlic and zest the lemon. Next, finely chop the parsley and rosemary and set aside for later.

In a large pot over high heat, combine the chickpea flour, cornmeal, water, garlic and salt. Whisk gently to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Once the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, reduce the heat to medium and switch to a rubber spatula. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. Next, add the parsley, rosemary and lemon zest and continue to cook for about 6-8 minutes.

Once done, pour the batter onto the prepared baking tray and quickly spread the mixture out evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours or until completely chilled and set.

To prepare the fries, first gently flip the tray over onto a cutting board. Cut the mixture lengthwise into equal sections and then cut across into pieces approximately 3" -inches long.

Next, slowly heat approximately 1/2" -inch of olive oil in a large non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Once the oil reaches about 375˚F you are ready to start frying.

Fry the chickpea fries until they are golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes each side. Once done, remove them from the oil and set onto a cooling rack lined with paper towel. Sprinkle with kosher salt and or/freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste.

The fries before they got fried

Frying the fries

Here is the Oyster Po' Boy sandwich we ate with the fries, recipe to come another time...

another shot of these lovely fries...

and even this guy liked the fries..Success!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apple Butter Bonanza

So it's a long weekend and it's pissing rain...what a perfect weekend for some canning I say. Although I wouldn't normally say that since I've never canned before however I had the food network on in the background this morning and saw out of the corner of my eye on "Chuck's day off" that he was whipping up a batch of apple butter and I suddenly thought what a perfect rainy day project!

Unfortunately I did not actually catch how Chuck, if that is in fact his name was making the apple butter since I think I got distracted somewhere between a dog needing to go for a walk and a 1 year old boy spilling milk all over the place. But a quick google search came up with many recipes to choose from including basic how-to canning instructions for the canning illiterate.

So after comparing many online recipes and canning instructions I decided to base my apple butter on the recipe from Simply Recipes.

Apple butter makes a perfect spread for toast, grilled sandwiches or crackers. Or even better give as a gift next time you visit a relative or friend.

Apple Butter
adapted slightly from SimplyRecipes
(makes about 4 jars)

4 lbs of granny Smith Apples
2 cups sugar
2-3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1. Cut apples into quarters and place in pot with water and vinegar.

2. Boil for about 20 minutes or until soft.

3. Remove apples from vinegar/water solution and puree in a blender or food processor.

4. At this point I strained the puree to get ride of the remaining seeds and skin from the apples.

5. Place puree back in a pot and add spices, lemon juice and lemon rind. Boil, stirring frequently for 1-2 hours or until dark in colour.

Now the Canning begins!!

Proper canning instructions can be found here but basically what I did was place 4 jars without their lids in a 420 degree F oven for 20 minutes and I washed the lids with soapy water.

Next I placed the apple butter into the jars straight from the oven and I screwed the lids on tight.

Then I placed the 4 jars into a big pot of boiling water which was deep enough to cover the lids for about 10 minutes.

According to online resources I checked the lids were now sealed. And the lids were not "popping" and so I assumed they were officially canned properly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dad's Cheese Scones

One of my all time favourite breakfast foods is scones...soft and fluffy on the inside with a little crunch on the outside, hot from the oven with some melted butter and sweet jam slathered on. It's always a nice way to wake up, especially if someone else has made them of course.

My dad loves to cook up a full breakfast on the weekends and scones is one of his specialties. Whenever I go to my parents for a visit he always whips up a batch of muffins or scones for us and it's always fantastic. You can tell by the recipe below that it's a goody due to the discoloured and stained paper. 

So even though I'm a terrible baker I finally decided to borrow his recipe and give it a go. I shredded in some sharp white cheddar cheese to make them savoury but you could easily use the recommended currants that the recipe suggests. This recipe is pretty foolproof since they worked out well even for me. Enjoy!

Cheese Scones
from the archives of Richard Wey

1/3 cup butter or margarine
13/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp sugar
21/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (or currants)
4 to 6 Tbsp cream (I used homo milk)
1 egg

Using 2 knives and a medium size bowl, cut the butter into the bowl until crumbly. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. 

Stir in beaten eggs and currants (or cheese). Add cream gradually and mix in. 

Using a floured surface, knead about 12 times. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness.

Cut in shapes and put on a lightly buttered cookie sheet. Brush each with a beaten egg. 

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Garlicky Roasted Squash

A few weeks ago while I was visiting my family on Vancouver Island for Thanksgiving, I brought over a bunch of squash to add to the feast, see pretty picture above. I'm trying to recall what type of squash these were but alas I was completely distracted by the dazzling array of colours of the bounty of produce at the Burnaby Farmer's Market and so I regret that I did not noticed their names. 

Anyway, after some discussion on how to prepare the squash we decided to roast them very simply but in a tasty way that cannot be beat. I was inspired by my sister Ashley's method of roasting butternut squash which I've drooled over on many an occasion. A big thanks to my other sister Melody for doing the grunt work of all the chopping! The most labour intensive part without a doubt. 

Roasted Squash (serves 6-8 people)

Cooking time: about 45 minutes

3 small squash cut up into 1 inch cubes
coat with olive oil
6 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Variations: add fresh thyme, sage or other fresh herbs. A bit of maple syrup to make it sweeter perhaps?

Combine squash, olive oil to coat and minced garlic in a large baking tray. Add salt and pepper to your preference. Cook at 375 for 45 minutes or until cooked all the way through. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fresh Pasta

Sorry for the delay in posts people...I've been run ragged these past few weeks with my return to work, really hoping I can get into the swing of things soon though. So unfortunately its been mostly take-out and quick as possible type meals during the weeknights lately but I'm sincerely hoping to change that soon with a little better planning. Any suggestions?

Anyway, we made this fantastic fresh pasta last weekend when we had some actual time, so I decided to take some pics and show the results. There's something very satisfying about making fresh pasta from just tastes better somehow.

We have a really old fashioned pasta roller given to us once which requires two sets of hands since it cannot be bolted to a one person to hold the pasta maker still and the other person to feed the pasta through. A little labour intensive I'll admit, but after some practice it can be done quickly. If you're lucky enough own a pasta roller that can be bolted to a table I suspect this job may be slightly easier.

I used Gwyneth Paltrow's fresh pasta recipe from My Father's Daughter which called for what I initially thought was an outrageous amount of eggs...TEN! I can feel my arteries already starting to clog! But I can say for sure the results were well worth the rise in blood cholesterol.

For a sauce we used this quick tomato sauce and then grilled some prawns on top and finished it off with with freshly graded parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. What could be better I ask? Add a glass of red wine and it's a feast.

Fresh Pasta
From Gwyneth Paltrow's My Fathers Daughter

2 organic large eggs
10 organic large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups 00 pasta flour
or 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour,
plus more for kneading and dusting

Whisk together whole eggs and yolks in a bowl. Put flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork slowly bring in flour and knead by hand until a nice dough forms. Add more flour if needed.

Next take you pasta machine. Cut dough into 8 pieces and roughly form rectangles and dust each rectangle with flour. Start on your widest setting and gradually go from widest to thinnest. Eventually put through the linguini setting or whatever side of noodle you prefer.

Place on a counter or wrap with plastic wrap. Cook soon after.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Birthday To My Little Bear!

I just wanted to share the cake I just made for my little guy's first birthday. I'm kinda just a little proud of myself. This may be the first cake I've ever made, and yes it was from a box and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Thank you Mr. Duncan Hines! In my defence I didn't feel like spending my last day of mat leave slaving away in the kitchen. Can you blame me?

Tomorrow I head back to work where I sincerely hope I will remember how to do my job as an EEG tech. My good friend Ashley Faris told me a year ago that I couldn't forget it even if I tried. I sure hope she's right. So wish me luck tomorrow on my first day as a full-time working mom.

I started this blog while on mat leave to as way to maintain my sanity and do something for myself. And so even though I'll be busy while I'm back at work I hope to still share my cooking adventures with you all in my spare moments. Please don't forget to leave comments! It always brightens my day:)

Take care all!

xox Lorelei

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

So it's no secret around here that I'm a big Jamie Oliver fan,  I may have mentioned him once or twice. So you can just imagine my excitement when my good friend Lena told me that he has a new show called Jamie's 30-minute meals. How exciting is that?

The main idea of his show is to be able to cook a full meal in well under 30 minutes. And by meal he actually means a main course, a side, usually a salad and a dessert as well. After watching several episodes I think it may be slightly ambitious to think I could do all that in under 30 minutes while also watching a 1 year old so I decided to start small and cook a main course from one of his episodes cauliflower mac and cheese - a healthy twist on the comfort food classic. 

So I gathered my ingredients and set things up beforehand like he suggests - kettle full of water and set on boil, pans out, chopping block and knives ready and food processor out and ready to go. I was ready as I would ever be. So I set my timer and went to work. I was fairly surprised when I managed to get the dish into the oven in about 11 minutes flat. Wow! I didn't think I had it in me. And it was cooked and ready to eat in about another 15 minutes as well. So it is possible to make a meal quickly afterall.

I made a few variations from Jamie's recipe - he puts crispy bacon into the topping which I omitted, although I'm sure that would make the topping even better. He also used creme fraiche which I could not find at my local grocery store and so I substituted in plain, thick greek yogurt. Also, I apologize big time for giving measurements in weights but unfortunately that is what Jamie did on the show. Sadly I don't own a kitchen scale and so I approximated the weights based on the weight given on the front of the package. 

Nonetheless, the end result was a yummy, creamy mac and cheese with a healthy twist  of added cauliflower. I ended up making 2 small pans and froze the second pan (uncooked) for another evening when I don't have 30 minutes:)

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (serves 6)
adapted slightly from Jamie Oliver's 30-minutes-meals

200g cheddar
a handful of fresh basil (fresh oregano or thyme would also work well)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
250g plain greek yogurt
about 2 cups starch water from the pasta
4 slices old bread
salt and pepper
1 head cauliflower (quartered)
1 package whole wheat macaroni

1. Fill Kettle with water and turn on. Once water is boiled add to a pan with quartered cauliflower and the package of macaroni. Cook together until pasta is almost cooked. Remove pasta and cauliflower and keep starchy water that it cooked in.

2. Meanwhile, make the bread topping - In a food processor place your bread, 1 clove garlic, handful of basil (or other fresh herb), olive oil, pepper and pulse until you have a nice crumbly like consistency.

3. Place cooked pasta and caulflower into a baking pan and next use a potato masher and quickly mash the cauliflower slightly to break it up.

4. Add to your pasta in the baking pan the 250g yogurt, 200g cheddar also grated in the food processor (if you have that attachment), 1 clove minced garlic and add 1 cup of the leftover starch water that the pasta cooked into. Stir until you have a nice creamy consistency. Add more starchy water if you need it. I used about 2 cups I think.

5. Spread crumb topping on top and cook at 375 degrees until the cheese starts to bubble. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pesto Prawn Pizza

One of my very favourite things I like to order when I go to Earls, a popular chain restaurant here in British Columbia is their pesto prawn pizza. Seems like I've been ordering it a lot lately in fact. 

I wouldn't normally go to Earls so regularly but since we've moved to Burnaby we just so happen to live quite close to an Earls and so we find ourselves there fairly often these days. Plus, now that we have a child we are banned from all pubs, not that there are any good ones here in South Burnaby anyway, no offence. Go ahead and call me a snob but we seem to be living in the Wings pub district..pubs called Wings and House of Wings are all within 2 blocks walking distance of our home. I know what you're thinking...classy area right? It's not so bad. And maybe their wings are actually the best in town, but I'll never know since I can't tote a child in there anyway.

So Earl's it often is. There's no shame in it. The food is always tasty and FAST and always always reliable. I emphasize FAST because I think they must serve everything on a timer or something. One time I ordered steak and fries (I must have been pregnant) and seemingly 5 minutes after I placed the order and server came running out and apologized profusely for the tardiness of my meal and so they comped my whole meal! Unbelievable. I couldn't even get a latte on Robson St. in that amount of time.

Anyway, I had a hankering for my favourite pizza and so I decided to attempt to make it myself.  I started out by making Jamie Oliver's pizza dough recipe which was pretty easy and tasted great but I'll admit it made a heck of a mess on my kitchen counter, seriously cleaning my counter was the most labour intensive part of this whole meal! Anyway, once the dough is done the rest is easy and takes very little time. 

I will definitely make this pizza again, prawns and pesto is one of my most favourite combos. The Earls pizza also used feta cheese which I suspect would take this pizza to the next level but alas I forgot to pick some up. Next time for sure.

Pesto Prawn Pizza (serves 2)

Pizza dough - I used Jamie Oliver's recipe here. (I substituted in 1 cup of whole wheat flour which worked well)

capers (about 8 capers)
chili flakes
cracked pepper

1. Prepare pizza dough or if you feel like it use a store bought pizza shell or use whole wheat pita as I often do. 
2. Pre-cook the prawns separately in order to remove some of the excess water, this will prevent your pizza shell from getting soggy. 
3. Spread pesto onto pizza shell. place prawns and capers evenly onto pizza shell. 
4. Place mozzarella on pizza. Sprinkle with chili flakes and pepper.
5. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble and pizza dough is cooked all the way through.
6. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spicy Turkey Chili with White Beans

Well, September is here and with it invariably comes the end of summer. Lately, in the evenings I've been sitting out on our patio with a cup of tea or glass of wine and savouring the last fleeting moments of summer before it suddenly slips away. Next month will bring rain and more rain and slowly the days will get darker and shorter. So I guess it goes without saying that I can't say I'm exactly excited about the summer ending. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

Not to be all doom and gloom about it all. I mean, I guess there must be some nice things about the impending darkness that is otherwise known as Vancouver fall and Starbucks pumpkin scones, the Apple Festival, the new season of Dexter, going to one of these fun looking pumpkin patches and a Jane Birkin concert in November that my sister Melody and I have front row tickets to. Okay, I'm starting to feel optimistic already!

For me, September always seems to signify some sort of change.... going back to school, going travelling, starting a new job, having a baby and this year..going back to work in a few weeks after one year of maternity leave. I'm still not sure how I feel about that last bit but I must admit I am looking forward to more adult conversation and having an actual reason to put makeup and clean clothes on in the morning:)

So with all this talk of autumn, I thought I'd share an autumn type of dish with you all: turkey chili with white beans. Classic comfort food. I've been making chili as a staple for so many years now that I don't need a recipe anymore. If you like your chili on the spicier side add more chili powder and peppers and if you prefer it milder add less. Simple as that. Also feel free to add whatever veggies you'd like or have on hand. Mushrooms would be a great addition if you don't have someone in your home "allergic" to them. Serve with some crusty bread or blue corn chips as I did and you really can't go wrong.

Happy fall all!

Lorelei xox

Turkey Chili (serves 5-6)

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can plum tomatoes (795ml)
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped finely
1 fresh corn on the cobb, shave off corn with a knife (a handful of frozen corn also works)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1-2 tsp pureed fresh chipotle peppers
1 zucchini, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cumin
1 can white kidney beans
1 package ground turkey
1 caribbean red hot pepper

garnish options

shredded sharp cheddar
blue corn chips
dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt

To make vegetarian or vegan

Omit ground turkey and add another vegetable of your choice.

Fry onion until soft. Next add the garlic, jalapeno and turkey and fry until mostly cooked. Add peppers, corn, canned tomatoes, fresh tomato, tomato paste, beans, zucchini, cumin and chili powder. Simmer for at least 30-45 minutes until cooked. You could also make this in a slow cooker if you have one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pad Thai

Hot, sour, salty and sweet....thinking about Thai food always takes me back to when I was an eager and naive 18 year old backpacking through Thailand without a care in the world, or at least that's how I remember it now. I'm sure I must have had some worries.. like what should I eat today? how late should I sleep in today? Aaaah, to be 18 again.. I was so young I never even drank alcohol since I genuinely hadn't developed a taste for it yet and I wore nothing on my feet but a cheap pair of flip flops for 4 solid months. The only way I'd ever do that now is if I was pregnant and my feet were too swollen to fit into proper shoes.

As I ate my way through Thailand as I like to say, I would frequently gobble up pad thai from the street carts, devour sweet coconut sticky rice with mango, indulge in heavenly coconut green curry and oh, not to forget my all time favourite Thai dish Som Tam - green papaya salad. The food was absolutely mind blowing to my 18 year old small town Canadian self. It's a no wonder I came home with my face a little rounder and my cotton hippy clothes just a little tighter. But hey, at least I stayed healthy on my travels right? and I had one heck of a time.

Fast forward 14 years...and I still have a soft spot for Thai food and one of my favourite Thai dishes to make at home is pad thai which translates as "fried thai style".  I'll admit it's not necessarily a throw together at the last minute type of meal but if you've got a little extra time it's well worth the effort. I made mine with tofu but feel free to use shrimp, chicken, beef or any other protein you'd like.

Pad Thai (serves 5)
adapted slightly from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook
prep time: approx. 45 minutes

1 package rice noodles
3/4 cup frozen peas (run briefly under warm water to thaw)
1 block firm tofu
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 cups bean sprouts
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro or basil, or both
3 eggs, beaten
8 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

crushed roasted peanuts
chopped basil (or cilantro)
wedge of lime

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon sambal Oelek
pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this is personal preference)

substitute prawns, shrimp, chicken, pork or beef in place of tofu


1. Cook noodles in boiling water until done. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water and put aside.

2. Make the sauce by whisking together sauce ingredients.

3. Beat eggs and scramble, place aside

4. Toss cubed tofu in sesame oil and bake on high until lightly golden. Note: This is an added step which I like. You could omit this and just toss the cubed tofu in with the pan before frying the noodles. Note: This step is not needed if using alternate meat listed below.

Now fry it all together!

5. Heat peanut oil in a large wok or very large frying pan and fry garlic until golden. Add noodles, cooked eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, peas and sauce. Once warmed and bean sprouts have become less crunchy add chopped green onions and basil and/or cilantro. Garnish and serve.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini Muffins

Well, what did I just learn? It isn't easy making little brown muffins look appetizing. What can I say guys?  I do promise they taste much better than they look.

So about these muffins....the other day while at the park with my friend Kylee and her little guy she whipped out a container of these yummy muffins she had made for her just 1 year old son. I suddenly realized what a rut I've been in with feeding my little guy. I'm always just giving him the same old crackers and bananas for snacks probably partly out of laziness but also out of defeat since he spits out anything unusual or different. He is my son after all. Anyway, I had never really given my almost 11 month old son muffins before but he gobbled it up like it was chocolate cake. So I sneaked a taste and they were so tasty I asked if she wouldn't mind sharing her recipe.

So here are Kylee's Zucchini muffins...Thanks Ky!!!  She cleverly substituted the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and so I did the same and also threw in some oat flour which worked well. I also substituted pear puree for apple sauce since I didn't have any. Weird, you must be thinking that I would have pear puree lying around but not apple sauce but that's what happens when you have a small child I guess. Anyway, these muffins are a tasty snack for the whole family.

PS. These muffins taste awesome with nutella spread on them!! although I don't recommend giving nutella to a 1 year old child.

Zucchini Muffins
adapted from Parenting

Into a large bowl mix

2 cups all purpose flour ( I used 1 cup oat flour and 1 cup whole wheat)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 tsp allspice

Stir In

2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup grated apple

In another bowl, beat

3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup apple sauce (I used pear puree)

Mix dry with wet until combined. Pour batter into a muffin tray and cook for about 20 min at 350 until done.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I've been making this tasty little side dish for a few years now and it's a favourite around here. Fresh lime juice with garlic and herbs combine with sweet potatoes to make a tangy, comforting side dish. I've seen the recipe on a few different food blogs but it is originally from Alicia Silverstone's vegan food and lifestyle blog called The Kind Life. I am by no means a vegan but I am a big fan of her blog which is where she shares yummy recipes, fashion and lifestyle tips all in a mother earth lovin' kind of way which she actually manages to do without being annoying. She also has a popular cook book of the same name which looks very tempting.

This recipe called for sweet potatoes or yams although according to Alicia what we call yams are actually orange coloured sweet potatoes. I think she said real yams can only be found in Africa or are really hard to find here. Anyway, go ahead and use yams or sweet potatoes I say. I've even used squash before which works equally well.

This dish goes great as a side dish with grilled fish or it would also pair well with my sister's yummy recipe for Spicy Chipotle Grilled Chicken. You could also use it as a filling with beans in tacos or enchiladas. The possibilities are endless and if there are leftovers, count yourself lucky.

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes (serves 4)
adapted slightly from The Kind Life

3 large sweet potatoes, cubed
4 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1-2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley or cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread cubed sweet potatoes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast until cooked all the way through. Cool for 10-15 minutes and then place in a bowl. Toss with lime juice, minced garlic, cilantro or parsley and remaining olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Moscow Mule

Last fall, in the cold and rainy weeks and months after I first had my baby boy, I spent most of my time alone with my baby inside our apartment. In fact, some days I never even left. And I'll admit it now, while I was caring for my newborn baby and trying to maintain a moderate level of sanity I also watched a lot of daytime television. And so every day at 4pm I eagerly turned the TV on to see what my new best friend Oprah was up to and everyday I laughed and I cried right along with her. I kept telling myself it was all those raging postpartum hormones and so I indulged myself.

One of my very favorite episodes in Oprah's Fairwell Season was when Oprah and Gayle went camping in Yosemite Park. I sang along with them in their car, I watched in envy as they went fly fishing and I laughed out loud to my baby all their crazy antics.

One of my very favourite moments during their trip was when Oprah whipped up a big batch of Moscow Mules and served them to all her camping neighbours, I was left drooling with jealousy at home. I had never heard of this exotic drink before but something about the freshly squeezed lime juice combined with fresh mint and cold ginger beer sounded utterly fantastic and so I vowed that I would make it once summer came.

Well, summer and sunshine are finally here in Vancouver and so I finally made this much needed cocktail.

Moscow Mule (serves 1)
from Oprah

1 ounce vodka
1 tsp sugar syrup
freshly squeezed lime juice (to taste, about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup ginger beer
1 spig fresh mint
1 slice of lime

Oprah recommend's using a copper mug, but who has that lying around? So if you don't have one use a regular glass and pour vodka over ice. Add sugar syrup and lime juice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with lime wedge and mint sprig.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chickpea Salad

It's been a busy, busy week here...we just got back from Vancouver Island where my 60 year old pops and I participated in the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon in Victoria, B.C. That's right, my old man did his first ever triathlon at the ripe age of 60 and not only did he complete it, he won a bronze medal in his age category! How's that for inspiration.

I was nervous about completing it myself but I got through it with a smile on my face and shockingly even managed a third place finish in my age group as well! And before you judge me for being smug I will mention that it's been a heck of a lot of sweat and tears to get to this point. When I look back to this time last year I was hugely pregnant, almost 40 lbs heavier and could barely walk around a mall to get ice-cream let alone walk up a hill without gasping for breath and almost passing out from exhaustion. So what I'm trying to say is, welcome back old self. We made it.

So I haven't had much time to hang out in the kitchen this past week but last night we grilled some steaks and I whipped up this tasty salad that I found on Jamie Oliver.  Hearty and simple it make it's perfect for a light supper or a tasty side dish. Makes awesome leftovers for lunches as well.

Summer Chickpea Salad (serves 4)
adapted slightly from Jamie Oliver

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced and chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 can of chickpeas
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
handful of chopped mint
handful of chopped basil
2 lemons
handful of chopped feta cheese

Mix finely chopped onion with minced jalapeno and tomatoes and drizzle with lemon juice and enough olive oil to coat, about 2 tablespoons. While that is marinating drain and rinse can of chickpeas and warm on a pan for a few minutes. Add about 90% of warm chickpeas to salad and mash remaining 10% of chickpeas with a fork or potato masher. Add the chickpea mash to the salad which will add a nice creamy texture. Serve warm or cold.

Smiling because I can see the finish line. Wohoo, I made it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce

My sister Melody was visiting this past weekend and one thing she LOVES to do whenever she can get over to the mainland is to hit up Bosa which is a fabulous Italian grocery store and deli. So Bosa we did go and boy did we do some damage! We loaded up on olive oil, coffee, tea, chocolates, tuna in olive oil, goats cheese, baguette, truffle oil, marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes and fresh ravioli stuffed with yummy squash and walnuts. All very practical things we kept telling ourselves.

That night, she offered to cook the fresh pasta we had purchased in a quick tomato sauce recipe that she learned from a Bob Blumer workshop. And the sauce was so mind blowing she agreed to let me post the recipe. Thanks Mel!

The thing that makes this tomato sauce so great is that it requires very few ingredients, it only takes a few minutes to make and the tomatoes are actually grated into the sauce, which gives it a fantastically fresh taste. This sauce is a keeper.

Tomato Sauce (2 servings with fresh pasta)
adapted from Bob Blumer's recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 tomatoes
salt and pepper

fresh basil, finely chopped

Pan fry the olive oil and shallots until soft, and then add the garlic and chili flakes. Let the garlic cook for a minute or two until lightly browned and then grate 2-3 tomatoes into the pan. Cook until heated through. When doing this you will find you are holding mostly tomato skin at the end, discard this excess tomato skin. Add fresh basil if you wish, Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour onto your favorite pasta. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yummy Carrot Spread; not just for babies

When I looked in the fridge today, I realized that we had an abundance of carrots, two big bags in fact. What to do? Should I make more carrot ginger juice? another carrot slaw perhaps? do I dare attempt the mouth-watering carrot cilantro soup recipe seen here? After much debate, I decided the easiest choice would be to steam them into baby food for my almost 10 month old baby. But that just seemed boring, plus it's time to be introducing more flavours and thicker textures to my little guy now, things like garlic and herbs.

So I ended up making carrot spread which comes from a cool little book named Sprout Right given to me by my good friend Ashley, Thanks Ashley! And before I alienate anyone who doesn't have a child, the recipes from this book are great for adults also! In fact, every recipe from this book has been a total winner. It includes everything from healthy ways to make chicken fingers to super tasty vegetarian shepard's pie.

I smeared this dip, still warm from the steamer on crackers topped with cheddar cheese for a tasty little snack for myself. I also topped it on baby crackers for my little guy who gobbled them up unfazed by the new flavours of *tahini and basil. I also suspect this would make a great sandwich spread or dip for raw veggies or chips.

*If you have a family history or concern of nut or seed allergies you may want talk to a nutritionist or family physician before introducing nuts or seeds to you baby.

Carrot Spread
from Sprout Right by Lianne Phillipson-Web

8 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini or sunflower seed butter
1 tbsp fresh basil or cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or flax oil
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Steam carrots until tender and cool slightly
2. Puree all ingredients in food processor or blender. Consume within 3 days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mujadara - the Poor Man's Meal

I first had mujadara also known as mujaddara or mejadra several years ago at one of my very favourite lebanese restaurant here in Vancouver Nuba. Sweet caramelized onions with soft billowy lentils and brown rice combine with a hint of cumin to make a perfect meal in my opinion. Turns out, Mujadara is a staple meal in middle eastern cooking and it's easy to see why.

I love discovering new dishes especially ones that are easy to make at home and so that very night I frantically googled recipes for this dish. There are countless mujadara recipes to be found online, and they are all generally the same with only slight variations here and there. We've been making it for awhile and I think we've finally got it perfected. Adding cumin really takes it to the next level as well as garnishing with feta cheese if you have it.

This is not a very labour intensive meal to make, once you've chopped up all the onions and wiped your tears away but it does take some time, at least 1 hour. So this is not an ideal meal for slapping together at the last minute since you'll end up getting frustrated when the lentils are still hard and the rice takes forever to cook, believe me I've been there on a weeknight when we were all hungry and cranky. So if you have time for a slow-cooked meal, this is it. And it's well worth the wait.

As a side note, I also gave this meal (without the caramelized onions) to my 9 and a half month old baby who seemed to enjoy it and digested it well. Food for everyone.

Mujadara (serves 6)

1 cup brown rice
2 cups dry brown or green lentils (I used french lentils)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove (optional)
3-4 onions, thinly sliced
6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock (water can also be used instead)
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

garnish options
avocado, sliced or cubed
feta cheese
plain yogurt

Finely slice 2-4 onions and fry with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook on low, stirring occasionally until brown and caramelized, do not worry if there are burnt crusty bits because it will only add to the flavour. Realistically this step takes about 1 hour. This is the most time consuming part of this dish but cannot be skipped since the onions really make this meal.

Fry 1/2 of another onion in the oil until lightly browned and then add garlic, cumin, 3 cups of stock and the dry lentils. It is not necessary to presoak the lentils, just rinse in water to remove any dust.  Cook for about 20 min on a low temperature and cover, lentils should be almost cooked, it is okay if they are not fully cooked yet. Stir now and again so lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more stock if necessary if more liquid is needed.

Next add the rice and the remaining stock, reduce to low and cover. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 20 min or until rice is fully cooked. If rice is not fully cooked and there is no liquid left then add more stock if needed.

Serve with caramelized onions on top. Sprinkle with feta cheese, avocado and plain yogurt if you have it. Makes great leftovers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Energy Juice

I've been feeling a little energy low this past week or two and I've decided to try to do something about it. Starting with eating healthier, reducing my caffeine intake, taking vitamins more regularly and getting more sleep. Of course that last intention may be wishful thinking but hey, a girl can dream right?

Last night was a particularly rough night in this household since my little guy woke up every 2 hours screaming in pain from his big top tooth cutting through his swollen gums. Ouch! Nothing seemed to soothe him except of course when my husband sang to him but unfortunately Kelly couldn't stay up all night singing. So today the bags under my eyes are looking even darker than usual.

In an attempt to give myself a shot of energy I made some lovely carrot, ginger, beet and apple juice. Unfortunately a juicer is required for this and so if you are lucky enough to own one I highly recommend pulling it out if you are in an energy slump. It's well worth the annoying clean up that invariably comes with juicing.

Here is what I put into mine.

Energy Juice (serves 1)

1 apple
2 carrots
about 1 inch of raw ginger
1 slice of beet

Here is a picture of me and my little guy taken this past weekend at Centennial Beach in Boundary Bay. One of the last of him with no upper tooth poking out. And yes, I like hats!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hello Summer! Grilled Shrimp Paella

This past weekend I stopped by a garage sale for the historic Cannery Restaurant which recently closed down. This was a classic fine-dining seafood restaurant situated in Port Vancouver and so it is sad news that they were forced to close their doors after serving Vancouverites since 1971.

At the sale I managed to pick up a massive, beautiful old beat-up stainless-steel pan (pictured above) for a measly two dollars! I also bought a mini-version of the same pan for the same price. So even though I regret to say I never ate at this historic restaurant, I can now continue its legacy by cooking for my own family with this beautiful old pan. Hopefully the wisdom of past chefs who used it to prepare countless fabulous meals will now be passed into my home.

My husband Kelly used the pan last night to made an awesome paella. It was a perfect meal for a warm summer evening on the patio and so I thought I'd share it, with his permission of course. He followed a recipe but really one is not needed, just follow the simple instructions and ingredients suggested here.

Nonetheless here is the recipe he followed. The original recipe called for lobster which seemed a bit extravagant and labour intensive for a weeknight and so we substituted in shrimp. Any seafood of your choosing would make a great addition. 

Paella (serves 6)
adapted from bon appetit July 2011

1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 lb chorizo sausage sliced into 12/" rounds
2 leeks, finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
21/2 cups short-grain rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
3 halved lemons
Salt to taste

Preheat BBQ. Cook olive oil until hot and then add leeks and chorizo and cook until soft (3-4 minutes). Add rice, paprika, saffron and stock. Let cook, undisturbed until rice begins to absorb liquid, about 10 minutes. Turn pan every few minutes to cook evenly. Next, add the shrimp and evenly distribute in the pan and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add thawed peas. Once fully cooked, remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes to cool. Garnish with parsely and lemon juice.