Friday, December 21, 2012

homemade flour wraps

chewy and thin, perfect for wrapping anything
These homemade wraps are super easy to make and can be used in a variety of ways.  In Taiwan they are called "juan bing" and they are usually filled with lots of bean sprouts, scallions, shredded carrots/cabbage, ground meat, and sugary crushed peanuts.  They are thin but strong and can hold up with lots of filling, whatever you choose to fill them with!  Use them for fajitas, soft tacos, burritos, breakfast... we made them to wrap pulled pork and it was absolutely delicious.  Next time you are at the grocery store at the tortilla / pita aisle, try making these instead:)

Leftovers are easily stored in a ziplock bag in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer.

what you need:
*makes 20 large wraps

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot boiled water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil (any kind)
what to do:
  1. Place flour and salt in a large bowl and pour boiled water in.  Stir with chopsticks or the end of a wooden spoon, mixing until water and flour begin to come together.  
  2. Lightly flour work surface, dump flour mixture on it and begin kneading (be careful it may be hot).  Knead until dough becomes smooth, about 5 minutes.  Put it back into the bowl and cover with tea towel and allow it to rest for 15-30 minutes (allows the gluten to relax for easier rolling).
  3. Roughly divide dough into 20 balls (about the size of a golf ball) - flatten dough balls into a disc shape with your palm, dip one side of it in oil, then put another disc on top and press down again with your palm.  With a rolling pin, roll the two flattened together until about 1/4" thick, and you can a relatively circular shape.  Repeat until all dough balls are rolled out.
  4. In a large non stick pan on medium heat, place the wrap down (no oil needed).  Flip it once it starts to bubble up a bit, about 40 secs.  Once the other side bubbles as well, take it off the heat and set it on a cookie sheet.  When it's cool enough to handle but still warm to touch, gently separate the two wraps (this is why dipping it in oil is important so they come apart easily!) - keep it under a tea towel until time to serve.  Enjoy!
pulled pork, banh mi salad, and avocado
in the homemade flour wrap

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

carrot & cucumber salad - banh mi style

enjoy as a side or use it on top of a
burger or sandwich for a fresh crunch
Our friends Peter and Marina were finally able to visit us this weekend so we made them pulled pork (which they missed out on last time!) - and decided to put another asian twist on it (last time we paired it with kimchi) - banh mi style carrot & cucumber slaw.  I call it banh mi style because when Peter ate it he said it reminded him of a vietnamese style sandwich, which typically has some crunchy pickled veggies on it with lots of cilantro.  I have to credit Ryan for his knife skills - I asked for matchstick sized carrots and cucumbers and he really delivered!  It was the perfect addition to our pulled pork wraps (next post) - the spicy crunch of the salad really complimented the sweet, soft and tender pork.

what you need:
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 big handful of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ponzu
  • 2 tsp naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 2 tsp oil (canola or olive oil)
  • 1 red thai chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar
what to do:
  1. In a large salad bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.  Set aside
  2. Wash vegetables thoroughly and peel carrots.  Cut carrots and cucumber into match stick sizes.  Slice green onion on a sharp angle to get long blades, similar in size to the carrots.  Roughly chop cilantro.  
  3. Toss vegetables with dressing and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes in the fridge before serving.  Serve as a side salad, or put in into a burger or sandwich.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

calabrese roasted asparagus

quick & easy side dish
If you ever need an easy side dish...this is it!  There's minimal effort but lots of flavour, and it can go with a lot of different things - maybe a side to fish, steak, chicken...tofu even.  You could curl them up and spear them with a toothpick as an appetizer too.  The oven roasting gives the asparagus a lovely nutty flavour and the calabrese becomes crispy and spicier.  

what you need:
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • a few slices of calabrese 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum for easy clean up.
  2. Wash and pat dry asparagus.  Trim off tough ends.  Toss asparagus with olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Cut calabrese strips in half.  Wrap them around the bottoms of the asparagus.  Spread asparagus on baking sheet, don't let them overlap.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until calabrese is slightly crispy and the asparagus tips look lightly charred and softened.
  4. Serve immediately or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

veggie chili

warm and hearty
Chili, especially on a cold day, is one of my favourite go to's.  I always make a huge pot and freeze any leftovers, which makes for an easy meal later on.  This one is vegetarian with a spicy kick.  Use any beans you have on hand!  The important parts are the aromatics and spices.

what you need:
*makes a big pot
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 cans of beans (I used chick peas, black beans, and white kidney beans)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional! for those who love spiciness)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes (796 mL)
  • cooking oil ~2 tbsp
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh cilantro and green onions for garnish
what to do:
  1. Prepare all your vegetables by washing them thoroughly then dicing them all to about the same size (about the size of your beans).  Keep carrots, celery, and sweet potato separate.
  2. On medium heat in a large pot, heat up oil.  Add onions and jalapenos, stir occasionally.  Once the onions are slightly translucent and lightly golden brown, add garlic.  Stir for a minute then add the rest of the veggies.  Continue sauteing veggies for another few minutes -  then add the spices and stir to coat everything.  Once the spices are lightly toasted (you'll smell them ~ 2 minutes), add the can of tomatoes.
  3. Drain and rinse the canned beans.  Add to pot and stir, nestling the bay leaves into the liquid.  If it seems dry, add 1/2 cup of water. then cover and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, lower heat and allow to simmer for 1 hour.  Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve hot garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and green onions.  Best accompanied by corn bread! :)  Enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

cheesy "light" corn bread

serve warm with chili, soup or stew
Corn bread is one of Ryan's favourites.  I've made corn bread a few times in the past and it usually called for a lot of butter, oil, and sugar.  Recently I've discovered that plain yogurt is an awesome substitute for the "fat" part of baked I tried it out with this.  It turned out really well - it didn't lack moistness or texture despite reduced amounts of butter/oil - and the addition of cheese, jalapeno and scallions made it savoury.  It was great on its own or dipped into the vegetarian chili we had last night.  This recipe is best served hot right out of the oven (as soon as it's cooled enough to handle)!  If you have leftovers, just be sure to pop it in the microwave before enjoying.

what you need:
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (don't use nonfat!)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded old cheddar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Brush 1 tbsp butter all over a baking dish (~10X10") - if using silicon baking dish, place it on a cookie sheet to ensure easy transfer in and out of oven.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, sour cream, and sugar until smooth.  Add melted butter and whisk to incorporate.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Chop jalapeno and green onions finely.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until a smooth batter forms, avoid over mixing.  
  6. Fold in 1 cup cheddar, green onions and jalapeno.  Pour batter into greased baking dish, then top with remaining 1/3 cup cheddar.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Insert a toothpick at the centre of the bread to make sure it's cooked through.  
  8. Remove and after 1-2 minutes of cooling, slice and serve hot.  Enjoy!
ready to slice up & serve!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the vanilla cupcake

the perfect vanilla cupcake - fluffy, buttery, light, delicious

For the last two weeks I've been trying out different vanilla cupcake recipes because my friend Kim is doing a craft show and she needed cupcakes to show off her beautiful rose cupcake toppers (she sells them on  I had to convince her to let me bake her cupcakes - obviously the goal is to sell her crafty products but how I feel about store bought cupcakes is how she would feel about a store bought wreath!! As in - homemade is way better!!  I had narrowed it down to two recipes I found on other blogs that got awesome was from glorious treats with cake flour and vegetable oil, the other from brown eyed baker with all purpose flour and butter.  The first were light and fluffy but because there was no butter the flavour was super light...almost too light.  The second ones were dense and a little heavy but tasted I tried using cake flour with just butter but that didn't turn out - the cupcakes were funny looking and had a weird consistency. Then I tried half oil & half butter and it actually turned out really well.  You get a light fluffiness from the cake flour and oil but with some butter you maintain some rich flavour.

Made with love and lots of trial and error, these cupcakes, in my opinion, take the cake:)

what you need:
*makes 24
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk + 1 tsp white vinegar *(or 1 cup buttermilk)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
vanilla buttercream icing (from brown eyed baker)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat eggs for 1-2 minutes.  Add sugar and beat well, another minute or so.
  4. Add oil, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.
  5. Add one cup of flour, then a little bit of milk, the another cup of flour, alternating and beating to incorporate into a smooth batter.  You may need to scrape down the sides to make sure to mix in all the flour.
  6. The batter should be smooth and slightly runny - fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 way full (don't fill to the top or else cupcakes will spill over when they rise).
  7. Bake in the middle rack for 12 minutes.  The tops will be gently golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes then remove from muffin tray to further cool on a cooling rack.
  9. For the icing - beat butter until smooth and fluffy.  Add icing sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating on medium - high speed.  Add the vanilla and continue beating.  It should be fluffy and soft, easy to pipe onto the cupcakes.  Wait for the cupcakes to completely cook before icing them.  Enjoy!
at the craft show, finished with
paper rose toppers

Thursday, November 22, 2012

banana chocolate chip muffins

yogurt in this recipe makes them lighter
but still really flavourful
This muffin recipe is easy and a great way to use up overripe bananas.  Because there is 1/2 cup of yogurt in it, you can really cut down on the butter normally used in a banana bread or banana muffin recipe.

what you need:
*makes 12 muffins
  • 2 large ripe (or overripe) bananas
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (I used activia)
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line muffin tin with muffin cups.
  2. Beat bananas with mixer (whisk setting) with sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Add butter, egg, and yogurt to banana mixture and beat until mixed.
  5. Add flour mix to banana mixture and mix with a spatula until combined (do not over mix or the muffins will be dense).
  6. Add chocolate chips and stir (again, don't over mix).
  7. Divide batter evenly into lined muffin tin. 
  8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean. 
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes then remove to further cool on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

chunky ragu

warm and comforting
There's nothing like a bowl of pasta to warm your soul and fill your tummy up on a cold day.  It's such a comfort food - this recipe requires a bit of time to allow the ingredients to marry together but it's definitely worth the wait.  You can use any type of pasta on hand, but I find with the chunkiness of the sauce a pasta like farfalle or penne works best.  For this recipe, I didn't use garlic but feel free to add a clove or two when you are sauteing the vegetables.

what you need:
*serves 4-6
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • ~450 g lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 large can of diced san marzano tomatoes
  • 3 portabello mushrooms
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 large jalapeno
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
what to do:
  1. In a large skillet or cast iron pan, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove and save the fat rendered.
  2. Prepare vegetables by finely dicing them all to about the same size.  Use the jalapeno seeds if you like more heat.  Chop up the bacon as well.                                                                 
  3. Put a little canola oil in your pan (about 1 tsp) - and lightly brown the ground beef on medium heat.  Lightly season the meat with salt and pepper.  Break up the meat using a wooden spoon.  Remove cooked beef from pan.
  4. Using the same pan, return the bacon fat and then add onions, carrots, celery, and jalapeno.  Once the veggies soften a little (about 5 minutes), add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they shrink in size, about 5 more minutes.  
  5. Add the beef, canned tomatoes, bacon, bay leaf, oregano, water, and some salt and pepper.  Put a lid on the pan.  When the sauce begins to bubble, reduce heat to low to simmer for 1 hour.  Stir occasionally.
  6. Remove bay leaf before serving, and taste to adjust salt/pepper if required.  Serve with your favourite pasta and top with freshly shaved parmesan.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

sweet and spicy pork tenderloin

medallions of pork and sweet potato make an easy entree
I bought a cast iron pan on the weekend and I was so excited to use it - I've never had a pan that was both stove-top and oven safe.  It's so nice to brown something then directly transfer it into the oven!  You don't have to dirty two separate pans and it makes the sauce much easier to make.  Last night we had pork tenderloin with sweet potato medallions and it was delicious. Planning ahead and marinating the pork the day before will allow the flavours to intensify even more.

what you need:
*serves 4

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin (usually comes in two strips)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red thai chilies
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chinese five spice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup hot water
what to do:

  1. Trim fat off pork tenderloin.  Rinse with cold water and pat dry.  
  2. Smash garlic and then roughly chop.  Roughly chop the red thai chilies.
  3. In a large tupperware or large freezer bag, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, chilies, and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix well, then add the pork tenderloin and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  5. Thoroughly wash sweet potato (since you're not peeling off the skin) and then cut into medallions, ~ 1/2" thick.  Toss lightly with the olive oil, then season lightly with salt, pepper, and the chinese five spice.
  6. Place sweet potato on a baking dish, don't overlap them.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
  7. In a large cast iron pan, heat up canola oil on medium-high heat.  Remove pork from marinade and pat dry to avoid splashing when you sear the meat.  Gently place tenderloin onto pan.  Sear meat on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side, until browned.  Turn heat down to medium and then add the marinade back into the pan, deglazing it.
  8. Turn oven down to 375 F.  Remove the sweet potato from it's pan and nestle them beside the pork, into the marinade.  Bake uncovered together in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes (use a meat thermometer to be sure the meat is cooked to the done-ness you want).
  9. Check the pan in 15 minutes - if it seems dry add a little bit of hot water (1/4 cup at a time) to keep it moist and saucy.
  10. Remove pan from oven and lightly tent with aluminum foil to allow meat to rest, at least 10 - 15 minutes.
  11. Cut tenderloin into medallions, about the same size as your sweet potato.  Plate them up, drizzle pan sauce over top and enjoy!

all the brown bits and liquid at the bottom = delicious gravy
have fun with plating - you can stack the medallions,
layer them, whatever looks appetizing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

gingery carrot salad

light and fresh
This simple salad is perfect as a side dish.  The sweetness of the carrots and cranberries balance well with the tangy gingery vinaigrette.  Serve it alongside a sandwich, burger, or put it on top of pan seared fish or tofu - it's simple and flavourful.

what you need:
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 green onion
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp ponzu (optional)
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 tbsp rice or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger (frozen ginger easiest to grate)
  • pinch of salt and pepper
what to do:
  1. Wash and peel carrots.  Use a grater to shred carrots.
  2. Wash and slice onion on a sharp angle to get long "blades" of green.
  3. Combine ponzu, lemon, vinegar, oil, ginger, honey, salt and pepper.  
  4. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 15 minutes for flavours to marry.  Serve cold and enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

cookies (after halloween!)

leftover candy comes in handy
Anyone else feel that this halloween had less trick or treaters than usual?  We definitely overestimated and had way too much candy and chocolate left over!  Well if we are going to have to polish off all this chocolate might as well bake it into something fun.  The base recipe is simple (basically a chocolate chip cookie recipe) - but instead of chocolate chips I used peanut M&Ms and mini crispy crunch bars:)  The crispy crunch chunks melt into the cookies but after they cool become a crunchy toffee texture with a hint of peanut butter...yummy.  And who doesn't love peanut butter M&Ms in a cookie?

what you need:
*makes about 2 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ~1 cup peanut M&Ms
  • ~8 mini crispy crunch bars
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix all flour, baking powder and salt together.
  3. In another bowl, mix together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until incorporated.  Divide batter into two bowls.
  5. Break crispy crunch bars into big pieces (not too small or else it will just melt away into the cookies).  Add pieces to one bowl and mix.
  6. Add M&Ms into the other bowl and mix.
  7. Spoon batter onto baking sheet, about 6-8 cookies per sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove and cool, then enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

green egg salad sandwich

dr. seuss would approve!
I love adding avocado slices to sandwiches - gives it a creamy texture and it's good for you!  My friends Peter and Marina mentioned that they mash avocados into canned tuna to make tuna salad sandwiches...which eliminates the need for mayo.  Amazing!  It makes the middle of your sandwich look slightly green but you hardly taste the difference since the avocado is so mild. The creaminess of the avocado is a great mayo substitute, plus it has way more nutrients and good fats.   Ryan loves egg salad sandwiches, and loves this green version no less.

what you need:
*makes 2 sandwiches
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 green onion
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • sliced tomatoes
  • one small lemon wedge 
  • salt and pepper
  • your favourite bread or wrap
what to do:
  1. Place eggs in a pot with cold water, on high heat on stove top.  Set a timer for 15 min.  Once the water boils, reduce to medium.  
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice green onion, roughly chop parsley, slice tomatoes, and mash the avocado.  Squirt a small amount of lemon juice onto the mashed avocado to prevent it from browning.
  3. When 15 minutes is up, drain eggs and immediately cool them down with cold water.  
  4. Peel eggs and then mash them roughly with a fork, add avocados, green onions, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  Build your sandwich or wrap and enjoy!
green egg salad in a whole wheat wrap
green tuna salad sandwich

Sunday, October 28, 2012

homemade bbq sauce

an easy versatile bbq sauce
Homemade BBQ sauce definitely beats the store bought stuff.  The recipe is a rough guideline, you can tweak it to your taste buds...maybe you want more of a kick so add more spiciness, or you like it sweeter so add more sugar, or you want it really tangy add more get the idea.  This sauce is great on ribs, as a marinade for chicken, on top of pulled pork, brush it on vegetables before roasting or on the BBQ.

what you need:
*makes ~ 1 cup 
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ponzu *optional*
what to do:
  1. Finely chop garlic and shallots.  
  2. In a small sauce pan on medium heat, soften shallots with the oil.  After 2 minutes, add garlic and stir, turning down the heat to avoid burning the garlic.  Stir for another minute or so.
  3. Add all other ingredients and turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer gently until sauce is slightly thickened (coats the back of a wooden spoon).  
  4. If you want a smooth sauce, strain to remove bits of shallot/garlic.  I didn't bother straining it because we don't mind the textural bits.  Enjoy!


a flavourful spicy korean condiment
I love kimchi.  Even when I was a kid and didn't like spicy food that much, there was something addictive about kimchi.  I don't know what took me so long to get the recipe from my mom and actually try making it myself.  I make it this weekend to go along with the pulled pork sandwiches - usually pulled pork is topped with coleslaw - something tangy and crunchy to contrast the sweet soft meat.  I think the spicy kick of kimchi is perfect, works well instead of coleslaw!

what you need:
  • 1 large nappa cabbage
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 large carrot
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp ground red peppers (korean style - found in asian food stores - the one I bought is labelled "tower red pepper powder")
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 litre boiled water, cooled to room temp
  • 2 cups water (optional)
  • 1 tbsp bonito flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp dried anchovies (optional)
what to do:
  1. Thoroughly wash nappa, tear roughly with your hands, then using the side of a wide knife (like you would smash garlic), smash the ribs (centre white part) of the nappa.
  2. Mix torn/smashed nappa in a large bowl with 2 tbsp salt.  Allow to rest for 2 hours.
  3. Peel carrot and cut into match sticks, ~2" long and 0.5 cm wide.  Cut the green onions similarly.
  4. *optional* - In a small pot, boil 2 cups of water and add bonito flakes and anchovies.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, then cool to room temp.
  5. After 2 hours, rinse nappa with cooled boiled water to remove salt, then squeeze nappa to remove as much water as possible.
  6. Mix the rest of the ingredients with the reduced 1/2 cup water (from step 4, if you didn't use bonito flakes and anchovies, then simply mix ingredients with 1/2 cup plain water).  Pour over nappa and mix well with your hands.
  7. Pack nappa into mason jars (sterilized will keep your kimchi longer) - and refrigerate.  It is ready to enjoy after 24 hours!   
jar it...
24 hours later...enjoy!

pulled pork

korean-inspired pulled pork sandwich
This weekend our friends Peter and Marina were supposed to visit but on their travels they ran into car troubles and had to turn around, leaving us with a 2.5 kg pork shoulder for two (Madi's not eating solids yet!).  It was my first attempt at pulled pork so I was a little nervous anyways, but it turned out quite juicy, tender, and exactly how you see it on TV - pulls apart easily.  The marinade sides with Asian flavours so I paired it with homemade kimchi & bbq sauce.  Since kimchi is spicy, I didn't use any chilies in the actual pulled pork but you can add any chilies or red pepper flakes to the marinade if you'd like.  

Sweet and spicy, this sandwich is definitely worth trying.  If you don't like kimchi, top it with coleslaw instead.

what you need:
*will make at least 8 huge sandwiches
  • 2.5 kg pork shoulder
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 5 slices fresh ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can of beer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kimchi
  • bbq sauce
  • buns
what to do:
  1. Roughly chop onion into quarters.  Smash garlic.  Rub black pepper all over the meat.  Combine all ingredients together (except the beer and water) in a large bowl and place pork shoulder in the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, turning the pork shoulder every so often.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Sear the pork over medium heat in a dutch oven (or just a pan if you have a flat top stove) until all sides of the pork are lightly browned. Deglaze with the marinade, beer and water, and put entire dutch oven in the oven (or an oven safe pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil), then place the lid on.  Bake for 2.5 hours, turning the pork at least twice.
  3. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.  Then turn off the oven and allow the pork to rest in the marinade for another 30 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove from oven and transfer the pork into a large bowl.  Using two forks or tongs, pull the pork apart.  It should be very tender and easily falls apart.
  5. Skim off excess fat from the liquid (this is most easily done once it cools to room temp and the top layer is white, just spoon it off) - then add a few spoonfuls of the juice back into the pork.  You can save this to use later as gravy, a sauce, or serve in a ramekin alongside the sandwich for dipping.
  6. Place a generous amount of pulled pork on the bun, top with homemade kimchi and bbq sauce.  Enjoy!
pork shoulder in the dutch oven after resting
topped with homemade bbq sauce...
then finished with homemade kimchi!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

jalapeno mac & cheese

cheesy goodness
My friend Kara was just by for a visit and this is what we had for lunch!  I was worried I wouldn't have time to make it before she got here but Madi was quite the good lil' baby this am.  I decided to make this because I know Kara has tried my broccoli mac and cheese recipe (and liked it!) but I wanted to throw in a little twist.  This recipe is inspired by the flavours you'd get in a jalapeno popper and a beer.

what you need:
*fills a 9 x 9" baking dish
  • 3 cups freshly grated old cheddar 
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan 
  • 2 slices multigrain toast
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small jalapeno 
  • 1/2 beer
  • 1 cup of milk (1 or 2%...don't use skim!)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups dried macaroni 
what to do:

  1. Get a big pot of water going to cook your pasta. Cook it just under al dante because it will finish cooking in the cheese sauce later.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. While you're waiting for the water to boil, finely dice shallots, garlic, and jalapeno (remove seeds if you don't want it too spicy).  
  4. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, melt butter with canola oil and then add the flour (you are making a rue) - keep stirring until it makes a smooth paste and the flour becomes a slight golden colour.
  5. Add the shallots and garlic.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and try to incorporate it into the rue.  It may seem lumpy but that's OK.  Keep stirring and then after 1 minute add the jalapeno and continue to stir.
  6. After another minute or so (once the veggies have softened), slowing add the milk, whisking or stirring continuously.  Add the shredded cheddar and pecorino romano, stir and as the cheese melts the mixture should smooth out.  Add the beer then reduce heat to simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes.  Add desired amount of salt and pepper.
7.  While the sauce is simmering (remember to stir occasionally), toast the bread and then blend it roughly to make bread crumbs.  Mix well with the grated Parmesan.
8.  Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce - stir well and turn off the heat.  It will seem liquidy but not to worry - the pasta will absorb all that cheesiness and will dry a little more after baking.

 9.  Pour into baking dish and top with breadcrumb mixture.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, then broil for 30 seconds to brown the top.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

double chocolate oatmeal cookies

crispy edges and soft chewy middles...yum
The first thing I did after our stove got installed last week was bake chocolate chip cookies for our neighbour and of course a batch for ourselves.  They didn't last long and I couldn't resist trying another type of cookie today.  Madi is going to have to get used to the fact that her mommy lives in the kitchen!  If you love chocolate these are for you.  We can consider them healthy because of the oats and whole wheat flour...right?;)

what you need:
*makes ~ 2 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups quick rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix sugars, eggs, and butter until creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla and mix well.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sift in cocoa.  Add this to the butter mixture and mix until smooth, but don't over mix.
  4. Add oats, stir to incorporate.
  5. Add chocolate chips and stir to mix.  Spoon onto non-stick cookie sheets (~6-8 per sheet) and bake for 8-10 minutes.  (Depends on your oven...check at 8 minutes, you want to underbake them slightly so that the middle stays slightly soft).
  6. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack, then store in airtight container.  Enjoy!

simple caesar dressing

a light
I used to make caesar dressing the "right" know, egg yolk to emulsify, anchovy paste for saltiness...etc.  But a few months ago when I was still pregnant I couldn't eat raw eggs so I played around with this recipe and found that this version is just as good, requires less ingredients and easy to make (I'm not a fan of heavy creamy caesar dressing, as I think it weighs down the this recipe may seem more like a vinaigrette).  It's vegetarian friendly as well:)

what you need:
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
  • Parmesan (a wedge best), 3 tbsp finely grated and some shavings for garnish
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
what to do:
  1. In a mason jar, combine all ingredients and then shake well.  Taste - adjust pepper, salt, and either oil or vinegar if required (I tend to make my dressings more tangy, so if you find it too sour/acidic, add a little more oil).  Toss with romaine lettuce, bacon, and croutons for a classic caesar salad, then top with shaved Parmesan and a slice of lemon.  Enjoy!  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

cream of mushroom soup

a light version of this comforting classic
With the weather cooling down lately I've been craving soups, and one of my favourites has always been cream of mushroom.  I must admit when we were stove-less for the last month I actually bought the canned version, added milk and used the microwave to warm it up.  This version is light but still warms you right up.

what you need:
*serves 4-6

  • 4 portabello mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms really, these were just what I had on hand)
  • 6-8 large white button mushrooms
  • 500 ml chicken stock (vegetarian? use veggie stock)
  • 1 cup milk (1% or 2%)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley for garnish
what to do:
  1. Brush off any dirt from mushrooms and then chop finely.  
  2. Finely chop garlic and shallots.
  3. In a pot on medium heat, saute shallots in butter and oil.  Once they are slightly softened/becoming translucent, add the mushrooms.  Stir until mushrooms are softened and lightly browned.  Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  4. Add the stock, then milk, stir to combine and put the lid on.  After the soup boils, bring down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Mix cornstarch with cold water (about 1/2 cup), then stir this slowly into the soup to thicken it.
  6. Serve warm garnished with a few parsley leaves.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

steamed salmon

simple salmon dinner
We have been living without a stove for more than a month now and it's been quite challenging to make meals outside of BBQ and salads!  I have been deprived of baking and cooking but somehow we managed to eat well.  Fortunately I have a steamer (which I'll admit, I rarely used until recently) - and it has proven to be quite handy and actually produces some tasty and healthy food.  This is probably the easiest salmon dinner but surprisingly good.

what you need:

  • 2 salmon fillets (skin off, steamed skin doesn't taste that great)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 handful of fresh dill
  • salt and pepper
  • tzatziki 
what to do:

  1. Thinly slice half of the lemon into discs, then squeeze the juice of the other half into the steamer dish.  Wash the dill and pat dry.
  2. Place one layer of lemon slices intermixed with the dill in the dish.
  3. Pat dry salmon fillets and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Nestle on top of the lemon/dill, then place the rest of the lemon slices and dill on top.    
  4. Set the steamer for 25 minutes (you may need longer if your salmon is quite thick).
  5. Serve with a side of tzatziki, pita bread and salad.  Enjoy!


Homemade tzatziki is easy to make and very healthy!  It can be used as a dip, in a pita/sandwich, on top of grilled veggies, meats, fish, whatever!

what you need:

  • 250 g greek yogurt (I use 0% PC brand)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated finely
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • salt and pepper
what to do:
  1. Grate cucumber, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and allow to sit in a sieve for 15 minutes to remove excess liquid.
  2. Mix other ingredients together, add pepper as desired (you probably don't need salt since the cucumber is salted).
  3. Squeeze shredded cucumber to get rid of most of the liquid, then add to the tzatziki.  You can serve immediately, but allowing the tzatziki to sit in the fridge for a few hours will make it more flavourful.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

chocolate chunk pretzel cookies

cookies with a salty twist
We were having a few friends over for beers on the deck and didn't have any snacks to put out so I thought I better bake something...but somehow chocolate chip cookies didn't quite fit with beer.  I scrounged around and realized I had some pretzels in the cupboard...but not quite enough to put out (you know, all the broken ones on the bottom!) - then it dawned on me - add them to the cookies.  Thus was born the chocolate chunk pretzel cookie.

what you need:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp golden corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup or so crushed pretzels
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  
  2. Combine dry ingredients (except sugars) in a bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon to mix well.
  3. In a large bowl, mix sugars and butter with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the eggs, vanilla, corn syrup and mix well.
  4. Roughly chop chocolate into large chunks.  
  5. Add dry ingredients to butter & sugar mixture, mix until batter is smooth.  Add pretzel and chocolate chunks.  
  6. Drop round dollops of batter onto cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.  
  7. Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

grilled summer salad

This hearty salad is great on it's own for a satisfying lunch, or serve it alongside BBQ fare.  This salad travels well as long as you keep the dressing, greens and cooked veggies separately -  it is easily assembled on location.  I brought it to my friend Karolina's birthday party over the weekend (4 hour drive!) and it was enjoyed with burgers and sausages...yum to summer veggies!  For the party I used spring mix and green beans - in the photo above I used asparagus and really can use whatever you have on hand.  Instead of grilling you can also place veggies on a lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven until tender.

what you need:

  • 4 beets
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (or equivalent amount of green beans)
  • 1 large bag of baby spinach (or spring mix)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • olive oil
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (frozen ginger grates easier)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon's zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
what to do:
  1. In a pot of water, bring beets (washed but unpeeled) to a boil and allow to cook for at least 30-45 minutes (depending on how large your beets are), or until you can stick a fork into the beets.  Allow beets to cool, then peel them and cut into bite size cubes (red beet juice stains so don't wear your nice clothes!).  Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven (400 F) or your BBQ grill.  Cut up sweet potato (no need to peel) into bite size cubes.  Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper in a bowl.  Spread onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or use a iron veggie basket to grill them.
  3. Trim asparagus and also toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cut into 1" pieces.  They will take a little less time in the oven or grill so add them to the heat once sweet potatoes have had 10-15 minutes in the heat.
  4. Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients in a jar or tupperware and shake well.  
  5. Once sweet potatoes are tender and have some golden brown colour, remove and toss gently in a bowl with the maple syrup.  Return to oven for another 8 minutes.
  6. Once veggies are done (tender with slight grill marks or colour from roasting) - allow to cool to room temperature.  You can store the beats, sweet potato and asparagus in a container in a fridge until ready to serve.  
  7. In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, grilled veggies, and beets with the dressing.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

lentil cakes

deliciously vegetarian
I always thought falafels were intimidating to make but they actually are really easy as long as you have a food processor!  I didn't have chick peas at home but I used red lentils instead and they turned out well.  These hold up really well so they could be made into small bite size appetizers with tzatziki, alongside a salad, in a wrap or sandwich.  They are an awesome snack the next day.

what you need:
  • 1 1/2 cup red lentils (rinsed and soaked 4 hrs in water)
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread 
  • 3 tbsp milk or soy milk
  • about 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • pinch each salt and pepper
  • canola oil 
what to do:
  1. Get your food processor ready.
  2. Drain lentils.  Soak bread in milk.  Roughly chop carrot, onion, cilantro, and garlic.  Add chopped ingredients to food processor and pulse until very finely chopped, almost a puree but still with a little texture.  Add egg, bread, and spices, then pulse to mix well.
  3. Transfer into a bowl and assess how wet the mixture is.  If it appears too wet, add bread crumbs a little at a time and stir well, until the consistency of the lentil mixture keeps together (you don't want it runny).
  4. Heat a non-stick pan on medium with a thin amount of canola oil to coat the pan (about 2 tbsp).  Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture and press gently for an even cake, fry until golden brown then flip, about 2-3 minutes each side.  You can keep them warm in a 200 F oven while you cook the rest.
  5. Serve with tzatziki or any other sauce you like.  Enjoy!
lentil cakes with greens and tzatziki
lentil cakes in a whole wheat wrap with spring mix, tomatoes,
cilantro, thinly sliced red onion, and homemade tzatziki
ryan approves:)

simple fish "burrito"

eat as a soft taco as above, or bake wrapped up as below
a quick healthy fresh meal
Still on that mexican kick, here's a simple version of a "burrito"... I've got quotation marks because it's kind of a mix between a wrap/soft taco/burrito.  Whole wheat tortilla filled with spicy seasoned cod and mexican inspired rice, with a side of fresh salsa and sliced avocados. Super satisfying.

what you need:
*serves 2

  • whole wheat tortillas

burrito filling:
  • 2 portions of white fish (I used cod)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed well
  • canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • mexican inspired rice
simple fresh salsa:
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 lemon juice and zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small jalapeno 
  • 1 small handful cilantro
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
what to do:

  1. Marinate cod with 2 tsp canola oil, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper, and cayenne.  Be sure to use your hands to gently rub spices evenly all over the fish.
  2. Dice salsa veggies (as finely as you want your salsa).  Toss together in a bowl, then finely grate lemon zest and garlic into bowl.  Add lemon juice and olive oil.  Mix well and set aside.  Slice up avocado and squeeze lime juice all over, set aside.
  3. In a non-stick pan on medium, heat up 2 tsp canola oil.  Add cod and cook through, about 3 minutes on each side (depending on how thick your fish is).  Use a wooden spoon to gently break fish apart into large chunks.  Remove from heat.
  4. Soft taco version: place tortilla on a large plate and fill it with the mexican rice, fish, salsa and sliced avocados.  Enjoy!
  5. Burrito version: place tortilla on a piece of aluminum foil and fill with mexican rice, fish, and shredded cheese (if desired).  Wrap it up tightly and secure with foil, then bake at 425 F for about 15 minutes.  Serve alongside fresh salsa and avocados.  Enjoy!