Friday, 14 October 2011

When in Rome...

During our adventures in Europe, we decided to eat the local specialities in each city we visited. Waffles, Beer, Moules and Frites in Belgium; Pannekoeken in Amsterdam; Croissants and Fois Gras in Paris; Civapcici and Pasticada in Croatia; Tapas and Paella in Spain. We totally craved Italian food the whole time we were in Europe, and except for a couple slip ups, vowed not to eat pizza or pasta until we reached Italy. 


My most memorable meal in Italy was at a restaurant on a patio overlooking the nearly 1900 year old Pantheon. It wasn't cheap, but generally, restaurants closest to touristy attractions aren't. 


I decided to order a dish I'd never heard of that sounded amazing: Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I was blown away, trying to stuff every last tasty bite into my tummy. The portion was too big and I had to leave half of it behind. It broke my heart, but we were sans fridge, so it had to be done. The meal was even better than the view (If that could even be possible!) I promised to make it as soon as I got home, before I could forget how seriously amazing this dish was. When I got home and looked it up, I found out it was pretty much the regional dish of Rome, well Lazio, the region of Italy where Rome is. How cool is that? I ate the regional dish of Rome in Rome! When in Rome...


The dish calls for Guanciale, a cured meat made from the jowls or cheeks of the pig and is the regional specialty of Lazio. I looked for this all over Bosa Foods and couldn't get my hands on it. Pancetta is close enough and makes a decent substitution, so that's what I ended up using. When I ate this in Rome, it was with Guanciale and let me tell you, it was fantastic! If you can find it, use it, if not, Pancetta is great too. 


4 cups of Tomato Sauce 
1/2 small Sweet Onion, minced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of Guanciale or Pancetta, cubed into 1/4" cubes
3 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1 500g box of Bucatini
2 Tablespoons Salt
Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded fine
Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tablespoons EVOO


In a big pot, boil water for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the salt and Bucatini, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and to get all the pasta to submerge (it's pretty long and thick so it may take a while. Follow package instructions for boiling time. My box said 11 minutes, but I let it boil a bit longer as I don't like mine too hard. You want it al dente. 


Meanwhile, in a big flat bottom pan with high flat sides, coat the bottom with your EVOO. 


Lay your Guanciale or Pancetta in a single layer in the pan. Place over medium heat, covered for about 7 minutes. Flip them over and recover to cook the other side for another 5 minutes. You don't want to heat too hot as you want the fat to render out of the pork without burning. use your judgement. If it's too hot, turn the heat down. 


Once the Pancetta is golden all over, but not super crisp, add the onions to the pan and sauté for a couple minutes.


Add the tomatoes and sauté until they start breaking down a bit, about 5 minutes with the lid on. 


Pour in the Tomato Sauce, stir to combine and let it simmer with the lid on to heat through, until the pasta is ready to go. 


When the pasta is done, drain it really well, shaking off all the water- DO NOT RINSE! NEVER RINSE!!!  Get it into the pan with the sauce. Combine until all the noodles are coated and the Pancetta bits are distributed evenly. 


Throw the lid on and turn off the heat. Let it hang out, while you get your table ready, get your Pecorino Romano shredded, get your basil chopped or torn, etc. When you mix up your bowl to eat, the cheese will combine with the sauce and stick to the noodles better and it will become a part of the sauce. Don't omit the cheese and basil, they are the best part!


Dish it out into your favourite pasta bowls. Top with a very generous portion of the shredded Pecorino Romano and torn/chopped Basil leaves to taste. You can serve this up with a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and your best EVOO. 


This dish tastes even better the next day for lunch! 


Ohhh Myyyyy Goooooood.... So Delish!


Enjoy!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Advocate for the Brussels Sprout

I just got back from Europe. It was an amazing holiday, full of driving, exploring and eating. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium. I was so excited about going to Brussels, for so many reasons, but food was definately one of them! Belgian Chocolates, Belgian Waffles, Liegois Waffles, Belgian Beers, Belgian Endive, Steak Frites, Moules, and our tiny loathed friends, the Brussels Sprouts. 


How did the Brussels Sprout get such a bum rap? Traditionally, home cooks would make brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner as an after thought, spending more time and energy on the star attractions at the dinner table, like the turkey and the stuffing. Brussels sprouts would get no love and would be overcooked. Overcooking the sprout causes it to get grey and "sulferish" smelling. We all grew up being forced to eat the smelly suckers, hating every morsel. 


And what a shame too! According to sources, Brussels Sprouts are packed with anticancer properties (generally lost from boiling them), as well as indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that helps to amp up DNA repair in cells, as well as, Vitamins A, C, Folic Acid, Fibre, and some say they even help to fight colon cancer. 


My dear husband, grew up hating veggies and it's been my personal obsession to make him love veggies. So far, it's been really successful, but Brussels Sprouts were the ONE THING he refused to eat. He actually ate this dish and has been bragging to anyone willing to listen, that THESE Brussels Sprouts are to die for. Aaaahhh Mission Accomplished. 


I'm here to advocate the revival of the Brussels Sprout. These tiny bites need love and attention to deliver a nutritious and tasty side dish.


3-4 cups of Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves peeled off, cut in half
1/2 cup of Pancetta, diced into 1/4" pieces
1 Tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Shallot, minced 
1/2 cup water
shavings of Pecorino Romano Cheese


Prep your Brussels Sprouts and soak them in a bowl full of cold water.


In a pan, heat your Balsamic Vinegar until it reduces by half, about 2 minutes over med-high heat. Stir in the butter, until it's melted. Set aside in a bowl. Whip your pan clean.


In your pan, add your EVOO and coat the bottom. Add your diced pancetta over medium heat and cover. Let the fat melt out. After about 5 minutes, the pancetta should be golden, so flip them and continue rendering out the fat and crisping up the pancetta for another 5 minutes. Spoon the pancetta into a paper towel-lined bowl. Keep the fat in the pan, but pull the pan off the heat


Drain and dry the Brussels Sprouts well (you can do this while the pancetta cooks away in the pan)


Place the Brussels Sprouts into the pan of Pancetta fat, cut side down (move fast, but don't burn yourself). Place back on the heat on medium-high heat


Add 1/2 Cup water and let it steam away until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. 


Add the minced shallot. A minute later, add the crisped Pancetta and a couple spoonfuls of Balsamic Vinegar and toss to incorporate. Add more Balsamic as you see fit. You're just looking for a light glazing. 


Serve immediately topped with shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese. 


Optional, add toasted pine nuts for some crunch.


Oh My God So DELISH!


Enjoy!

Tomatoverload?

Living with your in-laws is never a good time. But it does have some benefits too. My father in law has a fabulous compost right outside, for all the household compostables. He's also converted his entire yard to gardening food for the house. Everything from plums, pears and figs; to green beans, parsley and carrots. Most of all, Tomatoes! around this time of year, the house is over run with tomatoes everywhere! He lays them all out in a single layer on every flat outdoor surface he can find, and then looks for opportunities to make things with all his bounty. This year, I decided to steal (err, borrow?) two huge bowls of tomatoes to make a big pot of sauce for us and them. 


One Giant Sweet Onion, diced
One Giant head of garlic, cloves sliced thin (use a mandoline-CAREFULLY!)
3-4 Tablespoons EVOO
20-30 Tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoon of sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon ofTurbinado Sugar
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped fine


In a giant Sauce Pot, add your EVOO, and your diced onions. Sweat out your onions until they are about translucent. Add your Garlic, mix it up and let it sweat out over medium heat.


Add your tomatoes, your salt and your pepper. Stir, cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Do this for about an hour (or longer). Your tomatoes will be liquidy and soupy. 


Add your sugar and using your fabulous immersion blender, blend everything in your pot really well. 


Let your sauce simmer over medium (maybe a bit lower than medium) for an hour, maybe two, with the lid on. Stir in your oregano, and recover. Turn off your heat. Taste to see if you need to add seasoning. It should be tasty and balanced, but simple. You'll be adding to it when you use it to cook with later. 


Your sauce should have reduced by at least 1/3. Keep the cover on and leave it out on your stove overnight (or in your fridge-the stove may not be food safe, it's just how I do it). 


The next day, pour your sauce into big freezer bags into usable portions.  Make sure you push all the air out of the zipper before sealing the bags. Throw it into the freezer, flat.


Pull out as needed. The zippy bags make it super easy to defrost! You can just keep it in a sink full of water to defrost while you prep and til you're ready to heat it up!


Tomato Sauce.. or Saowse as they call it in Joisey.. Delish!


Enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mealtime Mashup

French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese


I know.. WTF... what am I thinking? I know... You must think I'm crazy....


...Crazy Genius! I know! 


Who doesn't LOVE French Onion Soup?! 


Who doesn't LOVE Mac & Cheese?!


So, Poof! my favourite mealtime mashup!


Now, let's be honest, I'm not even going to pretend this is even kind of healthy. Ingredients like Flour, Butter and Cheese are unavoidable (I refuse to make this dish without either! Sister needs a Roux!) but I substituted some things to make this dish slightly easier to digest. Gluten Free Pasta instead of the regular stuff. Unsweetened Unflavoured Almond Milk (I LOVE Earth's Own Almond Fresh-Tastes like milk but not!) Remember, It's ok to be bad, once in a while... Serve with something super healthy, avoid dessert that night and hit the gym!


Ingredients 
One big sweet onion, cut in half and sliced seriously thin (Mandolin Time!)
Splash of Canola Oil
Butter (have a stick on hand, but you'll need less)
2 heads of roasted garlic (See my old post about roasted garlic)
1/3 cup AP Flour
2 cups Milk (I used unsweetened Almond milk-but regular milk would work)
2 HUGE spoonfuls of Dijon
3 cups of Gruyere Cheese shredded
1 1/2 cups Extra Old Cheddar shredded
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon of Cayenne (to taste, I used more)
1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt & peper to taste (Leave the salt to last and taste the food before you add it in, you cheese may be salty enough)
3 ish cups of short pasta (I used Gluten Free Penne) (Reserve the pasta water, like a couple cups, you may need it)
6 slices +  of Sourdough bread, crusts cut off, ripped up into tiny pieces, toasted lightly in the oven


Preheat your broiler


Pasta
Put a big pot of water to boil, once boiling, cook up the pasta of choice to almost al dente, according to the package directions. Try to do this at the same time as making the sauce if you can. 


Sauce
In a big high sided frying pan, put all the onions in on medium heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally. If it starts burning, turn the heat down, once it starts sticking a bit, add a splash of Canola and scrape up the goodness off the bottom. 


Once it's caramelized and brown, add the roasted garlic cloves from two heads of garlic


Add 3 Tablespoons of butter. 


Once melted somewhat, add the flour and stir it up to cook off the flour and incorporate everything together, crushing any whole garlic cloves that might still be.


Slowly stir in the Almond Milk (or milk) mixing thoroughly. Add the Dijon (Be super generous with the Dijon) Stir well.


Add  2 cups of the Gruyere (reserve the third cup for later) and 1 1/2 cups of the Cheddar slowly, melting the cheese into the sauce over medium-low heat. 


Add the Worcestershire, the Cayenne, the Paprika, the Pepper, and the Nutmeg. If the sauce is looking super thick, thin it a bit with the hot pasta water. 


Taste the sauce. add salt as needed. Try to just taste it once, but, you may keep going back in like I did (I HAD to be sure it was ok!) (Even more fun is using the sourdough crust scraps... you don't want that to go to waste!)


Topping
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter


Toss the Sourdough Croutons in the butter


Assembly
Drain the pasta really well. Shake off all the water and add it to the sauce and mix really well. Let it sit while you're making the croutons and let the sauce get right up in there!


Pour all the saucey pasta into a big shallow baking dish.


Spread out the buttery croutons all over the top of the mac


Sprinkle the last cup of Gruyere over the top


Broil it til it's bubbly and browned on top


Pull it out and let it sit for a couple minutes while you get the table ready. 




Serve with veggies or salad. I served mine with steamed broccoli. 




Should serve about 6-8 people 


Sinful. Dangerous. Delish.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hhhhmmm Corn on the Cob!

I don't like to eat anything normal. I need flavour and spice to make my meal interesting. This dish is different and super simple. It's a great way to make something predictable and ordinary into something extraordinary! 


Corn on the Cob is a wonderful summer side dish-but don't think for a second this guy is a vegetable. Corn is technically a grain, like wheat and holds a very high sugar content. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn Since it has a high sugar content, it should be eaten in moderation. Corn syrup is what makes pop sweet! So for me, Corn is a treat, that I don't eat too often!


The sweetness in Corn is where I found my inspiration. Try this out and try out your own variations and let me know what you thought! There's a couple ways you can cook this, but the flavours and ingredients are the same.


Sweet & Spicy Chinese Five Spiced Corn
Corn on the Cob, one per person, or to taste
Butter, to taste
Cayenne, to taste 
Chinese Five Spice Powder, to taste
Salt, to taste 
Pepper, to taste


Method 1-Indoors

  1. Boil the Corn in it's husks, DO NOT ADD SALT TO THE WATER (About 10 or so minutes in rolling boiling water)
  2. Shuck the corn while hot-Be careful!
  3. Cut the Corn into smaller pieces, like in half or thirds.
  4. Toss cooked corn in a big bowl with all the other ingredients



Method 2-BBQ

  1. Shuck the corn
  2. Cut the corn into smaller pieces, like in half or thirds.
  3. Cut pieces of tin foil that are 1 1/2 feet long, one per ear of corn
  4. Place corn in the middle of the tin foil
  5. Top with Chinese Five Spice Compound Butter***
    1. The Compound Butter will wrap itself all around the corn in the cooking process and the butter will likely find a way to leak out, so don't panic about the amount of butter you use, or having to smear it all over the corn
  6. Wrap up tightly to seal the packets
  7. Put on indirect heat on the BBQ until corn is cooked, flipping once (10-15 minutes)



***Chinese Five Spice Compound Butter (For ten ears worth of corn)
1 stick of Butter
1 Tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Salt


Mash it all together. I find keeping the butter cold and then shredding the cold butter with a fine shredder helps, especially when you forgot to take the butter out to soften and you're in a hurry


What is Chinese Five Spice Powder, anyways?! It's a blend of five Chinese spices. Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Fennel, and Sichuan Pepper. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_five_spice can find this blended together in a mix in the Spice section of your local grocery store. Buy it! Try it! Use it in different applications! I imagine it would be mighty delish in French Toast? (Must try that next time I make french toast!)


Enjoy!



Friday, 15 July 2011

Nourish-ing Salad!!!

I was inspired by a recent Wendy's lunch. I really wanted to try to replicate their Berry Almond Chicken Salad... but I needed some ingredients. I headed over to my favourite organic grocery store Nourish Market in the Lynn Valley Village www.nourishmarket.ca where I was greeted by Jeff and Adrienne (the bestest grocers ever!) Jeff shared his favourite salad, which, oddly enough, kinda sounded like the one I had at Wendy's. He recommended some of his favourite ingredients and I was set!


Coconut Grilled Chicken
2 chicken breasts
1/2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Artisana Raw Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil)
Sea Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste


Salad (Quantities to taste)
Mixed Mâche Greens (Mâche, Frisse, Radicchio) 
Sliced Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Sliced Ripe Mango
Maple Mixed Nuts (Prana Go Nuts Maple Mixed Nuts)
Goat Cheese
Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette (Little Creek Cherry Balsamic Dressing)
Coconut Grilled Chicken Chicken (See Above)


Take your goat cheese, usually in a small cylindric shape, and throw it in your freezer. TRUST ME!


In your frying pan, over med-high heat, add your coconut oil and let it melt. Meanwhile, rinse and pat your chicken dry. lightly dust your chicken with sea salt and cayenne. Add to your hot pan until the bottom of your chickens have a nice golden colour. Flip and reduce the heat to medium. Put a lid over the chicken. (WARNING-You kitchen and the rest of your house will smell like warm sinful coconut forget your scented candles! Cook with this stuff!) Once it's done, let it rest on a cutting board and cut up into bite sized pieces.


While that's cooking, you can slice your strawberries and mangos and wash and prep the blueberries and raspberries. Get it all ready to rock in small bowls so you can assemble quickly. The chicken should be done by now. 


Time to assemble your salad! Layer your greens on a plate. Sprinkle your strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, and a small handful of Maple Mixed Nuts over your salad. Add the chicken (once somewhat cooled) and drizzle lightly with your dressing. You won't need a lot of dressing since there's so much flavour bursting all over this salad!


Grab your goat cheese out of your freezer. unwrap a hunk of it, or peel back the plastic. Using your micro-plane, lightly dust the top of your salad with your goat cheese. Since it's almost frozen, it's way easier to shave on the micro-plane and this way you don't get too much goat cheese, just enough! It will add an extra level of salty decadence against all your juicy fruit!


And VOILA!


I used some amazing products that I bought at Nourish Market today. Chances are, you may not have access to this stuff. Get creative! Use any nut mix, hemp hearts, flax seeds, or toasted oats in place of the Prana Go Nuts (but if you can get it, it's so worth it!) You can use EVOO, or Canola in place of Coconut, but remember all the health benefits of coconut oil and when was the last time your EVOO permeate your house is delicious smells? You can avoid dressing if you like, or make your own. Just remember you don't need much. The salad tastes damn good without too! Vegetarian? Omit the Chicken, add more nuts for protein. Vegan, skip the cheese too! You can't go wrong with this salad!


Enjoy!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Becoming Eastern European

By my name, you can tell I married an Eastern European Man... birthed by his Eastern European Mother... who cooks Eastern European Foods... One must do what one can to keep the Eastern European Mother in Law happy... and if that means cooking food by her Easter European People... then cook I must! Since we live in her basement, we brought her a bowl to see what she thought... and unless she was just trying to be nice, she loved it! (phewf!)


I was stuck with an open box of low sodium chicken broth, half an onion and sour cream in my fridge. Not wanting to waste it, I googled those items to find an interested dinner options and Chicken Paprikash popped up... I found some inspiration from what others were doing... and banged out my very own version!


Chicken Paprikash (aka Paprika Chicken)


2 or so Chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cut up into bite sized pieces
4 heaping Tablespoons flour seasoned with Salt & Pepper
EVOO
1/2 big Onion, small dice
1 small/med Red Pepper, small dice
1 heaping Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 heaping Tablespoon Flour (not seasoned)
4 Tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
1/2 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Cups Low Sodium Organic Chicken Broth
1 small container Organic Sour Cream


Dredge the chicken through the seasoned flour


Heat a big pan or dutch oven with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO on med/high heat


Add the seasoned flour coated chicken.


Once lightly browned on one side, flip it over, brown the other side, then take it all out onto a plate (don't have to cook it through)


Add another turn of the pan with EVOO


Add the Onions, Red Pepper, Garlic, Paprika, Cayenne, Butter, Salt & Pepper & Flour


Saute, til onions translucent 


Add broth, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pan


Put all the Sour Cream into a bowl, and add a couple ladles of the hot soupy mixture to the Sour Cream to temper it and mix well


Add the Sour Cream mixture to the big pan with the rest of the soupy mixture and mix well


Add back the chicken, put a lid on it, and keep it at medium-medium low for about 10-20 minutes to cook the chicken and thicken up the sauce, stir occasionally


Serve on top of Gnocchi or Egg Noodles... Delish!!!


Enjoy!



Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Veggie Risotto Stuffed Peppers

Risotto is one of those satisfying, stick to your ribs, kinda foods. The kind that comfort you on a cold rainy Vancouver day. The kind that hug you from the insides when you're feeling blue. Risotto is a beautiful thing. 


Up until today, Risotto was also an enigmatic mystery; one of those dishes i'd spend $18.95 on at a restaurant, but one I never knew I could make. 


On Friday, I went to a Gala for the the Lynn Valley Day celebration and to celebrate the LVCA's 100th anniversary. At the buffet (Catered by Tommy's <3) was this secret vegetarian dish hidden under a glass lid that not many people saw at first. It was a delish stuffed pepper. most of the people at my table went for seconds and tried it and loved it... I decided I had to try to make it! 


Thank you Tommy's Caters for the inspiration!! www.tommycaters.com 


Risotto Base
2 Tetra Packs of Organic Broth (I used two 900ML Campbell's Organic Chicken Broth you can use Veggie Broth if you want to make this totally Veggie) (RESERVE TWO CUPS FOR LATER)
EVOO
1 medium sweet onion diced
2 T Minced Garlic
2 cups Arborio Rice
Chili Pepper Flakes to Taste
Shredded Parmesan 


Veggies
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup matchstick carrots (out of a bag, or dice up your own carrots)
1 cup frozen peas
(whatever else you might want? maybe broccoli? maybe asparagus?)


Stuffed Peppers Stuff
4-5 red peppers (or orange or yellow)
your favorite jar of tomato sauce
italian cheese mix




Heat up the stock in a sauce pan. This doesn't have to boil, and you can just keep it at room temperature if you'd prefer.


In a big, tall, pan (I used my biggest, skillet with the really tall sides, I think it's 15"?) I did a couple rounds of the pan with EVOO. add the diced sweet onions and sauté until softened. Add the Garlic and Chilli Pepper Flakes and continue to sauté (careful not to burn the garlic!) Add the Arborio Rice and mix thoroughly into the onions and garlic until the rice gets translucent. Add a couple ladles of broth and scrap up the stuck on rice off the bottom of the pan. Mix frequently. When the broth is absorbed, add a couple more ladles of broth, stir frequently until the broth is again absorbed, and repeat process until all the broth is used up (except the reserved cups) and the risotto is soft and oatmealesque. 


Once you get to this point, add the parmesan and mix thoroughly throughout the Risotto, add one cup of broth to loosen things up. Add the prepped veggies (everything but the frozen peas) to the hot risotto and the last cup of broth. Mix thoroughly, turn off the heat and cover so the steam can cook up the veggies. Throw in the frozen sweet peas, recover and let it hang out. 


While the risotto is hanging out with the lid on, you can get the peppers ready. 


Cut the peppers in half (top to bottom so it sits on it's side) cut out the insides, wash and take off the sticker!!! Put cut side up in a baking dish. Squish them in if you must. Put into a hot oven under Broil to soften and slightly get some colour. Take them out when you feel they're softer and lightly charred. Pepper juice will have collected in the pepper cups. Pour it into the risotto (waste not!).


Give the risotto one last thorough mix through and spoon it into the pepper cups. put a tablespoon of sauce on top of each risotto cup, and crown with some italian shredded cheese (I used the kraft stuff with Mozza, Parm, Emmental and Provolone)


Put into a hot Oven and bake til the cheese is brown and bubbly. 


Serve on a bed of more risotto and a nice salad. 


Variations
You could sauté the veggies before adding it to the risotto, I didn't and I didn't feel I was missing something. 


You could skip the cheese and sauce


You could skip the peppers, it was so delish on it's own! Heck! You could dice up the peppers and add a cup to the risotto instead!


You could cook up some crumbled Italian Sausage, drain and add it to the party. 


You could make smaller portions as a side dish for chicken, lamb or beef kebabs, maybe a piece of salmon?


Mix things up and use what ever veggies you can get your hands on.


I didn't add any seasoning, asides from the chilli pepper flakes, since I figured the broth had enough. Sprinkle as much or as little chilli pepper flakes as you'd like. 


I didn't add any fat, besides the EVOO and cheese; you could finish it off with some butter!


Add Saffron!


Make it vegan and omit the cheese!


Either way, Risotto is clearly way easier to make than I thought it was going to be! Looks like we'll be eating this more often!




Enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Roasted Garlic-My One True Love

There's nothing more delish and inviting than the aroma of Roasted Garlic wafting throughout your home. That sweet, mild, savoury delight is a must in every fridge. Whether you're adding it to a dressing, pasta dish, chicken, fish, potatoes-Roasted Garlic adds that certain Je Ne Sais Quoi to every dish!


Grab your favourite tiny Corningware type dish. I like my tiny round Corningware dish that has a rubbery resealable lid (not for use in ovens) 


Grab whole heads of Garlic. Chop the tops off, cutting off about 1/4-1/2 inch to expose the flesh of each little clove. (it's ok if there's one or two tiny cloves hiding, don't get too OCD over this)


Place the heads of garlic cut side up in one layer in the dish. My tiny Corningware dish holds about 2-3 heads squished in tight. Pour about a Tablespoon or so of your favourite EVOO over each head. 


Wrap the dish tight with tin foil and slow roast in a 300F Oven for an hour or so-At least until your whole house suddenly starts smelling delicious. Turn off the oven and let the dish stay in the oven until it comes to room temperature. 


Cover with the proper lid and keep in the fridge until you're ready. 


You'll find the oil will solidify in the dish.. once it comes to room temperature, you'll see it liquifies. This oil is liquid gold! Add it to anything that calls for oil, only this stuff will taste garlicier! 


To extract the sticky, tasty cloves from the heads, you can use many methods:

  1. I use this method the most: you can pick out each clove, one by one with a fork
  2. I'll use this method when I'm down to the last couple cloves. Many people prefer this method: turning the head upside down, squeeze the head "toothpaste" style and all the gorgeous cloves will ooze right out
Add it to a fresh batch of mashed potatoes with butter and cream!

Add it to any pasta dish!

Add it to your next salad dressing!

Use it on your next garlic bread!

Make it into a compound butter!

Use your imagination!

Whatever you decide to do with it, keep me posted! I'd love to hear your ideas!!!

Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

App Few of My Favourite Things....

I like many things: the colour green; almond milk lattes from Whole Foods; Whole Foods; office supplies; all Dolce & Gabbana perfumes; roasted garlic; Hester Creek Cab Merlot (Thank you Mr. Z! You know who you are!); and of course, my iPhone.


My iPhone is my lifeline. It's my GPS, my Internet, my Email, my Alarm Clock, my Camera, my Tour Guide, and of course, my Communication Medium.


My iPhone is also my Sous Chef in the Kitchen! I use the Clock on it for a handy kitchen timer, I look up recipes, cooking instructions, ideal locations to grab the ingredients I'm looking for, and to keep me company while I'm waiting for "that thing" to finish cooking/boiling/baking/marinating etc.


My favourite iPhone app, one I think is positively invaluable to me and should become your new best friend is the StillTasty app. Download it from your Ap Store now! And for those of you lacking an iPhone/Android (GASP!) check out the website here: http://www.stilltasty.com/


This handy dandy little guy tells you if that "thing" is still safe to eat, or if it should be tossed. Don't know if that bottle of Miracle Whip in your refrigerator door is still ok? We've all been there! That internal conflict: It looks fine and smells normal, but the expiry date says it expired a month ago. What to do?! Well, according to the StillTasty app, that opened bottle of mayo is still good 3-4 months PAST the expiry date! Who knew?! Can you imagine how much money this information would save all of us?!


We all try to eat healthy and stay on top of our weight/health. This can be so hard sometimes! How many of us have a super healthy breakfast, lunch and then lose their willpower by 3pm and succumb to a mid-PMS Chocolate craving?! By the time Dinner rolls around, you feel you've already cheated, why not just go full boar and have pizza for dinner?! What we don't realize is if we cheat a little, it's ok! We just need to make sure we're on our game most of the time!


Last year, I lost 30 lbs. I have a fabulous iPhone App to thank for that! Everyone should have this app on their iPhone/Androids! Again, if you don't have either (EEEK) check out their website here: http://www.loseit.com/


The secret to losing weight is to eat less and move more. Easy in theory, but often difficult to maintain and keep track of! This amazing app allows you to track your weight loss/eating habits/calories burned. Start by telling the app how much you weigh and what your goal weight is and how soon you realistically want to get there. Then, our fabulous little app will let you know how many calories you should eat a day to get to your goal. You input what you've eaten, what exercise you've done (It recalculates how many calories you need to eat that day to take into account the calories burned with exercise)  It also helps you keep track of the water you're drinking. This way, you know you can cheat and have a couple hershey's kisses to sooth your PMS Cravings and still be on track! You check in regularly with your updated weight and it lets you know how you're doing and if you're on track for your goal date.


I have to say, the biggest challenge in losing weight is being honest with yourself. Writing down everything you've eaten forces you to take accountability for what you've eaten. Your mind my forget, but your thighs never do! This app lets you do just that, but is way more fun than a note book! You can eat out and this app will help you decide what you should eat when you're out. It includes lots of prepared products, restaurant foods and they are constantly updating.


I have a whole folder full of cooking related apps on my iPhone, including the usual suspects, Epicurious, Food Network, and Whole Foods Recipes. My new fave is the Cook It AF. Since I was diagnosed with a million food allergies and since Dennis is Celiac, I'm always looking for alternative ways to achieve tasty treats! If you or someone you know is in the same boat, or just trying to avoid certain allergens in their cooking (Gluten, Lactose, etc) this app's for you!


You can find the Cook It AF or Cook It Allergy Free app from your app store for iPhone/Android. If you (Agghhh) don't have either, you can check out their website here: http://www.cookitallergyfree.com/


The app is a tad primitive but gets the job done. I love how you can pick a dish, then some of the ingredients offer alternatives. Click on the red coloured ingredients (usually common allergens) and it offers you alternatives! Ok, for instance, take a look at the "You won't know they're gluten free" Pancakes. The recipe calls for 2 eggs. Since I can't eat egg whites, I'll look at the alternative suggestions. It says 3 tablespoons of mashed bananas work as a suitable substitute for 2 eggs for this dish!


There's a world of amazing food and wellness related apps out there! Take a leap of faith and try them out! If you have one you love, please pass it on! I'd love to try them out too!


Enjoy!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Bombay Behl=Bombay Hell...Restaurant Bitchin'

Originally, the point of this blog was to discuss the adventures I was having in my kitchen. But I eat out often and always have an opinion to share, so I guess, herein-lies my bitchin'.


Since we're trying to get better use out of our Entertainment Book, I downloaded the fancy Entertainment Book Ap for my iPhone. It tells me where there are places near my location that have Entertainment Book coupons... FABULOUS!


On this particularly rainy late friday night, hunting for Dinner Ideas, we decided to check out Bombay Behl-found exactly 2.5KM from our place (Thanks Entertainment Book Ap!)-with our 2 for 1 dinner coupon. 


Bombay Behl is located on East Hastings in North Burnaby. It's between Gilmour and Willingdon and looks quite nice from the outside. I'd heard good things and wanted to check it out finally. 


We get there, the place is dark and sparsely decorated. Kinda felt like a super casual BBQ place with its bare tables. There are candle holders on each table, none of which are lit (despite the fresh tea light in each one). Every table has a red fabric napkin, but ours. We never got one either.


We order drinks, Dennis a beer and me, a nice, cool, sweet gewurtz (nothing says Indian Food, like a gewurztraminer!) Our server takes our orders and didn't have a clue what I was saying, even after pointing a couple times to the wine in question on his wine list. He states he has to go ask his boss, and walks away. He comes back a bit later, while we are reading the menus to let me know that yes, he does have it. (Who is this kid?! He must be a rookie, so I don't let it bug me)


The server doesn't ask if we were ready to order, he just stands there with his notepad and pen. Since Dennis is always ready to order right away, he orders right away. I'm never ready so Dennis asks the server to leave and come back. He comes back a few minutes later, stands next to me and barks if i'm ready yet and rushes me to order. I panic and order a Lamb Vindaloo. The entrees' come with a choice of Rice or Naan, so I ask for rice and then I ask for a side order of naan for Dennis and I to share with our meal. He never asks Dennis which side he chooses, so I clarify what I'm ordering. Keep in mind, though I can be a cranky chicky, I'm extra nice to him. It kinda goes a bit like this:


Me: I'd like my Lamb Vindaloo with rice please
Server: Lamb Vindaloo with naan, okay.
Me: No, Lamb Vindaloo with rice please, but I would like to also order a side of naan. (I know what you're thinking, I'm just getting crazy here)
Server: So you want Lamb Vindaloo with Naan?
Me: No, I want to order my meal with rice. Then separately, I'd like to order a SIDE of Naan. (Using grand hand gestures to help illustrate the point)
Server: So you want Lamb Vindaloo with two naan?
Me: Please bring me rice with my Lamb Vindaloo. Please also bring us a naan. (More pronounced hand gestures)
Server: ahh Ok, so you want one rice, two naans. 
Me:... ok, do what you can... don't worry (Dejected)


Then I realized later, he wasn't bringing Dennis rice, but naan instead. So, as he's walking by, I ask him 


Me: Excuse me, did you order my husband a rice with his meal or a naan?
Server: I'm sorry I don't understand
Me: Did you order rice with his curry or naan
Server: I don't understand
Me: ... It's ok, never mind (Dejected) 


The food arrived and sure enough, one rice, two naans...


The food was ok. Naan was quite chewy and hard to break down with your teeth, like they had been over man handled.  Rice was good-but generally difficult to mess up on. Dennis' Lamb Coconut Curry was ok, the Coconut felt like bits of dried coconut from the bulk foods section, mixed into a vat of tomato curry. Not very coconutty. The lamb was gamey and could have easily been goat instead of lamb. The texture was way different from mine. My Lamb Vindaloo had one giant potato in it.. weird... but lots of Lamb. The lamb here was tender and the curry was tasty and kinda lemony. The potato was abandoned in the bowl, untouched. 


When the time came to pay the bill, the server ignored our Entertainment Book Coupon on the table (Since we arrived, and pointed at it when we were ordering, and repositioned it around the table for him to see) and charged us full price. After that sad experience, there was no way! I dealt with the big boss at the bar, straightened it out and paid. 


Would I ever go there again? Maybe. But probably not until next year when we have another Entertainment Book Coupon for them. And even then, probably not! If I want good Indian food for dinner, I have a list of places I love! 


I certainly wouldn't recommend this place to a friend, or a member. If you're hungry and it's the only place open, then go ahead, at your risk. Hopefully next time I can end up in the smarter server's section, the one with the nice cloth napkins we never got!


Dennis, who likes to hate on everything I say and generally prides himself on holding an opposite opinion to my own, also agreed with me (SHOCKER) and said he'd never go back, even with a coupon!


Rating:
Decor: C
Food: C
Service: (From our Server) F-
Service: (From others) C+


Overall Rating: D

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Quinola: The Healthy Breakfast of Champions

I came up with this recipe about a year ago, when I was going to the gym and working out hard before my wedding. I never ate breakfast, and my trainer, Dylan, would always get on my case to eat a breakfast full of protein and good fats and complex carbs that would sustain me and jumpstart my metabolism. Until then, I never ate breakfast, and wouldn't usually eat anything until lunch time, where I would get a little nutty and eat whatever I could get my hands on (often not healthy and too much). 


I like minimal effort, especially in the morning-hense the no breakfast. I came up with this one day playing in the salad bar of my local beloved Whole Foods. It's delish, full of textures, flavours, omega's, protein and it's warm and hearty and sticks to your ribs to get you through the morning without loud stomach growling sounds interrupting your meetings with important people. Yes, it's happened to me-Awkward! 


Now, you can make this at Whole Foods, or you can make it at home. It'll be cheaper to make at home... but Whole Foods is pretty, and way less effort. You take your pick!


You can mix things up and put in whatever you like, it's up to you!


In a container, layer the following ingredients:
Cooked Quinoa (red, white, both, whatever you can get. I usually mix both-They both taste pretty much the same so I don't discriminate)
Raw Pecans (like one scoop or so)
Raw Almond Slivers (like one scoop or so)
1/2 scoop of dried black currants
1/2 scoop of dried cranberries
1/2 scoop of raisins
1 T cinnamon
1 to 2 T ground flax seeds (or more, whatever)
1 T Brown, Demerara, or Turbinado Sugar (or not, whatever-this is to your taste)


Mix it up and separate into containers for your breakfast for the week. Refrigerate. 


You can do this ahead of time before you toss the containers in the fridge, or in the moment you plan on eating it, add some milk (I use Almond Milk) just enough to cover your "Quinola". I found that by adding it ahead of time, my Quinola was tastier with all those flavourings marrying together. The dried fruit would plump up and the whole thing tastes so yum! It also reduces a step in the morning! Pouring milk into this while half asleep and cranky can get messy! Or is that just me?


When you're ready to eat, microwave it for a minute or less until it's hot enough for you and enjoy! This stuff is filling so you don't need too much! If you use a sweetened Almond, Soy or Rice milk, omit the sugar as there will be more than enough sweetness from the fruit and the milk. 


This could be great with blueberries... apples... bananas... whatever you feel like. Just know that adding fresh fruit reduces the shelf life in your fridge. 


Let me know if you made this, what you decided to change up and what you thought! I love hearing new ideas!


Enjoy!

Porto-Yummo Mushrooms

So the story goes like this: Last summer, My hubby Dennis, his mom Maria, his brother Michael, Michael's wife Amy, my Mom, my Best Friend Allie, her mom Susan and Allie's Boyfriend Mark all went out to Dinner and Cirque du Soleil (a mother's day gift from us kids to our moms). We ate at Milestones for an early dinner. I can't even begin to remember what any of us ate that night, but I do remember Michael ordered a side of Portobello Mushrooms. 


He took one bite and exclaimed, in his loudest, funniest, most excited voice: "Ooooohhhhh Yoooouuuuu wouldn't BUUHHHH-LEEEEEVE how good this is!"A statement Dennis has uttered way too many times in the same funny and borderline irritating manner; both as a way to lovingly mock his big brother, and as a way to exclaim his love for whatever he's eating-generally involving some variety of mushrooms. This is generally followed by: "Why don't you ever make Portobello Mushrooms?!!?"


You see, Dennis never ate his veggies until I came along. I introduced him to the usual suspects, carrots, greek salad, caesar salad, corn, mushrooms, among others. The meaty nature of mushrooms was an easy win for him. I've often sauteed mushrooms (see Pizza recipe below) for many meals, as a delish side dish. 


2 giant Portobello Mushrooms came home with me on a recent shopping trip at my favourite grocery store. I had leftover stuff from the pizza I made the week before and I started to get some ideas.... Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms!!! I was a little unsure of what I was doing, and I pretty much decided the ingredients on the fly. 


If you decide you want to make this, please know it's not a science, but rather an experiment in flavour combinations. What I did is just an experiment, albeit a successfully tasty one! Get crazy! Put things together that you like to eat together (Tomato Sauce, Pepperoni, Mozzarella? Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Zucchini and Bocconcini?-Whatever you decide, please let me know so I can try your ideas too!!!) 


The Portobello Mushroom is like a flavour vehicle, and you decide who the tasty passengers are going to be for the delicious ride!


In the words of my dear sweet brother in law, Michael Damjanovic, "Oooooohhhhhh Yooooouuuuuuu wouldn't BUUHHHH-LEEEEEVE how good this is!"


Preheat your oven to 400F


Caramelized Onions
1 Medium Sized Sweet Onion, cut into thin strips
a small splash of Canola Oil
Hot pan


reduce the heat to mediumish and move the onions around occasionally until they wilt down and turn brown and caramelized


Applewood Smoked Bacon
Bacon, cut into small pieces into a pan on medium-medium high heat until the fat has rendered off and the bacon bits are crispy. drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside. Take out the fat into a bowl.


Stuffing
Chop up the stems from the Portobello Mushrooms into little bits
Chop up a small bunch of green onions
Throw both into the pan from the bacon, maybe add a few drops of the fat if things are sticking
Add chopped walnuts and black pepper.
Mix around til it's hot
Add a handful or two of bread crumbs (I added gluten free bread crumbs)
Mix through this everything in incorporated
Toss it into a bowl and set aside to cool


Mushroom Caps
2 Portobello Mushroom Caps, sans stems, brushed lightly with EVOO and put on a super hot grill pan, rounded side down to get some grill marks and cook it a bit. turn over after maybe 5 or so minutes to get marks on the other side


Stuffing (Part Deux)
While your Mushroom Caps are on the grill pan, get the rest of your stuffing incorporated:
Into the bowl you set aside, add the onions, the dry crispy bacon bits, a splash of Balsamic Vinegar and a bit of Goat Cheese Crumbles. Set the bowl aside until you're ready to assemble


Assemble Your Stuffed Mushrooms
Take the mushroom caps, rounded side down and pack down and pile the stuffing you had set aside. Top with a little bit more goat cheese crumbles and shredded mozza (I used Goat Mozza)


Bake & Broil
Bake in your oven until the cheese is bubbly. Then switch your oven to broil to get some colour.


Serve with some brown rice, wild rice, salad, whatever you feel like! I ended up made a salad dressing out of leftover ingredients and tossed it with some romaine as the costar on my plate. 


Enjoy! 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Seriously Craving PIZZA!

Pizza- the favourite food of kids, teens, adults and Ninja Turtles alike! Who wouldn't love a bready crust layered with tangy tomato sauce and goey stringy cheese?! SO comforting, tasty and full of lactose and gluten... :o( boooo!


I discovered these Kinnickinnack frozen pizza crusts in my freezer section at Whole Foods (also available at Superstore). They are square shaped and come in a box of four par-baked crusts. Weary as I am to try anything GF, I decided to be adventurous and break them out of my freezer to subdue my craving for the cheesy delight.


Generally, my favourite pizza is plain cheese-I like to keep it simple-but I was concerned though that if these crusts were yucky, I would need a plethora of toppings to cover up the questionable taste and texture. Everyone at work has been talking about BBQ Chicken Pizza lately, so I decided to go for it and make the yummiest BBQ Chicken Pizza I could make, full of tasty toppings so I could forget the possibly yucky crust I was eating!


As it turned out, the Pizza Crust was AMAZING! how could I ever question the quality of Kinnickinnack products?! Their chocolate chip cookies were so good when I tried then I was actually convinced they were lying about the Gluten Free-ness of them!


Here's how I made it:


First, I got my toppings together-most of them needed cooking before I started assembling the pizzas.


BBQ Chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts seared lightly in a hot pan with a few tablespoons of  BBQ sauce poured over the chicken and then some water poured over that to poach the chicken. Keep spooning the BBQ/Water sauce mixture over the chicken and move it around in the pan while the BBQ mixture reduces. When you're ready and the chicken is cooked and the sauce is reduced, cut up/shred up the chicken on a cutting board, mix back into the sauce mixture and set it aside til you're ready for it.


Caramelized Onions
Half a giant sweet onion cut into thin strips placed into a hot pan with a touch of canola oil. Let it get some colour and move it around the pan. Cover it, reduce the heat and let it slowly caramelize. visit it every so often, mixing it around a bit to keep the colour consistent. Once it's where you want it to be, set it aside til you're ready for it.


Bacon Crumbles
4 slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon cooked in a hot pan til super crispy, drain on a paper towel. chop it up into little crumbles and set aside til you're ready for it. Pour out the bacon grease but leave the bacony-greased pan aside for the mushrooms.


Sauteed Mushrooms
clean, trim and slice up into 1/8" slices a small pack of Crimini mushrooms (or whatever you have). Throw them in the bacony-greased hot pan you used for the bacon. add fresh ground black pepper  and sautee over mid-high heat to get colour on it a bit. they will shrink up. NEVER ADD SALT TO SAUTEED MUSHROOMS!!! Salt draws out the water from the mushrooms and you'll end up with a soggy, soupy mess! Pepper is great, I also love dried tarragon if I'm making it as a side dish for chicken, beef... etc. Once you're happy with how the mushrooms look, set it aside til you're ready for it.


Prep the following into small bowls and set aside til you're ready for them:


1 Minced Shallot


1/2 Chopped Red Pepper


1/3 can of pineapple tid bits


BBQ Sauce and a basting brush


Cheese
I shredded up some Goat Mozza and I had some Vegan Mozza shreds from Whole Foods I've been scared to use til now. I also got some Blue Cheese slices and alloted one slice per Pizza.


Assembly Time!
Using your basting brush (or spoon) cover the crusts with a thinner layer of BBQ sauce-The side with the cornmeal goes down, FYI. Oh, and I went all the way to the edges with toppings and sauce. I added a tiny bit of Goat and 1/4 of the Vegan Mozza I set aside and baked it in the over so the cheese got a bit melty, the frozen crust thawed a bit and the sauce sunk in a bit. Then I pulled them back out to adorn them with all our tasty toppings!


This is what I did per pizza crust, in order...
1/4 of the BBQ chicken
1/4 of the Caramalized Onions
1/4 of the Sauteed Mushrooms
1/4 of the Bacon Crumbles
1/4 of the Minced Shallots
1/4 of the Chopped Red Peppers
1/4 of the Pineapple Tid Bits
1 Blue Cheese slice broken up over the top of the pizza
1/4 of the Goat Mozza left over


Bake at 375F (I think) for about 15-20 mins. Keep an eye on it... basically, you want it to look like all the cheese is melty, the pizza is hot and there's a bit of colour on the top of the pizza. Keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn't get too dark.  


Cut up into quarters and serve! 


It was so delish!!!


I think this is the start of many more pizza nights at our place!


Enjoy!