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! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"sugar" free banana blueberry muffins

sweetened with coconut sugar and maple syrup
Recently I have been trying out substitutes for the usual refined sugars (granulated sugar, brown sugar) and have found that baking with honey, maple syrup, organic coconut sugar, and turbinado sugar taste pretty great.  These blueberry banana muffins are adapted from a recipe I found from Looney Spoons , and they are super soft and moist with a nice crunch on top without having to use refined sugars.  You can feel good about giving these to your little ones - Madi (who's almost 2 now!) couldn't wait to try them.  She ate one straight out of the oven as I gingerly cut them with a knife and we blew on each piece to cool it down for her to eat!  She asked for seconds and got them:)

what you need:
*makes a baker's dozen

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 heaping table spoons ground golden flax seed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 3 large bananas, very ripe
  • 1/4 vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a muffin tin with large muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt and flax seed.  You can just use a large fork.
  3. In a large bowl, mash bananas well, then mix in oil, egg, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Again, a large fork will do.  (If you use electric beaters be careful not to over mix).
  4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture.  Combine with a spatula just until batter is evenly mixed.
  5. Add blueberries and fold them in gently with the spatula.
  6. Fill the muffin cups evenly, almost to the top.  Bake for 20 minutes, the tops will be golden brown and a toothpick will come out clean.  When cool enough to handle, move muffins to cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

indian spiced roasted cauliflower

tender and flavourful
I feel that cauliflower is a vegetable that doesn't get much attention; I don't tend to buy it very much but when I do and prepare it in this way, I remember how much I enjoy it's taste and texture. This easy side dish is a perfect compliment alongside basmati rice and other Indian or Asian inspired dishes.  Use the whole cauliflower as left overs are great for the next day.

what you need:
  • 1 whole head of cauliflower
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped.
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes *optional*
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil
what to do:
  1. Clean and cut cauliflower into small bite size florets.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. In a large dutch oven* on medium heat, melt butter with grape seed oil.  Toast mustard seeds in oil, about 1-2 minutes.  They will become fragrant.  Add garlic, turmeric, cumin, and chilli flakes and stir to avoid burning. 
  4. Add the cut up cauliflower once you smell the spices.  Stir to coat all florets with spices. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the dutch oven with the lid, then transfer to the oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes, until fork tender (but not mushy).
  6. Serve hot and enjoy!
*If you don't have a dutch oven, do this step in a regular frying pan.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  After step 4, transfer florets to the baking sheet and roast.  You will have a slightly nuttier flavour on the cauliflower and some bits of crunch, which is also really tasty.
tossed with spices on the stove before hitting the hot oven

Sunday, January 19, 2014

gluten free peanut butter cookies

You can feel good about making these cookies for your little ones because they don't have any butter or refined sugar in them!  The use of brown rice flour as the base makes them gluten free as well.  The chocolate chips are optional for a sweeter treat but you can easily substitute raisins for a healthier version.  These cookies are super easy to make and bake up within minutes.

what you need:
*makes about 20 cookies

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or raisins
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix honey and peanut butter in a large bowl, then add egg and mix until smooth.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture, and stir just until combined. Do not over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Using two spoons, drop golf ball sizes of dough onto lined cookie sheet - around 8 per sheet.  Bake for 8-10 min. Cool cookies on cooking rack once done.  Enjoy!

peanut enjoying her cookies

Thursday, October 17, 2013

creamy tomato & white bean soup with herb & parmesan croutons

crispy croutons in a smooth soupy bite
Who doesn't love grilled cheese & tomato soup?  This recipe unites this classic into one bowl and one bite.  The soup has more body because I've added white kidney beans, which adds a very mild flavour once pureed but doesn't disturb the tomato yumminess of a creamy tomato soup. The addition of beans makes the soup meal-like, as they are a great source of protein and fibre. The homemade croutons are a perfect touch to add texture and flavour, as they are tossed in herbs, olive oil and parmesan.  A perfect meal for a cold fall day.

what you need:
  • 1 large can tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 540 mL can white beans, drained (kidney or cannellini) 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup cream *optional* 
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced *optional*
  • 1 green onion
  • a few slices of day old bread (I used whole wheat)
  • fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand, I used sage, oregano, parsley)
  • parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
what to do:
  1. In a large pot, heat up butter and 1 tsp olive oil on medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until tender and golden.  If you like some heat in your soup, add the red chilli and sauté with onions.
  2. Add tomatoes and beans.  Add bay leaf.
  3. Bring to a gentle boil then turn down your heat down to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Cut bread into bite size pieces.  Finely chop herbs, about 1 tbsp of each.  Place them in a large bowl, then drizzle about 1 tbsp olive oil over bread pieces.  Toss to coat and mix herbs.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice green onion and set aside.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread bread pieces out - no overlapping for even browning.  Grate parmesan cheese over top of bread.
  7. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 5 minutes, or until croutons are crispy and golden brown.  Be sure to check often to avoid burning.
  8. Remove soup from heat and when cool enough to handle, use an immersion blender or a blender to puree the soup until smooth.  Pour soup back into the pot and place it over medium heat, adding cream if desired.  Taste, and add salt and pepper as desired.
  9. Serve soup hot, sprinkle a few green onions on top and then top with a few croutons.  Put extra croutons in a separate small bowl for extra dipping (this way they don't all get soggy right away!) - Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

mah jong mien (aka peanut butter noodles)

a light meal that is rich in flavour
I have no idea why this is called Mah Jong Mien in Taiwan, as it has nothing to do with the game of tiles, but it has been a staple go to meal growing up in our household.  My mom is the queen of putting together a healthy home cooked meal in minutes from items found in her pantry and fridge, and this peanut butter noodle dish is just one of those.  I think we ate this as kids weekly - and still do whenever we are home to visit.  My mom's version is even simpler - she mixes peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and garlic together in a bowl until smooth then tosses it with the noodles and vegetables.  It's super easy and tasty.  Below is my take on our family staple.

what you need:
for the peanut sauce
  • 2 heaping tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp white pepper 
for the noodles
  • 4 servings of any dry asian noodle, you can even use pasta (e.g. linguine)
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • a small bunch broccolini (or broccoli) 
what to do:
  1. Start by getting your sauce ready.  Thinly slice ginger and roughly chop garlic.  Cut off bottom white part of green onions (about 2 inches) and slice lengthwise.  Get the rest of the ingredients for the sauce measured and ready on hand.
  2. In a small sauce pan on medium, heat up grapeseed and sesame oil.  Add ginger, garlic, and onions.  Sauté for about 1 min, then deglaze with the water.  Add soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, and white pepper.  Stir until peanut butter dissolves, and reduce heat down to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce to about half.
    garlic, onions, and ginger sautéing
    reducing sauce
  3. Get a large pot of water on the stove on high heat to cook the noodles.
  4. While waiting for the pot to boil, clean and prepare vegetables.  Peel and grate the carrots, and slice broccoli into long slim pieces.  Slice remaining green onion on a bias and roughly tear cilantro.  
  5. Once the water is boiling, add noodles.  Depending on what kind of noodles you are using, your cooking time will vary.  Whatever your package indicates, set your timer for 1 minute shy of it's cooking time.  This is because you want to put the vegetables in with the noodles to cook for 1 minute.  
  6. Drain noodles and vegetables, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  7. Return noodles and vegetables to pot and pour reduced peanut sauce over noodles and toss.  You may need to add a little bit of the cooking liquid if the noodles seem too dry.  Toss in some of your cilantro and green onions, but reserve a small amount for garnish.
  8. Transfer noodles to serving platter and top with cilantro and green onion for garnish.  Serve with your favourite hot sauce if desired - we used sriracha.  Enjoy!
with sriracha