Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday, Monday: beluga lentils with roasted kabocha squash

In order to start the week off healthy and right in hopes of erasing some weekend missteps, I decided to make something from the Mark Bittman cooking app How to Cook Everything. This is a super cool little app if you are an iphone user with 2000 healthy recipes with several easy search options all for only 5 bucks! Talk about a steal of a deal! As you know I am a big Bittman fan and so this was far too tempting for me to resist.

I started out with good intentions but quickly hit a road block when I attempted to cut up the kabocha squash. Seems it would be easier to chisel my way through a cement wall. Nonetheless, I decided to save the job for Kelly when he got home from work. This meant loads of time to put the squash to other uses, like a fun toy for my little guy (see below).

All in all, this recipe was another home run for Bittman. I chose to use Kabocha squash since I love its sweet taste but really any squash would do the job. My only criticism if any was that I found it slightly dry and so next time I will add more chicken stock and white wine.

Lentils with Roasted Kabocha Squash
from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything App

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock or water
1 cup dried brown lentils (I used beluga lentils)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
2 cups roasted squash of choice (I used kabocha)

1. Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. A minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

2.  Add the bay leaf, wine, stock and lentils and bring to boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary until lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes. Season with Salt and pepper and cook until lentils are desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Taste, adjust the seasoning and remove bay leaf/ Sprinkle with parsley and serve or store, covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

3. Add 2 cups of roasted squash. Cut Squash into small cubes, toss in olive oil in coast and salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees F until tender and caramelized. Add squash to the lentils in the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies: baking that I did not mess up!

Seems like everywhere I look lately I've been seeing Gwyneth Paltrow promoting her new cookbook My Father's Daughter. Her perfect smiling face even graces this month's cover of bon apetit which touts her as "food's newest face". She's also been getting a lot of flack in the media lately mainly for being too perfect. People seem to find her annoying, I mean is there anything this girl can't do? She already has oscar, she sings, she's a style icon, she has her own lifestyle newsletter Goop, she's bffs with Madonna, she speaks spanish, has two beautiful children with one of the biggest rockstars in the world and the girl appears to have zero body fat and perfect long blond hair. What a bitch right?

In her defence, as I flipped through her cookbook while in Chapters the other day I was surprised to find that the recipes actually looked pretty darn good. So I thought I'd give the girl a chance and try one out.

I chose to bake her recipe for peanut butter cookies which was a huge challenge for me. I am pretty much the worse baker ever due to my inclination to improvise. This usually works well for cooking but not so much for baking. Just last week I attempted to make a zucchini loaf which ended up a big gooey mess since I felt the batter was too dry and so irrationally threw in some milk at the last minute. The results were disastrous and sadly the loaf was inedible.

Anyway, I baked these cookies following every step exactly avoiding my usual urge to skimp on the butter and cut out the salt. I even let the egg come to room temperature before cracking it into the batter. Why room temperature eggs are better than cold ones for baking is forever a mystery to me.

Lo and behold I had a feeling these cookies were destined for greatness when the cookie dough ended up being a little too good. And once baked and cooled I was not disappointed. These cookies are divine. Kudos to Gwynie for sharing her fantastic family recipe. And I like you anyway.

Grandad Danner's Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies (makes about 30 cookies)
by Gwyneth Paltrow My Father's Daughter
taken from Epicurious April 2011

11/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
8 Tbsp (or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperture
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 organic large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional, I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter and brown sugars. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour in thirds and stir until smooth. Fold in the peanut butter chips. Roll the dough into golf ball sizes (about 11/2 tablespoons). At this point you can roll them in granulated sugar, or press down the middle with the tines of a fork. Either way, bake for 10 minutes, in a non-stick backing pan (I don't have one so I lined my baking pans with parchment paper to prevent stcking) rotating the pan halfway through baking time. Cool the cookies on a rack before serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Something Borrowed: Curried Lentil Soup

This past weekend I was honoured to be invited to my beautiful friend Sandeep and her husband Jora's traditional Indian wedding ceremony in Surrey, BC. This was my first time attending such an event and it did not disappoint. Some memories of this day include the soothing sounds of tabla guitar, dazzling displays of bangles and vibrant colored saris, sweet scents of pakoras, lentil dal, butter chicken and chai tea. And smiles from all wishing the best to come for this young couple.

The night before the wedding, I was also lucky enough to also be invited to her family home for the pre-wedding traditional festivities for the bride. My friends, my sister Ashley and I were invited to take part in one tradition of rubbing a mixture of tumeric and oil on the brides henna laden arms which helps beautify her skin for the impending nuptials. I am so in love with the henna right now (see pictures below). I would consider doing it myself if I knew it would not look completely ridiculous on my whitey arms. Oh well.

Inspired by this magical weekend, here is a recipe for curried lentil soup that I saw in bon appetit last year and earmarked it with the promise to make it one day. I doubled the recipe so we'd have lots for leftovers and I have to say it was one of those times where it tasted even better the next day. The spices and flavors only got better with time.

Curried Lentil Soup
from bon appetit December 2010

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 Tbsp (or more)curry powder
1 cup french green lentils
4-5 cups water 
1 15 ounce can chickpeas
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large pot and fry onion and carrot until onion is soft. Add half of garlic and fry until carrots are soft, about 4 minutes. Add curry powder and fry for another minute or so. Add lentils and 4 cups water, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.

While this is cooking puree chickees, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and remaining garlic and olive oil.

Once lentils are cooked add chickpea mixture and butter and mix in. Season with salt, pepper and additional curry powder if needed. Also, adjust consistency by adding more water at this point.

Sprinkle each bowl with sliced green onion and squeeze a wedge of lemon into each bowl.

Here are some pics from the festivities.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Roasted Veggie Dip

One of my favourite books sitting on my bookshelf right now is Food Matters - A Guide to Conscious Eating  by Mark Bittman. And before you turn away, rest assured this aint no diet book. His message is clear and simple "eat less meat and junk food, eat more vegetables and whole grains". And by this he does not suggest people become vegetarian or eat all organic, nor does he advocate for counting calories or buying expensive ingredients only found in specialty stores. He simply suggests eating less of some things and more of others. Sounds simple right?

Bittman's theory of eating resonates with me in a big way as someone who has battled blood sugar highs and lows since childhood. I love Bittman's simple recipes choked-full of whole grains, fresh vegetables and moderate portions of meat.

Here is one of my current fav's from the book whose page already has a few stains, a sure sign of a great recipe.

Roasted Veggie Dip
adapted from Food Matters by Mark Bittman

Roast about 2 pounds of any vegetable (I used beets, carrots, rutabaga, celery, white onion and turnips)
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
add 1/2 cup of any fresh herbs (I used cilantro and mint)
1 cloves fresh garlic
juice of 1 lemon

Wash and peel veggies and then toss in olive oil and coast in salt and pepper to taste. Roast until fully cooked. When cooled place in food processor with 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, juice of one lemon and fresh herbs of choice and puree until smooth. Serve warm or cold as a dip for crackers, bread or absolutely anything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orzo + Broccoli Pesto Salad

A few days ago during some rare, quiet moments to myself while my baby boy was taking an epic nap, I was surfing through some of my favourite food blogs and I stumbled upon this tasty little pasta dish on Sprouted Kitchen. I absolutely love LOVE pesto, I mean who doesn't? and I also love broccoli and so the idea of a broccoli pesto really got me curious. I'm also a fan of pasta dishes that can be eaten warm or cold since they always make easy lunches to pack up for the next day.

When I first met my hubby he hated broccoli with a passion. In fact he refused to eat it altogether and often he wouldn't even eat anything that the offending broccoli had touched! You think this is bad you should see his reaction to mushrooms, talk about dramatic. In all fairness, I am equally if not more annoying with my inability to eat any sort of pork product. Whenever we order pizza we order a large pizza "half vegetarian and half meat lovers", I kid you not!

Anyway, over the years I've slowly sneaked small amounts of broccoli in here and there and now he actually admits to liking it! Success! One thing that I consciously did to ease him into broccoli is I always chop the broccoli into tiny pieces so he never gets a huge mouthful all at once. Also cooking it, and I prefer steaming which retains the most nutrients, takes the bitter edge off as well. I suspect this method may also be helpful when trying to get children to eat their veggies.

Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C and dietary fiber as well as having known anti-cancer properties so go ahead and eat up!

Orzo + Broccoli Pesto Salad 
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 cup orzo pasta (I used 2 cups so I had plenty for next day lunch leftovers)
2 cloves of garlic
5 cups of raw broccoli cut up into florets
2/3 cups toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup creme fraiche (I used plain yogurt instead which worked well)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 avocado, sliced

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the orzo according to package instructions. When cooked, rinse in cold water. Next, steam or boil all of the broccoli for about 3-4 minutes, just enough to stay slightly crunchy, the last thing you want is soggy broccoli. Then make the pesto combining 2 cups of cooked broccoli (save the remaining 3 cups of broccoli for the salad), most of the pinenuts (save some for a garnish), parmesan and lemon juice in a food processer. Slowly add in the extra virgin oilive oil and creme fresh until it forms a nice, smooth pesto. Finally, toss the orzo, pesto and broccoli florets together and serve warm or cold. Sprinkle parmesan, sliced avocado, lemon zest, toasted pinenuts and fresh ground pepper on top to garnish. (Serves 6)

Friday, May 6, 2011

For All The Mammas....

A pretty scene taken last weekend at the Agassiz Tulip Festival

A quick shout out to all the mammas out there, you know who you are. Happy Mother's Day to you all! I hope you all have a fabulous weekend of pampering yourself and being spoiled by your loved ones. We deserve it after all. I am not going to post any recipes today since sadly I have not cooked anything memorable this week and I probably wont get around to doing much cooking this weekend either. I am quite sure you do not need to hear about the meatballs I made last night which ended up all crumbly and the night before was a pearl barley risotto which was, well.....let's just say it was nothing worth writing about that's for sure. So instead of a recipe, here are some pretty pictures I took last weekend at the Agassiz Tulip Festival. I cannot believe that this was the first time I had ever been to this spectacular event. It is nothing short of breathtaking to walk among 40 acres of tulips in every colour imaginable with the backdrop of snowy mountains. Agassiz, I hope to see you again next year!

Tulips as far as the eye can see