Sunday, March 1, 2015

wintery caesar salad

hearty, tangy, zippy, wam
Caesar salad is my husband's favourite - he always orders it at restaurants (instead of fries please, upgrade from garden salad) and it is a dressing we make at home frequently.  It really is about the flavour for us rather than the romaine lettuce.  Sometimes though, salad for a meal in -30 C weather just doesn't seem right - you just want something warm and fulfilling - yet at the same time at our house we still crave that caesar salad taste.  This is my winter version of a caesar salad, which satisfies our tastebuds and bellies.  Oh and it's also vegetarian friendly:).

what you need:
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 small vidalia onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • extra parmigiano reggiano for garnish
  • extra virgin olive oil for garnish
for simple caesar dressing:
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • zest of 1 lemon, juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  
  2. Combine all caesar dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl and whisk to combine. Taste - adjust accordingly to your preference (e.g. if you like a tangy acidic dressing then start with 1 tbsp olive oil).  
  3. Prep your veggies - tear kale leaves off the stem (bite size pieces) and wash thoroughly, then make sure to dry them off (use a salad spinner if you have one!).  Wash and peel sweet potatoes, then cut into 1/2" discs.  Thinly slice onion.
  4. Toss sweet potatoes with oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Place on lined cookie sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes; be sure to flip them halfway to get both sides of the sweet potato golden brown.
  5. During the last 10 minutes of baking, cook your onions and kale.  In a nonstick pan on medium-low heat with 1 tsp grapeseed oil, sauté onions until they are caramelized and softened, then add the kale.  Stir to make sure you wilt all of the kale - if it seems dry add 1 tbsp of water.  The kale should be wilted and bright deep green in about 2 minutes or so.
  6. Transfer kale and onions from pan to the salad bowl with your whisked dressing. Add roasted sweet potatoes and toss everything gently together, coating all the vegetables with the dressing. 
  7. Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese shavings and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the entire plate.  Enjoy!

banana bran flax muffins

you could replace the chocolate chips with raisins...but they're better this way!
This recipe is very similar to my previous post (triple b banana bread) but with less ingredients and coconut sugar in place of regular sugar.  The muffins themselves are not very sweet which is why the addition of chocolate chips is quite necessary to satisfy that sweet treat craving...however if you are using them as a breakfast muffin (serving with jam, etc.) then substitute raisins and they are even healthier!

what you need:
  • 1 cup APF
  • 1 cup bran
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line muffin tin with medium sized muffin cups.
  2. Beat bananas and coconut sugar until they are well mixed (I used a mixer but if you don't have one you can use a fork to mash up the bananas then whisk in the coconut sugar vigorously).
  3. Add oil, milk and egg to banana mixture, mix well.
  4. Combine dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together and stir with a fork to mix.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mix just until combined (do not over mix as this will end up making tough dense muffins).
  6. Fold in chocolate chips.
  7. Fill muffin cups all the way - then bake for about 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (it may seem a bit moist but it's because of the bananas!) - remove from oven and transfer as soon as you can handle them to a cooling rack.  They are delicious warm but the muffin cup tends to stick at first so just beware.  Enjoy!
the recipe should make 12 -
I over filled slightly therefore was short one!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

butternut squash biscuits

serve these up alongside soup or stew
My two year old just loves these biscuits - and I have no problem serving them to her as they are packed with butternut squash!  My father in law (one of the pickiest eaters I know!) absolutely loved these...and our friends that visited last weekend were also big fans.  If you don't have butternut squash you can sub in sweet potato or pumpkin.

what you need:
  • 1 medium butternut squash (you need about 3 1/2 cups mashed, doesn't have to be exact)
  • 1 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1 tbsp organic coconut sugar (or any other sugar)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • extra flour for rolling out dough
  • extra butter for brushing biscuit tops
what to do:
  1. Remove peel and seeds from butternut squash.  (You can roast with the peel on and remove it after it's been roasted, if you don't have a strong enough peeler to do so when it is raw).  Cut into cubes (about 1"x1") and toss with olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper at 450 F, for about 20-25 minutes.  Be sure to flip them halfway through to evenly roast the squash.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, in a bowl.
  3. Once the squash cubes are cool enough to handle, transfer them into a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or large fork.  Add butter and stir until butter melts into the squash.
  4. Add flour mixture to squash mixture, stirring gently until a loose dough forms.  Don't worry if it seems a little wet.
  5. Sprinkle work surface generously with flour and dump your dough onto the floured surface.  Cover your hands with flour and gingerly work the dough into a round disc and then flatten until about 1" thick. (Don't knead this dough - it should feel delicate but not crumbly).  Cut into triangular pieces (like a pizza) - I usually get about 6-8 very large biscuits or you can use a round cookie cutter to get disc shaped biscuits.
  6. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (you can re-use the squash one!) - and brush the tops with melted butter.
  7. Bake for about 10-12 minutes at 450 F, until tops are lightly golden.  Remove and serve hot, ...with extra butter perhaps...enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

roasted red pepper sauce

meatballs nestled in a roasted red pepper sauce
A nice change from the classic tomato sauce, this roasted red pepper sauce is really simple and your kids probably won't even notice that it's any different.  Tonight I served it with meatballs and rotini.  You can use it with other proteins (chicken, fish) or simply with any pasta as a quick meal.

what you need:
*makes enough sauce for 4 servings
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika (you can use smoked if you want more of a smokey flavour)
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
what to do:
  1. If you have a gas stove, you can roast the red peppers directly on the flames.  Just turn every so often to get them charred (blackened) on the outside - they are ready when they are softened and blackened.  If you don't have a gas stove, roast them in the oven at 450 F on a lined cookie sheet, also until blackened on the outside.
  2. Place roasted peppers in a bowl and cover with lid or plastic wrap.  This will trap the heat and continue to steam the peppers.  Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients by chopping the onion and garlic finely, and measuring out your herbs.
  3. Once peppers are cool enough to handle, remove outer blackened skin (this should come off easily) and then the inside core/seeds.  Puree until smooth.
  4. In a sauce pan, heat up olive oil on medium and add onions.  Cook until softened and sweet, but not browned (therefore important to keep heat at medium).  Add garlic and sauté for another minute - then add the dried herbs and paprika, stirring consistently.  Once fragrant, add pureed peppers, worcestershire sauce, and sugar.  Bring to a slow boil then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
  5. The sauce is now ready - at this point you can use it on top of pasta or your protein - or you can put your protein into the sauce and let it simmer in the sauce for awhile to soak up more intense red pepper flavours.  I baked off my meatballs in the oven then transferred them to the sauce to simmer for about 15 minutes before serving with rotini.
  6. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

carrot, kale & chick pea cakes

For a lighter meal but still satisfying and packed with nutrients, this veggie version of a crab cake is super easy, tasty and healthy.  Serve it up with your favourite condiment, salad, salsa, or even as a patty in a bun or wrap.  Tonight we had them with diced avocados then topped with a spoonful of peanut sauce.
topped with peanut sauce
what you need:
*makes about 8 cakes (~1" thick and 3" diameter)

  • 1 cup chick peas (fully cooked, you can use canned)
  • 1 cup (packed) finely chopped kale 
  • 2 medium carrots (peeled and grated)
  • 2 gloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup grated red onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat panko (or any other bread crumb)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • red chilli (optional) - finely chopped
  • 2-4 tbsp grape seed oil
  • 1 green onion, sliced thinly on an angle for garnish
  • excess carrot juice!
  • 1 few sprigs of fresh cilantro, roughly torn for garnish
what to do:
  1. Place grated carrots in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt.  Lightly toss and then set over a large bowl and allow carrots to sit with the salt for about 30 minutes.  This step is important to draw out excess moisture in the carrots, to ensure your cake doesn't fall apart when frying.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree chick peas roughly.  Leaving a few chunks will provide some texture to your cakes.
  3. Put kale, chick peas, red onion, garlic, egg, and red chilli in a large bowl.
  4. Squeeze excess liquid from grated carrots using your hands - this will also remove the most of the salt.
  5. Add carrots to the large bowl containing the rest of the ingredients and use your hands to mix, add panko and black pepper and continue to work the mixture until it comes together and you feel like it can be formed into cakes. 
  6. Form cakes and place on a tray lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate for at least 45 min (this allows your cakes to set so they don't fall apart when frying).
    ready for the fridge
  7. Heat a non-stick pan on medium with 2 tbsp oil.  Once they oil is hot, carefully place cakes and fry, about 3-5 minutes per side or until a golden crust forms.  You may need to add oil when you turn them over, if your pan seems too dry.
    after flipping these I added more oil
  8. Remove and place onto serving dish, sprinkle green onion and cilantro over top.  Serve with your choice of topping (we had avocado and peanut sauce while our 2 year old daughter chose ketchup).  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"mochi" - sticky rice squares with red bean

a crunchy and chewy treat
If you've never tried "mochi" you have to try this!  You may have heard of ice cream mochi which is really popular right now - ice cream encapsulated by a chewy sticky rice exterior - but traditionally this Taiwanese snack is filled with red bean paste or sugared crushed peanuts.  The original mochi is steamed, therefore has a soft exterior; my mom has been making this baked version for as long as I can remember.  The baking creates a crunchy exterior which is a pleasant textural contrast to the sticky gooey inside.  The red bean paste has a subtle sweetness that will satisfy any sweet tooth without being cloyingly sweet.  Serving it warm minutes right out of the oven is the best way to enjoy it, but like any dessert, it's still delicious the next day!

I also realized today that this is a gluten and dairy free recipe.  Another popular trend!

Not a fan of beans?  Or you don't have red beans?  You can easily substitute something else such as jam, chocolate hazelnut spread, or even a cheesecake type filling.

what you need:
*for a 9 x 13" baking pan
  • 400 g (1 pkg) glutinous rice flour 
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (mild tasting such as grape seed or canola)
  • 2 cups red bean paste (purchased or make your own, see below)
this is a 8 x 8" square pan, recipe was halved
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line baking pan with parchment paper or grease generously with butter for easy removal later.
  2. In a mixer, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. On low speed, slowly mix in eggs, milk and oil.  Mix until a smooth batter forms.
  4. Pour half the batter into the pan (it will seem like a thin layer).  Drop spoonfuls of red bean filling into the batter - try to make it evenly distributed but it doesn't have to be perfect.  Pour the rest of the batter on top and try your best to cover all of the filling.
  5. Bake for 45 min - 1 hr, until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  If a toothpick comes out clean but your top is not browned yet, just switch your oven to broil for a minute to get your crunchy golden brown top.  
  6. Remove and cool for a few minutes - cut into squares while warm and enjoy!

Making your own red bean paste:

what you need:
  • dried red beans
  • water
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
what to do:
  1. Rinse 1 cup of red beans thoroughly.  Put beans into a small pot with enough water to generously cover them.  Bring to a boil then remove from heat and drain.
  2. Using the same pot, add fresh water just until beans are covered - bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer.  The beans will take awhile to cook until tender (about 20 - 30 minutes) - but make sure you check on them to prevent the bottom from burning.
  3. Once the beans are tender, add 2 tbsp brown sugar.  You can add more or less according to how sweet you would like your filling.  Taste and adjust accordingly.
  4. Turn off the heat and using a fork, gently mash the beans slightly.  It might seem like a lot of liquid but once the filling cools it will thicken.  You can store this in an airtight container in the fridge for several days.

Friday, August 1, 2014

apple & peach caramel pizza

a satisfying end to a homemade pizza dinner
My brother in law and his wife came for a visit last night and we had a great time in the kitchen making thin crust pizzas for dinner.  We saved the last piece of dough for dessert - and topped it with apples, peaches, and a homemade caramel sauce.  Absolutely one of the easiest desserts to make, and a very satisfying sweet end to any meal.

what you need:
  • thin crust pizza dough
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 apples (something firm like empire or granny smith is best, but any kind will do)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup whole rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • caramel sauce (homemade best!)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 3/4 cup 10% cream
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 1 tsp sea salt
what to do:
caramel sauce
  1. In a sauce pan on medium low, put in 1/4 water.  Add sugar to the centre of the pan, making a small hill.  Do not stir.
  2. Sugar will begin to dissolve, you can swirl the pan gently but do not stir.  Keep an eye on it until it turns golden - about 8 minutes - then remove from heat immediately to avoid burning.
  3. Add cream (it will bubble) - swirl it around, then add butter.  Sprinkle sea salt and swirl.  You can use a wooden spoon to stir gently at this point.
  4. Once the caramel is cool enough, transfer to a mason jar (or other jar for storing).
the pizza
  1. Cut thoroughly washed apples and peaches into bite size pieces.
  2. In a pan (you can use the same one as the caramel sauce - less dishwashing!) - add the fruit and then place it over medium heat.  Cook fruit for about 10 minutes, just until slightly tender (but not mushy).  Add vanilla and stir.  The fruit can be made ahead of time and used when you're ready to serve.
  3. With a fork, roughly mix oatmeal, sugar and coconut oil until crumbly.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 F.  Use a pizza stone if you have one (otherwise, just place pizza on baking sheet).  Roll out dough, then top with fruit mixture.  Spoon caramel sauce generously over fruit and around the pizza crust edges, then sprinkle all over with oatmeal crumble.
  5. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until crust is lightly golden.  Serve hot, topped with something cold like vanilla ice cream, frozen yogurt or even greek yogurt. Enjoy!