Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thai Feast




Last year for Christmas I gave my parents a meal cooked by a personal chef. The chef being... me! It turns out that I get the procrastination trait from my dad. I cooked this dinner last weekend. Yes. December 1st.

I told them to pick a menu or theme. They chose Thai. Not 10 days before that I had announced that I was never again making Pad Thai as it never turns out right. So I had a little panic attack and then got to work on figuring out what I was going to make that wasn't Pad Thai.

It turned out amazing (if I do say so myself)! I will make these recipes again and again. They are fairly easy and all gluten free, as it so happens. I spent an enjoyable hour in the Asian supermarket up the street from my office looking perusing the strange (to me) and wonderful foods. I found all of the authentic ingredients I needed, despite asking for help and the clerk not understanding a word I said. A lot of them were frozen, so I have lots of left over ingredients to use up. Excellent.

Here is the menu. I followed the recipe for all the dishes except the mango salad as I was pretty confident about that dish having eaten it lots of time before. The other recipes, not much. I've never eaten those dishes and didn't have time to do a test run so I went by the (Mac)book. 

Green Papaya and Mango Salad adapted from Canadian Living
I wanted to do just green papaya, and I even found a green papaya at the Asian market. But when chopped it up, I found that it was totally bland. Maybe it needed to ripen, but I thought the point was that it is green? So I used some papaya and some mango. It turned out perfectly. I could go for some right now, actually.

Red Curry Shrimp from Food and Wine
Totally easy and yummy. I didn't make the tartar sauce in the linked recipe- I just did the shrimp. Next time I'd like to find a recipe for homemade red curry paste. As I found out with the next dish, the jarred stuff vs. your own curry paste is like night and day.

Green Curry Chicken from Real Thai Recipes
This was unreal. So delicious. I forgot to take photos of the whole meal the night of, so I made this again on Sunday. The first time I pounded the ingredients for the curry paste in a pestle and mortar, the second time I did it in the food processor. Use a pestle and mortar if you have one. I wouldn't have believed it, but you can taste the difference. It's almost as if the flavors are coaxed (or threatened within an inch of their life) by being pounded and ground by hand. Be careful when adding the coconut milk at the end of the recipe- I added the whole cup the recipe calls for at once and the sauce ended up too thin- add a bit at a time. Also, be careful not to take a huge whiff of the shrimp paste. Gag city. Think fish sauce times five. Oh, and one more thing. I don't usually love eggplant but it really soaks up all the flavours in the sauce. The second time around I used red pepper and carrots as that's all I had and that was ok too though.

Spicy Glass Noodles with Crispy Pork from The Kitchn
This was the sleeper hit of the night. The recipe is easy and sounds unassuming, but the result is fantastic. I like that it is to be served cold or at room temp. That's part of the reason I chose this recipe, actually. I figured I'd make it and let it sit while the green curry finished cooking. It all went according to plan. I wouldn't recommend serving this hot, in fact, as the noodles need some time to absorb the sauce. I poured in all the sauce the recipe called for and it looked soupy and I was really disappointed, but by the time it was served it was perfect.  

Sticky Rice with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce from i eat food
I have made sticky rice many, many times. Tyler's cousin used to work at a Thai restaurant and gave me a steamer contraption for making steamed sticky rice as I love it every time he makes it. It pretty much looks like the one in the link, but bigger because it's the Vietnamese version or something. Same idea though. I cook mine differently than she does. I just dump the soaked rice in the basket and stick a sauce pot lid on top to cover it. It doesn't seem to take as long to cook this way. You do, however, have to pick dried bits of rice of the bamboo after though. You've been warned.

Coconut and Lime Creme Brulee (recipe below)
This is my own recipe. I adapted a no-bake pumpkin creme brulee recipe that I made the other week. This was originally going to be a tropical fruit creme brulee- mango, banana, lime- but that one didn't set and it tasted more like banana pudding. That went down the drain (told you it didn't set). The second version came out much better. Use a kitchen torch or a blow torch (seriously- careful!) to brulee though. I stuck them under the broiler to save some time and the custard got heated through and wasn't as nice. Lesson learned: always go with the blow torch option. Always.

THAI GREEN PAPAYA AND MANGO SALAD
Adapted from Canadian Living
Serves 4
If you can't find green papaya, use some slightly under ripe mango. I used my handy OXO julienne peeler for the papaya and carrot which makes it really easy.

Salad:
  • 1/2 small green papaya, julienned
  • 1 ripe mango, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp julienned mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, finely chopped
Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest of 1 lime (use a Microplane or small grater)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 finely chopped thai chilis, depending on how hot you want it
Mix the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the salad ingredients except 1 tbsp mint and the cashews and toss to combine. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes. Serve topped with reserved mint and cashews.

COCONUT AND LIME CREME BRULEE
Serves 4
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lime, zested on Microplane or small grater
  • 1 1/2 cups lite coconut milk
  • 2 sprigs mint leaves
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 8 tsp fine sugar, for bruleeing
Heat coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat with mint leaves (don't bother stripping from stem- just throw the whole thing in) until bubbles form around the outside and milk is steaming.

Meanwhile, mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, egg yolks, lime zest in a medium bowl. Slowly add heated coconut milk while whisking yolk mixture. Add mixture back to pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick. Pour into four ramekins, cover with plastic wrap directly on surface of custard, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To serve, sprinkle each custard with 1 tsp sugar. Brulee with a kitchen torch or bring out the big guns and (carefully!) use a full on blow torch. Sprinkle with another tsp of sugar and brulee again. Serve with 5 minutes so that the sugar topping doesn't soften.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bookmarked

Photo from Canadian Living
I am getting tired of cooking gluten free. But it looks like this is going to be our reality for a while. I was almost ready to saw goodbye to baking- I know there are tons of flour alternatives but they can be hard to find and expensive, plus I don't think they taste great.

Then I turned on the TV (I have it set to automatically go to the Food Network of course) and Anna Olsen was doing an episode on flourless desserts. I think she has the right idea- rather than trying to replace all purpose flour with weird stuff, find alternatives that make sense- like Clafoutis made with almond flour. There is hope for baked goods in our house yet!

Raspberry Clafoutis from Bake with Anna Olsen
Flourless French Apple Tarts from Bake with Anna Olsen This recipe does call for rice flour and tapioca starch, but those are pretty easy to find.
Flourless Shortbread with Apple Pie Preserves from Bake with Anna Olsen The shortbread has cheddar cheese, with the apple preserves this looks so good.

And in other news, here are some other recipes I've come across lately.

BLT Cheddar Waffles from Canadian Family I have a way better waffle maker now. No more waffle fails.

Light, Crisp Waffles from Fine Cooking Clearly on a bit of a waffle kick this week (or as Parker says: "wapples")

Homemade Boullion from 101 Cookbooks I love the ease of Better Than Boullion, but I find it too salty. I like the idea of making it yourself. On a side note, when I started to type "better than boullion" into Google it finished my sentence to "better than sex cake" and many other "better than sex" desserts. Is this a thing? I guess so. 

Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops from Canadian Living Pork stuffed with more pork? Yes please. Praise the Lard.

Malt Vinegar Glazed Chicken from Bon Appetit Another use for malt vinegar, which I love, other than on your fish and chips.

Cornmeal Crunch from 101 Cookbooks Basically baked polenta with caramelized onions. Yum.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chocolate Pudding

There's this funny story my aunt tells about when my cousin was little and had a just started school. My aunt was being all good-mom and making cookies to put in her lunch. But my cousin kept asking for cookies like the other kids. My aunt couldn't figure out what type of cookies the other kid's moms were making that were so good. Until one day at the grocery store my cousin pointed out the cookies she wanted. Chips Ahoy. Like the other kids. Annnnnd.... *face palm*

Kids don't get it. Homemade cookies are better. As is homemade pudding. Yes! You can make it! In under 10 minutes, no less. This is a dairy-free version as Tyler is still off dairy for another week. I actually think it is better with almond milk. Nuttier, if you will. However. If you needs you some puddin' right now and all you have is regular milk, have at 'er.

Note:  The photo has Skor bits sprinkled on top. Toasted almonds would have made more sense for a garnish. But I didn't have any. Go for the Skor bits if you don't need to eat dairy-free. They delightful. 

One Year Ago (I am really behind on this... bear with me here)

Two Years Ago:
CHOCOLATE PUDDING
Serves 4
Adapted from The Kitchn
If using sweetened almond milk (it will probably be called "Original"), half the sugar in the recipe. 
  • 2 cups almond milk or cow's milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming and bubbles form around the outside of the pot. Whisk together cocoa, sugar, cornstarch in a medium bowl.

Add 1 cup heated milk to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour back into pot with remaining milk and add vanilla. Cook until thickened, whisking constantly. This will only take a couple of minutes.

Pour pudding into the same bowl you were already using and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to avoid pudding skin*. Refrigerate until cooled enough to eat, or a few hours until cold, depending on your preference and need for pudding gratification.

Wasn't there a Seinfeld episode where Kramer was going to sell pudding skin? Maybe I'm making this up. Either way... ew.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bookmarked

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit
Although I haven't been cooking anything fancy lately, I have been dreaming about cooking fancy meals (and cooking with dairy and gluten again), obviously. Hopefully I'll make all of these soon!

Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Saffron Bake from Bon Appetit I don't love eggplant except at Dim Sum, but this looks absolutely delicious

Crispy Cheddar Crackers from 30 Pounds of Apples via Foodbuzz These look super easy and I can use all my cute cookie cutters that have been boxed in the basement since we moved. Three years ago.

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs from Oven Love via Foodbuzz This is why I love food blogs. I'd be really sceptical that these would be anything but mush if not for the write up from Oven Love

Great Gravy from Yummy Mummy Club I have a problem with making good gravy. i.e. I can't do it. Hopefully this recipe will fix that.

Roasted Provolone from Bon Appetit How good does this look? OMG

Coconut Granola from Megan's Cookin' It may be time for a new granola recipe. And this may be it

Strawberry and Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes from Chatelaine You might have to wait until spring, but you'll get made eventually little cupcakes. Don't you worry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meatball Stuffed Peppers

Life as gotten busy lately. I went back to work full time in June, but apparently I was living in some kind of fantasy land over the summer where life is rainbows and lollipops. Four Seasons Kitchen is now feeling the effects of my working full time plus being a mother and a wife.

The other thing that has affected the blogging frequency here is my husband is on a naturopath-perscribed food trial. No gluten and no dairy for a month. I have not been very enthused about dinner the last couple of weeks. I have found it pretty difficult to find recipes that contain no dairy or gluten. Most recipes are either/or. I looked at vegan recipes, but then you get crazy substitutes for eggs and such. Le sigh.

A friend at work lent me a gluten-free cookbook, Deliciously G-Free by Elizabeth Hasselback, which has helped with some dinner ideas. We think Tyler's problem is probably gluten, rather than dairy, so if that is the case I can make a lot more recipes from this book. Almost everything looks delicious, but there are a lot of recipes with dairy. Baking anything sweet from the book is pretty much out as all the recipes contain butter or other dairy. I think the poor guy has lost almost 10 pounds over the last few weeks.

This recipe for Meatball Stuffed Peppers is adapted from the book. It was great and I will make it again, whether we have to continue with gluten-free or not. I did, however, find the meat in the pepper a bit tough. Treating it more like a meatball by adding bread crumbs soaked in milk (or rice milk) next time will help. I am including that modification in the recipe below.

So, what the hell have we been eating for the last couple of weeks on this elimination diet? Here it is. Hopefully anybody else starting on a gluten free or dairy free diet (or the hell of both) will find this helpful! Let me know in the comments if you have any other delicious meal ideas please! I almost threw my computer across the room yesterday trying to come up with dinners for the upcoming week. I have problems with patience. Tyler calls it short aggression... ok moving on to the menus....

Week 1

White Bean Chicken Chili  
I never ended up making this, we ended up getting a roast chicken, wedges, and bean salad from the grocery store that night instead. The bean salad had barley in it though. Oops.

Spanish Rice Bake with Chorizo added to the recipe

Pasta Carbonnara with Broccoli  
We used rice pasta. I have since discovered that corn pasta is better. Not as mushy

Frittatta with Sausage, Roasted Red Peppers, and Kale  
This was a winner. Delicious.

Shepard's Pie  
Make your Shepards Pie (Cottage Pie if you're not Canadian) with cornstarch instead of flour for the gravy, and I made smashed potatoes to go on top instead of mashed potatoes which you really need dairy for.

Week 2

Asian Slow Cooker Pork, Rice, Stir-Fried Broccoli

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi with Pasta  
I added some roasted vegetable tomato sauce as well

Quinoa and Kale Pilaf with Fried Egg  
This was a fail. Apparently I am the only one in the house who likes quinoa

Corn Griddle Cakes with Sausage and Maple Syrup  
OMG these are so good. I used a gluten-free baking flour I found at the grocery store and subbed rice milk for the buttermilk.

Burgers on Gluten Free Buns with Sweet Potato Fries

Week 3

Meatball Stuffed Peppers (recipe below)

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Saurkraut

Pasta with Meatballs and Roasted Vegetable Sauce

Pad Thai from Deliciously G-Free.
It wasn't great. The sauce was too thin. I found a recipe in Clean Eating magazine that looks better. I'll report back after I make that one.

Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Root Vegetables



I realize there are only 5 meals per week listed above. We did eat, of course, on the other 2 days of the week. I just don't remember what we ate.


MEATBALL STUFFED PEPPERS WITH POLENTA
Adapted from Deliciously G-Free
Serves 4
Note: If you eat dairy, some goat cheese stirred into the polenta when it's finished cooking is out of this world.
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/4 lb lean ground pork
  • 1/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (pulse a slice of gluten free bread in a food processor to make bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup milk or plain dairy substitute (rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, etc)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped (the Slap Chop works great for this)
  • 2 tsp each salt and pepper, divided
  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (I used a can of diced tomatoes originally and I found them too chunky)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • fresh parsley or basil, chopped to garnish
Polenta:
  • 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Add spinach and 1 tbsp water. Cook until wilted, 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from skillet and set aside until cool enough to chop. Keep heat on skillet.

Add olive oil and garlic to skillet. Cook 30 seconds or less- don't let garlic brown. Add tomato paste, cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes reduce heat to medium to medium low- you just want the tomato sauce to simmer, not boil.

Place bread crumbs in a smalll bowl. Add milk and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise (stem to bottom). Remove stem, seeds, and any white membrane from each half. Season the inside of each with salt and pepper.

Chop spinach and add to a large bowl. To spinach, add pork, beef, mushrooms, bread crumb mixture, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Squish and mix with your hands until well combined.  Divide mixture equally between pepper halves.

Add peppers to skillet, cut side up, nestling them into the sauce. Cook, partially covered and keeping at a simmer, 40-50 minutes ensuring meat is cooked through.

10 minutes before peppers are done, bring water for polenta to a boil in a sauce pot. Very slowly pour in polenta, stirring with a whisk the whole time to avoid lumps. Add salt and pepper. Cover and turn heat down to low. Cook, whisking occasionally, until polenta is cooked (taste it- it shouldn't be hard or gritty) and water is all absorbed. If water is absorbed and polenta is too stiff before it's cooked add a little more water and whisk gently. Polenta should be thick but pourable.

To serve put some polenta in the middle of a plate or shallow pasta bowl and top with 1 half pepper per person with some sauce and fresh parsley or basil sprinkled over top.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Empanada Gallega

I can't believe I haven't posted anything since last month's Daring Bakers challenge. I've been back to work full time for almost 4 months now and I guess I'm still trying to work out a routine for cooking, photographing my cooking, and writing about it. Plus, in solidarity for working mothers every where, I have been cooking really quick and easy things lately. Think (frozen) chicken fingers with sweet potatoes fries and frozen peas and corn. Thank goodness for Daring Bakers challenges, actually. Otherwise I wouldn't have made anything interesting in the last couple of months.

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished! The recipe included in the challenge was savory, but some Bakers made sweet ones. Some eager beavers made savory and sweet Empanadas. I'm jealous. 

I actually didn't have a plan for the filling of the Empanada but it turned out absolutely delicious with leftover bits and bites I had in the fridge. We'd had a party with family for Parker's 2nd birthday (two already! I have a separate, belated, post about his birthday coming soon) where we did make-your-own pizza. I had some pepperoni, roasted peppers, pesto, tomato sauce, feta cheese, and chicken in the fridge and these ingredients made a great Empanada. It was kinda like a giant Calzone. Delish.


Two Years Ago: Freezer Meals 

EMPANADA GALLEGA RECIPE via Daring Kitchen

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cream Puff Baby Duckies


"Shampoo is better. I go on first and clean the hair,"
"Conditioner is better. I leave the hair silky and smooth,"
"Oh really fool?"
"Really,"
"Stop looking at me swan."

I cannot see a swan without quoting Billy Madison. Yeah, it's a problem.


(blog checking lines) Kat of the Bobwhites was our August 2012 hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Pate a Choux Swans. One of the Daring Bakers members says in the forum, "I was probably only 12 or 13 when I oogled a recipe of choux swans in a very 70's style cookbook. These gorgeous swans sat on a mirror and I always thought they were the height of elegance!" The height of elegance indeed. Somebody call the Beejees.

I was going to make swans, but I decided to make them for my brother and (almost) sister-in-law's baby shower, so I made little baby ducks. I think they kinda look like Peeps. Only better. Cause they are cream filled. Yum.

Nobody believes me, but I swear these are easy to make. Please try it. The piping takes a few practice ducks (I meant to take a photo of mine but I was trying to get them in the oven, get showered, and get the toddler dressed in under an hour). Even if they don't look perfect when baked just put little eyes and they'll be cute any way.

No eyes = boring blob
Eyes = cute baby duckie!
To pipe the little ducks, use a piping bag with a large round tip. Or use a Ziploc bag like I did- snip a little off the corner to fit the piping tip into. Use a freezer bag though- sandwich bags burst at the seams. I know from experience. Not pretty. Moving on.

Pipe a two inch oval, making one end a bit higher and pull up the piping bag at the end leaving a peak standing up. When the duckies bake the dough really pulls up and leaves you with a hollow middle to fill with delicious, delicious cream.

To fill the duckies put the cream in a piping bag or Ziploc (see above). Insert the tip into the bottom or side of the duck. Fill with cream, slowly pulling out the piping tip as you fill so that the duck doesn't explode. To make the eyes, dip the end of a toothpick in food colouring, then poke a little hole where you want the eye.

Get the recipe from Daring Bakers HERE

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bookmarked

Photo from Food and Wine
I like doing these Bookmarked posts because they are great to go back to when I'm looking for something new to make. Stuff gets lost in the quagmire of recipes I have in my favorites.

I have a few recipes photographed and ready to blog about, but for now here are some recipes I've bookmarked recently.

5 Veggie Burger from Today's Parent Hopefully these are dense enough to eat like a burger. Usually these type of recipes yield super soft patties that you have to eat with a spoon.

Rum Punch from Food and Wine For the parties I always plan in my head and then never have

Maple Chile Popcorn from Cooking Light This looks super yummy

Spicy Crab Cakes with Mango Puree from Food and Wine This is one of those recipes that looks delicious but in all honesty I will probably never make. I mean, who eats crab cakes at home on a regular basis?

Pizza Style Soft Pretzels from Yummy Mummy Club Yes, please

Open Faced Roasted Tomato Sandwiches with Goat Cheese and Parmesan Crisps from Bake Eat Repeat The photo makes me want to lick the screen. I think I'll make these for lunch next Saturday

Charred BLT Salad from Cooking Light I may have to subscribe to Cooking Light again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Special" Brownies

Apologies for the photo. Brownies are hard to photograph.
What does it say about your family when you bring a pan of brownies to a BBQ and they ask if they are "special brownies"? It says that your family is awesome? That's what I thought.

The funny thing is, these are special brownies. Special in that there are lentils in them. And you wouldn't even know it. These are honestly the best brownies I've ever had. They are dense and supremely chocolaty, with a crunchy top layer. I made them twice in two days. Yep. Twice. In two days. Hey, I shared, ok?

I'm telling you, this is the perfect brownie. Who says you need a cup of butter to make a pan of brownies (and why are there so many question marks in this post)? You do, however, need two cups of sugar. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Lentil brownies are a win in my book.

One Year Ago: nothing
Two Years Ago: Slow Cooker Brisket 


LENTIL BROWNIES
Adapted from Lentils.ca via Yummy Mummy Club
The original recipe says this makes 20+ servings. Elf servings, maybe. I'd say 10 servings. Tops.

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup lentil puree
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanila
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips (optional, I didn't use any)
1 cup walnuts (also optional, didn't use these either myself)

Mix together butter, lentil purée, cocoa, sugar and salt. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla, flour, chocolate chips, and walnuts, if using.

Bake in a greased 8 x 8 pan at 350° F (175° C) for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.


*Lentil Purée: Place cooked lentils (drained and rinsed if using canned) into a food processor. For every 1 cup lentils, add ¼ cup water. Blend to make a smooth purée with a consistency like canned pumpkin. If needed, add additional water 1 tbsp at a time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Butterflies

Honestly, sometimes I don't know why I bother. Tonight I didn't have all the ingredients to make the pasta dish I wanted to try, and I had a bunch of odds and ends in the fridge that were soon destined for the garbage. So I threw them all together into a dish with some pasta. Tyler declared it one of my best pasta creations.

This is everything that went in: roasted vegetable sauce, crushed tomatoes, slow cooker tex-mex chicken, a half a grilled sausage, a handful of cheddar cheese, 2 spoonfuls cottage cheese, thawed frozen spinach, and a third of a brick of cream cheese. Oh, and a splash of milk. So random, but it was actually really good.

The rando-pasta is not the recipe I am sharing with you today (plus, that's pretty much it above). I am sharing the cupcakes I made for my manager's birthday, which are far more impressive. You gotta put in a little extra effort for your boss, right? I spotted a tutorial on how to make chocolate butterflies on a blog. Those would look really pretty on Martha Stewart's multi-coloured cupcakes. Yes, it was all coming together, I just had to find the right cupcake recipe.

Joy the Baker had posted a recipe for a dozen cupcakes- with frosting- made with just one stick of butter. I know, amazing right!?! Usually there is double that in just the batter alone. And of course, they taste great too. You wouldn't expect any less from me and Joy the Baker (my blog idol), right?


from Joy the Baker 
Or 24 mini cupcakes; bake for 5-10 minutes less if making them mini like I did

from Everything Old
Her butterflies look way better than mine. Make sure to cut the TINIEST hole in the bag so you get more delicate butterflies. My butterflies obviously at too many cupcakes. Or bacon.


HOW TO MAKE MULTI-HUED ICING
  • Divide your icing into two bowls. Starting with one bowl, add 4-5 drops of food colouring- I started with blue. Stir well with a rubber spatula. Frost some cupcakes. 
  • Add a few drops of red food colouring to the blue icing, stirring well. Frost some more cupcakes.
  • Add some more blue and some more red to make a really vibrant purple. Frost a few more cupcakes.
  • Repeat process with 2nd bowl of icing. I used red and yellow for mine to make pink, peach, and orange.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creamy Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Creamy Chicken Salad Sandwich with Sweet Potato Wedges
I have a confession. Sometimes I am super cheap. You know how No Frills makes you put in a quarter to get the grocery cart and then you get it back when you return the cart? Sometimes I look for a cart that hasn't been returned so that I can get a free quarter. There, it feels better now that I've admitted it.

This probably isn't news to anybody else, but did you know you can take flyers from other stores to Wal-Mart and they match all the sales? I'm telling you, this is the best thing since sliced bread. My stepmom used to go to four different stores in a week to hit up the sales. I've never had that dedication. We went to Wal-Mart armed with the flyers from every other grocery store and saved almost $15! It's like free money!

The best deal was on chicken. Food Basics had a whole chicken for $5. The same chicken was $10.78 at Wal-Mart. Price match it up, baby! That bargain chicken gave us two meals, one of which being these chicken salad sandwiches.

This is seriously the best chicken salad I've ever had. I never thought I'd say this, but the blue cheese dressing makes the sandwich. I really try to like blue cheese, but I just can't do it. It tastes like moldy feet. But just a little squeeze here makes all the difference. Plus, I got a certain someone to eat avocado without even knowing it. Way to go Tyler! (You thought I was going to say Parker, the 2 year old, right? He loves avocado- he'll eat a whole one for a snack if I let him).

One Year Ago: Panini Bar + Summer BBQ Menu

CREAMY CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES
Serves 4
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, low fat or regular 
  • 1/2 an avocado, mashed
  • 1 tbsp blue cheese dressing
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 buns, toasted
  • handful baby spinach
Mix all ingredients but buns and spinach in a bowl. Divide mixture evenly between buns, top with some baby spinach. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Photography

I just got a Digital SLR camera. I'm super stoked about it. And over whelmed. I do not want to use it as a an automatic- I already have one of those. I want to play with the settings and take beautiful photos that my point and shoot can't do. But it's been a long time since I used a manual camera. My dad had one in the 80's (and it was still going strong throughout the 90's too), but he's now been using a digital camera for years too. Enter our friend Google.

I searched "food blog photography" and down the rabbit hole I went. I can't tell you how I ended up finding this post on food styling. The author takes a dish of unappetizing curried lentils and makes it look delicious, documenting the drab to fab process. Have a look, even if you are not into food photography- any artistic soul will be drawn in.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daring Bakers: Battenburg Cake

This is why I wanted to join the Daring Bakers baking challenges. I would have normally looked at this cake and passed it by, figuring it would be too complicated or time consuming to make. I mean, look at it. There's two colours all in one cake! And rolled icing! Yikes. But you know what, the recipe was actually pretty straight forward. And yummy.

Not everybody "gets it". I made two different versions of this cake for family dinners- one on my side and one on Tyler's side. I was explaining the Daring Bakers challenges, and my dad said, "Wait, so why did you make this?". My brother asked what the prize is for winning the challenge. All were perplexed when I said it was just for fun.

For June's challenge, Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease. With this challenge, not only did I try a new recipe (for a cake I'd never even heard of), but I got a history lesson in the process too. And now so will you. Battenburg cake is a traditional English cake that was first made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Lois of Battenburg. Read more on Wikipedia if you are so inclined. The traditional markings and colours of the cake are significant too. 

So, as I mentioned, I made two versions of this cake. The first was coconut-lime, which I made up following the basic recipe provided from the challenge, and the second coffee-walnut. They were both good, but the coffee-walnut looked nicer. I think I used too much food colouring in the lime curd for the first cake and it ended up looking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ooze. Also, traditionally Battenburg is covered with marzipan but I went to two stores and neither had marzipan so I had to go with fondant which I don't love. All in all, this was a fun challenge and I can't wait for the next one!

COCONUT AND LIME BATTENBURG CAKE
Adapted from The Daring Kitchen
Serves 8
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • green food colouring
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut 
To Finish:
  • cooled lime curd (recipe below)
  • 1 cup marzipan or fondant
  • icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper. Whisk together dry ingredients then add butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with electric beaters or stand mixer on medium-low.

Spoon half of batter into a seperate bowl. Add a few drops of food colouring and lime zest to one bowl and fold in to combine. To other bowl add coconut and fold to combine. Spread batter evenly in each pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan a few minutes then turn out and cool completely on rack.

Once cooled, cut cakes in half and trim edges of cakes with bread knife so that you have 4 rectangles of cake the same size. Spread a thin line of lime curd on the side of one of the pieces of green cake. Stick a piece of coconut cake to it, aligning them side by side. Repeat with other two pieces, but reversing the order so that when they are stacked they make a checkered pattern. Thinly spread the tops of the cakes that are going to be on the bottom with lime curd. Top with top pieces. Set aside.

Sprinkle work surface with icing sugar. Roll out marzipan or fondant to 1/4 inch thickness, ensuring it will cover all sides of the cake. Spread top of cake with curd and place in middle of marzipan. Spread curd on remaining three sides and carefully roll cake to over all sides with marzipan. Trim marzipan, and cut a thin slice from each end to neaten.

LIME CURD
Adapted from Martha Stewart
 Makes 1 1/2 cups
Any citrus juice can be substituted to make this curd.
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp cold cutter, cut into pieces
Combine yolks, zest, lime juice, sugar in a small sauce pan. Set over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to get the sides and bottom corners of the pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7-10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until smooth. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin forming. Refrigerate until cold.

COFFEE AND WALNUT BATTENBURG CAKE
From The Daring Kitchen
Serves 8
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Coffee Buttercream To Finish:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 1/2 tsp milk
  • 1 cup marzipan or fondant
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper. Whisk together dry ingredients then add butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with electric beaters or stand mixer on medium-low.


Spoon half of batter into a seperate bowl. Mix milk and instant coffee in a small bowl and add to one of the bowls of batter, folding to combine. To other bowl add walnuts and fold to combine. Spread batter evenly in each pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan a few minutes then turn out and cool completely on rack.

With a stand mixer or electric beaters on high, mix together ingredients for buttercream. Refridgerate until ready to use.


Once cooled, cut cakes in half and trim edges of cakes with bread knife so that you have 4 rectangles of cake the same size. Spread a thin line of buttercream on the side of one of the pieces of walnut cake. Stick a piece of coffee cake to it, aligning them side by side. Repeat with other two pieces, but reversing the order so that when they are stacked they make a checkered pattern. Thinly spread the tops of the cakes that are going to be on the bottom with buttercream. Top with top pieces. Set aside.



Sprinkle work surface with icing sugar. Roll out marzipan or fondant to 1/4 inch thickness, ensuring it will cover all sides of the cake. Spread top of cake with buttercream and place in middle of marzipan. Spread buttercream on remaining three sides and carefully roll cake to over all sides with marzipan. Trim marzipan, and cut a thin slice from each end to neaten.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been on the library waiting list seemingly forever for the book Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. So decided to Google it. I had wanted to read, and perhaps buy, this book from all the reviews that I've seen online so I figured there must be other bloggers out there who have (ahem) "borrowed" some recipes. Right I was. I am still going to wait for the book from the library, but I think I have already concluded from all the recipe reviews on other blogs that I want to buy it. Apparently blogging is now the highest form of flattery, with a close second from imitation.

These whole wheat chocolate chip cookies were the recipe that I came across the most, so obviously this was the recipe I had to try first. When I went to save it in my favorites I realized that I'd already saved the recipe almost a year ago. Molly of Orangette had written about these cookies and as is usually the case with her writing, I knew I had to try them. And promptly forgot about the recipe of course.

The recipe differs from a lot of other whole wheat baked goods in that it is all whole wheat flour used- usually it is half white and half wheat. All whole wheat flour makes the cookies taste almost like an oatmeal cookie. They are really good. This recipe will not replace my go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, but I will make it again for sure. Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies sound so healthy and virtuous, don't they. Ha. What if I told you there was a cup each of butter and sugar? Not so healthy now, are you little cookie?

Two Years Ago: Aloha Pork Kebabs


Get the recipe HERE from Orangette

NOTE: I always spinkle a little fleur de sel on the top of each cookie before baking whenever I make chocolate chip cookies. I'm really into the salty-sweet thing. If you happen to have some fleur de sel (foodies- I'm looking at you) try it out.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bookmarked This Week

Photo Credit ChefMichaelSmith.com
Actually, most of these recipes I bookmarked today. I was on a bit of a Pinterest bender.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake from Ruoka a la Sara This looks amazing but the site is in Estonian or something. Please, please let it be in Estonian- then my family can translate! Or I guess it can be Google translated?

Toffee Crunch Cupcake from Bakers Royale Caramel icing, chocolate cupcake, toffee bits. Holy moley. The chances of actually making this are slim, but you never know when the urge to pack a few pounds on your ass will strike.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup from Chef Michael Smith I want this right now. Curse you pantry for not housing any coconut milk right now!

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp from Once Upon a Chef 

100 Healthy Pasta Recipes from Cooking Light

Chocolate Lentil Brownies from Yummy Mummy Club Hopefully these turn out better than the black bean brownies. Cause those went straight in the garbage.

Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper Dip from Kraft Canada I forsee another dip night in our future

Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust from Taste for Adventure Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Challah

Challah is near and dear to my heart, but we call it Grandma Bread. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread steeped in tradition- Wikipedia will tell you all about it. My family is not Jewish, but my Grandma makes a mean Challah.

Wanting to get more into the blogging community (yes, this exists), I have recently joined The Daring Kitchen. Each month they post challenges- one for baking and one for cooking- and all members post on their blogs the results. I chose to sign up for baking for now. May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads. I'm taking it as a sign that my first challenge was Grandma bread (I mean, challah).

I have made this type of bread before from my favourite people, America's Test Kitchen, but I found their recipe dry. I know- shock and horror- I've never criticized any of their recipes before. This time I used a recipe supplied in the challenge and it turned out much better. Be sure to use a heavy pan to bake the bread though- my loaves always burn on the bottom regardless of the recipe so I've attributed it to my pan being too thin.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Bread is fairly easy to make, but you have to have some time to do it, what with the risings and in this case, shaping the bread. I did take some advise from America's Test Kitchen, actually, on how to braid the dough. Making a four or six (!) strand braid was confusing the hell out of me, so they have you make two regular three strand braids and stick them on top of each other. Easy. Even I can do that. Regardless of the shape, the end result is two delicious, slightly sweet, golden loaves. Stick one in the freezer for later, but be warned you may be pulling it out sooner than you expected. Cause the first one will be eaten so fast, of course.

Aside from being delicious with a schmear of butter, Grandma bread/challah makes fantastic French toast and uber-delicious sandwiches. But my favourite way, which is kind of a tradition in my family, is with butter and a thick slice of ham. Salty and sweet. It's kinda my thang.

+

Challah (Honey White)

from Tammy’s Recipes
Servings: 2 loaves
 To make fancy looking braided loaves, at step 4 divide each piece of dough into two sections, one slightly larger than the other. Starting with the larger section, divide each of these pieces into 3. Roll each into strands, tapering at ends. Braid, tucking ends under. Repeat with second, smaller, piece of dough. Brush top of first braid with egg wash and affix smaller braid, tucking ends under loaf.
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) warm water, separated
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) (15 gm/½ oz sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) dry active yeast
  • ½ cup (120 ml) honey
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp. 7½ ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) salt
  • 5 cups (1200 ml) (700 gm/25 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
1. In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
2. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
3. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired).
5. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
7. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)
8. Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
9. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spanish Tapas

Last week my dad and I went to a Spanish Tapas cooking class at Liaison College. Amazingly, I haven't ever cooked Spanish food. In addition to cooking Spanish food for the first time, I also ate an olive and beef liver (not together). I'd rather eat the liver again before than the olive, to be honest.

Tapas, if you aren't familiar, is basically small bites of food originally served in bars. You know, so you can still get home after drinking. Common Spanish ingredients are garlic, saffron, almonds, smoked paprika, and sherry. We made Chili Garlic Shrimp, Meatballs with Romesco sauce, Chicken Livers in Sherry Cream Sauce (except if was beef liver instead as they couldn't find chicken livers anywhere), and Caramelized Onion Soup. My favourite was the soup, and luckily this was the dish that my dad and I were assigned.

First we watched a demo of each of the four dishes, then each group cooked one of the dishes and everybody got to take home a portion of each dish. It's always interesting getting a group of strangers in the same room. We all gathered around the demo table and as the chef chopped and cook we could ask questions about what he was doing. You knew that some people were asking a "question" that they already knew the answer to, just to show they know stuff. Those are the keeners. I was not one of them (I swear!).

Aside from discovering I really like Spanish food, I learned a couple of neat tricks from the chef. There was a lot of garlic happening and the chef doesn't like using a garlic press, which I usually use, as it squeezes out too much juice and can overpower the dish. He peeled the garlic and then smashed it with the side of his knife before chopping it (like how you would smash the garlic to remove the skin but smash it harder. I looked for a video on You Tube to include here about peeling garlic but they were all over a minute long! It's not that hard, trust me).

The other interesting thing was I had put a lid on the soup pot after adding the broth in order to get it to come to a boil faster. He came by and asked if the recipe called for the pot to be covered. It did not, and he said that was for good reason. Without the lid the soup will reduce as it comes to a boil. I hadn't ever thought of that. Patience is key here, obviously. Still working on that- I had to go busy myself watching other people prepare their dishes in order to stop myself from covering the pot.

I had planned to make the soup and meatballs for dinner last night, but it was so hot out that I couldn't fathom making soup. We ended up turning on the air conditioning and then of course a storm blew in and it's back to long-sleeved shirt weather again today. Go figure.

The meatballs are made with pork and are definitely different from your standard spaghetti and meatballs with the addition of a pinch of cinnamon and pine nuts. The romesco sauce with them is the biggest revelation though. I'd seen recipes for romesco sauce but never tried it. I expected it to be served hot and taste similar to tomato sauce. In reality, it is served room temperature or cold, and it tastes like a vinegary roasted pepper mayo. It is absolutely delicious and you'll think of lots of ways to use leftovers, I'm sure. We ate the meatballs as a sandwich with the sauce spread on the buns. Delicious.

The Sherried Onion Soup with Saffron is a little like  French Onion Soup, but it is pureed and definitely has a Spanish flair. The amazing thing is it is creamy and rich but there is no added cream. Yes, the onions are browned in butter, but it is the almonds that make it creamy. So, if it has turned a little chilly where you are too, or just feel like soup on a hot day some reason, I have included the recipe for the soup below.

SHERRIED ONION SOUP WITH SAFFRON
Serves 4
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely ground
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp fino sherry
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds and chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Melt the butter in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, stirring to ensure they are thoroughly coated in butter. Saute until onions just start to turn golden. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown.

Add saffron and cook, uncovered, 3 minutes. Add almonds and cook, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes. Pour in stock, sherry, paprika, and 1 tsp salt. Season with plenty of pepper. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Pour soup into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return soup to rinsed pan and reheat slowly, without allowing soup to boil, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if required. Serve immediately garnished with almonds and parsley.

MEATBALLS WITH ROMESCO SAUCE
Serves 6

MEATBALLS:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, fresh preferrably
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pine nuts or blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
ROMESCO SAUCE:
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large slice white bread
  • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, drained if from a jar
  • 1/4 tsp each paprika and salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
In a bowl combine all meatball ingredients except olive oil. Heat 1 or 2 large pans (if using 1 meatballs will have to be cooked in two batches) over medium-high heat. Form meat mixture into 1-inch balls, ensuring not to compact mixture too much. Saute meatballs in oil until well browned on all sides until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

FOR ROMESCO SAUCE: While meatballs are cooking, bring a small pot of water to boil. Core stem end of tomatoes and cut a small X in the bottom. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Remove to a bowl of ice water. Peel and seed tomatoes. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and bread. Fry bread until golden on both sides. 

In a food processor, finely chop bread, almonds, pepper flakes, and garlic. Add peppers, tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper. Process to a smooth paste. Add vinegar and process to combine. With machine running, gradually add oil in a thin stream to make an emulsified sauce. Serve meatballs with romesco sauce for dipping.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Dip Night

Did you ever have "treat dinners" as a kid? Maybe you called them something else, but hopefully everybody gets to experience this growing up. Maybe it was "breakfast for dinner" or ham and cheese waffles like I read about in Bon Appetit. For us, we had two treat dinners- different at my mom's and my dad's. That, and tons o' presents and holiday meals at Christmas time, is the only plus in the broken home column.

So, at my mom's "treat dinner" (yes, we called it that) was cottage cheese and fruit. See, I come by healthy eating honestly. At my dad's, almost every Friday night we would have homemade pizza. I am declaring Dip Night the new treat dinner in my house.

How did this come about? I was looking through my hundreds of recipes saved on my computer thinking that I should make an effort to start cooking the older ones (i.e. the recipes that have now been transferred to three computers). I have a whole lot of dips saved- great for parties and potlucks, but how many dips can you really eat at once? Three, as it turns out. This post could have been called "An Orgy of Dairy", but lets keep it clean folks. With the dips we had pita chips and tortilla chips.

One Year Ago: nada

Buffalo Chicken Dip is as amazing as it sounds. The author on Ezra Pound Cake calls it "pure man-bait" (are you reading this single ladies?). Get the recipe by clicking HERE.

Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip: I threw this one in to be at least a little healthy, and it turned out to be the sleeper hit of the night. Recipe below.

Goat Cheese Spinach and Artichoke Dip: I think I over-cooked this one so it was dry and we didn't eat a lot of it, but I mixed it into filling for chicken manicotti the next day and that was amazing. Get the recipe by clicking HERE

MEDITERRANEAN 7-LAYER DIP
Adapted from Cooking With My Kid
  • 1 cup hummus, store bought or homemade (recipe below)
  • 3/4 cup arugula pesto (recipe below), or store bought basil pesto (reduce to 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup tzatziki
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 large pitas, cut into wedges
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes or until golden on one side. Flip them over and bake until golden a crisp on the other side, about 2 more minutes.

Make hummus if using homemade and transfer to a bowl. Then make pesto- no need to wash food processor if you've scraped the hummus out pretty well. 

Spread hummus in bottom of your serving dish (mine was 11x7). Spread pesto over top, then tzatziki. Sprinkle over olives, if using, then tomatoes, green onions, and feta. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

PANTRY HUMMUS
Traditional hummus has tahini, a sesame seed paste like peanut butter, but I don't keep that around just to make hummus. It's just as good without. 
  • 1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste if using no-sodium chickpeas)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • water
Place all ingredients but water in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Scrape down bowl, add 2 tbsp water, process again until a totally smooth, adding a little more water if necessary.

ARUGULA PESTO
This can also be made with baby spinach, or a combination of both. Great as a pasta sauce, on fish or chicken. 

2 cups arugula or baby spinach, washed and dried
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil (stems and leaves together are ok- they'll be pureed)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
water, if needed

Place all ingredients but water in a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down bowl periodically, adding water a tbsp at a time if needed.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Go To Recipes

We all have them. No matter how many blogs, magazines, cookbooks I read, I have recipes that I keep coming back to. They are the first ones that come to mind when I am out of ideas on what to make, or I need something I know will turn out great. Here's my list. What are your go-to's?

Mains:
Pasta with Pea Pesto
Pizza (have you noticed how many pizza recipes I've posted here? When in doubt, throw some veg and cheese on some dough)
Stir Fry

Sides:
Roasted Root Vegetables
Creamy Orzo
Popovers
Quinoa Salad

Desserts:
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake
Molly's Chocolate Cake
Chaussons Aux Pommes

Snacks:
Pea Pesto on toasted bread
Bruscetta on toasted bread
Bran Flax Muffins
Gougeres

Monday, April 23, 2012

South Indian Lentil Burgers

What would you do if you had an extra hundred bucks this month? For me this is hypothetical, as I never have an extra $100 or even $20 by the time I get paid again. I am, how you say... a spender? Yeah. Terrible at saving. Tyler, on the other hand, always has extra money in his bank account (we keep our money outside of household stuff separate).  In this fantasy where I have an extra 100 bills here's what I would do.

I'd like to say I'd hire a cleaning lady, but that seems unfair that I have to spend my $100 windfall on something boring like cleaning. Plus, Tyler thinks it's crazy to pay somebody to clean when he has a free cleaning lady. Me.

I should probably also buy a new hairdryer as the nozzle on mine is currently being held on with hockey tape (all I could find) due to Parker chucking it across the bathroom. More than once. But I think what I'd really do is spend half on cheese and other gourmet food at a specialty food store and spend the other half on a new top or make up for spring. I'm so practical that way.

Luckily, these South Asian Lentil Burgers are cheap, cheap, cheap to make. You probably have most of the stuff already. These can also be eaten on their own with a salad or roasted veg on the side rather than having them as a burger. Either way, these are super healthy with high fiber but huge on flavour too. Just don't do what I did and respond to your husband's request of burgers with these. Delicious, yes, but "man burgers" they are not.

SOUTH INDIAN LENTIL BURGERS
Serves 4
The lentils and rice have to soak for 3-5 hours, so plan accordingly.
  • 1/2 cup dried green or brown lentils
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 inch piece peeled fresh ginger  
  • 1/2 small jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed (optional)
  • 1 cup packed kale, stems removed, or spinach or arugula
  • 1/2 cup peas, thawed if from frozen
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
  • 1 scallion, cut into 1/2 lengths
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 Naan bread, cut into quarters
  • topping for burgers: Thai sweet chili sauce is good, or the raita in the original Bon Appetit recipe which I didn't feel like making
Place lentils and rice in a bowl and add water to cover by 3 inches. Set aside for 3-5 hours, then drain and proceed with recipe.

Place lentils, rice, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno if using in a food processor. Process until a grainy paste forms (add a little water if necessary). Add peas, parley (or cilantro), scallion, salt and pepper. Process until all is chopped and well combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. Form 1/4 cup lentil mixture into a ball, then flatten into a patty and place in pan. Repeat with 3 or 4 more- as many as will fit in pan without crowding. Cook 4 minutes, then drizzle 1tbsp olive oil over tops of patties. Flip and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining lentil mixture.

To serve, place 1 lentil patty on Naan bread "bun" (two quarters of Naan bread) with desired toppings. Serving size is two burgers per person.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bookmarked This Week

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit
I have 24 hours (I'm halfway in) to bake 7 zucchini bread, 3 banana bread, 3 pumpkin-cranberry loaves, and 4 multi-grain breads. Is this a baking marathon challenge? Am I having a party? No, this is an order for my fledgling side business, Baking By Amy. Ultimately, I want to work with food as a full time job, so this is attempt #1. I have other ideas if this doesn't work out (and unless I open a bakery I don't see how it would constitute a full time job, really).

Oh, and within that given 24 hours I work at my real job for 4 hours tonight. So forgive me for no real post today. Lucky for you, I've found some good recipes in my Internet travels this week. Enjoy!

Deals on Meals: 5 dinners for $100 from Bon Appetit This is our menu for this week. All the recipes look great. 

Sweet Melissa Baking Book recipes from Tastespotting A roundup of recipes from this book from around the web with beautiful photos. I had this book checked out of the library a while ago and it was fantastic.

ABCs of Potty Training from Baby Centre Not food related, obviously, but Parker is 20 months old and it may be time to start thinking about potty training. This list of tips is one of the best I've found. Let me know if you have anything that worked for you!

Corn and Bacon Pie from Bon Appetit (Photo above) That just sounds like summer

Confetti Corn Muffins with Cream Cheese "Frosting" from Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Cute

Cinnamon, Sugar, and Coffee Roasted Chickpeas from Baking Serendipity I would have never thought to make these sweet, but they sound awesome

Petite Vanilla Scones from Pioneer Woman Like the ones at Starbucks!

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream from Amateur Gourmet There's a pineapple upside down cake recipe in there too, but I came for the ice cream

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting from Adventures in Baking Just look at this frosting! I am in awe of the beautiful purple frosting.