Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nutty Oat Bread with Maple and a Bonus Soup Recipe

This is my second batch of the bread, and, barring some potentially over-toasted nuts, I think the tweaks I made this time round were big improvements to the loaf. Of course, this second one I was making for my family, not for a party, which meant that (of course) it turned out much better.

I should probably do this in reverse: test recipes on family, perfect for company.

As much as I thoroughly enjoy getting my hands dirty and taking out my frustration on dough, the fact that I'm still in Ottawa and have access to a bread machine (and am currently sporting an awesome blister from my failed croquembouche attempt) means I don't have to knead away. And I choose to take the easy way out.

Nutty Oat Bread with Maple

(Loosely adapted from Canada's Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes)


1 1/3 cups milk (1 cup milk, 1/3 cup water for traditional/non bread machine recipe)
1¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff please, none of that Aunt Jemima nonsense)
2 tbsp butter (if you have walnut oil, which I didn't, you might want to use it instead)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour (or bread flour)
½ cup quick cooking (not instant) oats, large or medium flake
¼ cup finely chopped nuts (I recommend either walnut or pecan)
1½ tsp bread machine yeast (if you're not going the bread machine route, I'd just use 2¼ tsp regular yeast)

Directions Bread Machine

1. (Totally optional, but highly recommended) Preheat the oven to 350º. Place oats and nuts on a baking tray and bake, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes or until brown. Hello flavour country!

2. Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Insert baking pan into oven chamber. Select Dough Cycle. Let the machine do its thing.

3. Remove dough to a lightly floured surface. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

4. Form the dough into a loaf shape (we're talking free form here). Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise 30-45 minutes or until doubled in volume. Add a few decorative slashes to the top here, if you're so inclined.

5. (Totally optional step #2) Gently brush the top with water or milk and sprinkle with a few extra oats. 

5. Bake at 375º for 35-45 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If you have an electric thermometer, you can test with it to see if the loaf is done. Once it reaches 190º, you're golden.

6. Let cool on rack before digging in!

Directions By Hand

Repeat as above, but substitute the following for step two!

2a) In a large bowl stir together1/3 cup warm water (about 100-110º) and ½ tbsp maple syrup. Once dissolved, sprinkle yeast over the top of the surface, and set aside for 5-10 minutes, until yeast blooms (gets all foamy).

2b) In a saucepan, stir together milk, butter, salt and remaining maple syrup and heat just until butter melts. Pour into yeast mixture. (Be sure that the milk mixture isn't too hot! Don't forget that yeast is a living thing and can be killed by high heat at this stage.) Stir together.

2c) Using a wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour, oats and 1½ cups white flour. Turn onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes, adding additional white flour, 1-2 tbsp at a time as needed. Form into a ball.

2d) Place dough in a greased bowl, rolling dough to coat with grease on all sides. Cover with tea towel and set aside in a draft free location to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk.

2e) Proceed to step 3.

Bonus Recipe: Root Vegetable Soup


1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 sweet potato, roughly cubed
2 potatoes, roughly cubed
4 cups broth (I used leftover turkey stock)
juice of ½ lemon (or orange)
salt and pepper
3 leaves sage finely minced (optional)
1 green onion, minced (optional)


1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery, stirring until beginning to soften.

2. Add parsnip, potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

3. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until creamy (for a slightly coarser texture, use a hand blender)

4. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. For a sweeter soup, you might want to try orange juice instead of lemon.

5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped sage and green onion. Serve with the Nutty Oat Bread!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Healthy and Not

Yesterday Phil and I got the chance to have lunch and dinner with different sets of old friends. Lunch was my favourite kind: soup and bread (homemade pecan oat, recipe coming tomorrow).

Nona's Soup with a parsley and green onion pistou (plus the bread!)

Dinner, on the other hand, was flecked with these glorious babies... oozing their slick paprika laced fat:

Mmm. Chorizo sausage for paella.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than great food with great company. And red wine and paella on a Tuesday night? Glorious. Thanks to everyone for having us over/hanging out with us!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Totally Retro Guilty Pleasure

For some people, Christmas is about mince tarts, gingerbread cookies and turkey. My family has a whole host of other traditions.

One of my favourites, that I only do at Christmas because it's SO insanely bad for you is my Crispix Snack Mix.

The recipe is from an ancient Canadian Living Holiday Cookbook... we're talking like 1985 or so here... so you might guess (and correctly) that I've been making it for a while!

Taco Snack Mix


3 cups Crispix
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups Hickory Sticks
1 cup unsalted cashews (you could use peanuts)
¼ cup melted butter
2 tbsp taco seasoning mix


Preheat oven to 350

Toss all ingredients together and place in 9" x 13" baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring every 10 or so until crispy.

Let cool in pan on rack.

Try not to eat it all in one go.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays

While I'm at my parents' place, I've been too... well... lazy to get on the blogging train. I'm currently sporting a beautiful blister courtesy of a run-in with some molten sugar (croquembouche related mishap) on my right hand and that makes typing difficult.

I thought I'd share one picture with you though. Back in the '70s, whenever my parents threw dinner parties, my father would create those oh-so-fashionable drinks called Pousse Cafés. They're basically drinks where you layer liqueurs on top of each other, from least in alcohol to greatest. And, it's best, of course, if you use a variety of colours so people can actually see the layers.

My parents' liquor cabinet holds a lot of crème de menthe and blue curacao. I'm not going to lie, the drinks weren't tasty.

But oh, look how they sparkle in the snow!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spinach Salad with Raspberries and Candied Almonds with Poppy Seed Dressing

Yesterday, I threw this picture up, and I wish I'd waited until today, because now I have the recipe to go with it!

This is one of my all time favourite salads... a HUGE Canadian Living winner from the late '90s (at least I think it was Canadian Living - there are no online traces of this recipe anywhere). It's my Mum's go to potluck salad contribution, but she reminded me this morning that I was the first one to try this recipe out about 10 years ago.

If I remember correctly, I made it for a Canada Day do in which I totally overestimated my own abilities and passed out instead of going downtown for festivities.

Now, the funny thing with this recipe is we lost it for a few years - until Mum remembered that she'd given it to a friend. So, Mum got the recipe sent back to her and we're back in business! This friend serves the salad as part of her family's French Canadian traditional Christmas Eve feast, so it seems only appropriate to include it in this week's collection of recipes.

Baby Spinach Salad with Raspberries and Candied Almonds 

1/2 cup    slivered almonds
1 tbsp.     corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
Pinch      each salt and cayenne pepper

12 cups   baby spinach
1 cup      fresh raspberries

1/4 cup  vegetable oil
2 tbsp    granulated sugar
2 tbsp    raspberry vinegar 
1 tbsp    sesame seeds, toasted, or poppy seeds 


In a small bowl toss together almonds, corn syrup, sugar, salt and cayenne until coated. Spread in single layer on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in 325 degree oven, stirring occasionally to break up clumps, for about 12 minutes or until golden and sugar is bubbly. Let cool completely on pan on rack. Break into pieces. 

Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, vinegar, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.

In bowl, toss spinach with dressing. Sprinkle with candied almonds and raspberries.  Make 8 (large) servings.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coming home to your Mum's cooking

I guess I was technically coming home to MY mum's cooking.

On Sunday, I made the trip up to Ottawa from the comfort of Via 1 (that's first class, baby!). One of the things I love most about this trip is that you get to travel through Ontario's backyard.

And, by that I mean you get to see small town Ontario from the backs of people's houses. The less public side.

Sitting inside Union Station
Best of all, the snow was just beginning to fall in gentle flakes. Yes, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Once I got home, Mum had whipped up some amazing food! Her famous Raspberry Spinach Salad with Candied Almonds and Poppy Seed Dressing:

Taste Explosion!
And her doubly famous Pavlova. If you're a meringue lover and haven't had pavlova, you haven't lived.

Berries! Meringue! Cream! Yay!

Mum's Pavolva

(Source: Joy of Baking/Best of Bridge)


4 large (120 grams) egg whites
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)


1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh fruit - kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, fold in.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)  

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. 
Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours. (I actually disagree with this - the slight softness the meringue gets is totally tasty. I'm totally happy eating leftovers the next day!)
Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A casserole for a party

So, remember that whole legumes + pork kick I'm on?

Yeah, that hasn't stopped yet. I've been dying to try this recipe for the better part of a year, but couldn't because dried flageolet beans weren't readily available at my local grocery store. They taste a lot like navy beans, so feel free to substitute those!

Though this recipe takes a while (especially if you let the beans soak in their cooking liquid overnight), I think it's well worth it. Creamy, porky, yummy.

For the record, I apologize in advance for the weird formatting here. The source for the recipe wasn't formatting friendly!

Fine Cooking's Flageolet Bean Gratin with Sausage


Recipe Ingredients

1 pound dried flageolet beans
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 teaspoon salt
For the Gratin:
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound French-style garlic sausage or sweet Italian sausage
2 cups homemade bread crumbs
Homemade or low-salt canned chicken stock if needed


1. FOR THE BEANS: Pick over the beans. Soak if desired and drain. In a large, heavy-based pot, cover the beans with 8 cups cold water. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, sage, and thyme; bring to a boil over high heat. 

Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Simmer gently until the beans have softened, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Add the salt and continue cooking until the beans are quite tender, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Allow the beans to cool in the broth. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

2. FOR THE GRATIN: Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the garlic and any stems from the herbs. In a frying pan, heat 4 Tbs. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; cook until the onions are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans with the onion mixture. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. The mixture should be highly seasoned. Transfer the beans to a shallow 2 1/2 qt. casserole.

4. In a hot frying pan, brown the sausages well on all sides. Let the sausages cool before cutting them into 1 1/2 -inch thick slices. Arrange the sliced sausages over the beans, then push them down beneath the surface of the beans with a wooden spoon.

5. Bring the reserved cooking liquid to a boil and pour enough of it into the casserole to barely cover the beans (add chicken stock if there isn’t enough). Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and, with a wooden spoon, push them down a bit to absorb some of the liquid. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil over the top. Cover with aluminum foil, set the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 30 min. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and continue cooking for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the surface is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 15 minutes longer. 

The recipe claims to serve 6. I'd base closer bets on 8. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

My favourite thing to do with a can of chickpeas...

Maybe you know you're going to have an evening out braving the crowds for some last minute Christmas shopping. You know you'll be exhausted when you come home, but before you reach for the phone to call for a grease laden pizza, consider this recipe! It requires very little prep time, and mostly uses pantry staples. You've got a lonely can of beans in your cupboard, right?

For the record, yes, I do consider bacon a staple.

I made this recipe last March for the first time, and my husband regularly requests it. And by regularly, I mean at least once weekly. He doesn't get it that often, but it is one that's in regular rotation in our house.

Lately, we've been on a huge legume kick (see yesterday's quesadilla recipe). And for me, nothing pairs better with legumes of all shapes and sizes than something smoky and porky. This recipe comes from Cooking Light, serves four and will satisfy even the biggest meat eater in your house. We usually buy good quality bacon from Rowe Farms. It's naturally smoked and free of all those nasty chemicals present in most processed smoked meats.

Chickpeas with Broccoli Rabe and Bacon

(Cooking Light March '10)


1  pound  broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1  tablespoon  olive oil
6  slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1  cup  chopped onion
1/2  teaspoon  dried oregano
1/8  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
6  garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1  (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
2  ounces  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Cook broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bacon; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. 
3. Stir in onion, oregano, and red pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until onion begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chickpeas; sauté 1 minute. 
4. Stir in broccoli rabe, salt, and black pepper; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, tossing to combine. 
5. Place about 1 1/2 cups chickpea mixture on each of 4 plates; shave 1/2 ounce cheese evenly over each serving.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home Fries for a Sunday morning

Back when I was in university, one of my then boyfriend's roommates used to make home fries on Sunday mornings. Home fries were something reserved for greasy spoon diners; they were not something that ever appeared in my family's house.

And although those particular home fries weren't the most amazing in the world, they were certainly very comforting, if occasionally a bit crunchy.

See, the roommate always fried the potatoes low and slow for however long it took... Occasionally the onions would overcook and burn. Occasionally the potatoes would get soggy. But still, I loved them.

So this week, while Phil was writing his exam, I attempted my own home fries. I partially cooked a potato in the microwave first, cut it up into cubes and threw it into a pan with butter, olive oil, a large handful of chopped sweet onion and a good dose of thyme. Twenty minutes later I had crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and herbilicious homefries. The onions were on the right side of dark golden brown.

Topped with a fried egg (eggs are something loathed by my husband), I was supremely chuffed. They remind me of being 22 and thinking I was an adult.

It's funny. I'll be 31 soon, and, taking a page from my father's book, now I know better. Adulthood is not a number. It's a state of mind that I choose not to enter into.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So you need to detox...

With Christmas parties and baking in full swing, I know that many of you, like myself, are going to overindulge. I'm just not one of those people who even wants to say no to a tray of shortbread cookies, or sausage rolls.

Heck, I received about 7lbs of various chocolates from my students! (I left them in my desk at school to get me through the cold, dark, Canadian winter.)

So, when Kat was over on Thursday, we made this totally awesome Sweet Potato, Chard and Mushroom Quesadilla thing. It was bursting with bright vegetables and black beans mixed with chipotle in adobo sauce. We opted to turn these into baked burrito type things rather than quesadillas, which added a nice crunch without the addition of two much fat.

So, when you're looking for something to clear out all the sugar and fat from your system, this is the recipe for you!

A little cilantro wouldn't go amiss!

Sweet Potato, Chard, and Mushroom Vegan Quesadillas


(Makes 3 gigantic burritos)

1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 ounces sweet potato, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large chipotle in adobo, minced
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
15 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 large cloves garlic, minced
5 baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1 bunch chard, stems discarded, leaves sliced
1/3 cup water
3 whole wheat tortillas

Prepare the potatoes by covering with water in a pot and boiling until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Mash them in a large bowl using a potato masher, adding chipotle in adobo, 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, kidney beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large skillet (with a lid), heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic and mushrooms for about 5 minutes, then add cumin, ground chipotle, and salt to taste for about 1 minute. Add chard and 1/3 cup water. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Spritz one side of a tortilla with extra virgin olive oil. Turn over and on the un-spritzed side spread a layer of the sweet potato mixture. On half of the tortilla, spread half of the chard mixture. Then fold the tortilla over so that the stuffings are inside the tortilla like a sandwich. Heat through in a skillet over medium heat, turning several times, until browned. Prepare the second tortilla in the same manner. Keeping a close eye on things, broil under the element for a few minutes, until brown. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Serve with salsa and avocado slices.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Musings on Oranges

I'm writing this from school today, which is unusual for me because I rarely have to much time for blogging while I'm here. But, on the penultimate day before the holidays begin, the school is in preparation for the annual Christmas concert this morning and there are far fewer kids in the audience than in the band and orchestra!

So, as I was sitting here at my paper covered desk along with the peel of a mandarin orange (from Argentina) lying on my desk beside me, and with a mug of Stash Moroccan Mint Green Tea, I realized how much these two flavours symbolize the holidays for me.
Here's the thing about oranges and me: we haven't always gotten along. For reasons totally not understood by anyone, I cannot chew the skin on most orange segments. Most. The exception of that is the small mandarin family that have a much thinner skin. So, when the boxes of clementines from Morocco begin arriving in the grocery stores, I always get excited. Not only do I get to enjoy their vibrant, sweet goodness, but they usually start appearing mid-November, which means vacations are just around the corner.

In Japan, I used to get mikan (mandarins) all the time, and satsumas too. Both are Japanese versions, fragrant and sweet. The satsuma flavour, I found, was a little more delicate and floral than that of the mikan. Regardless, there's little more cheery than a present wrapped in a vibrant orange jacket!

For the record, my love of clementines and mandarins pales in comparison to that of my brother, who has been known to go through 6-7 in a day. As a kid, he adopted the name: Cosmic Clementine Caliph to really show his dedication to the fruit. There was even a song to go with the name!

Confession: We still sing it sometimes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Cranberries, Coconut and Sea Salt.

Inspired by the December issues of Martha Stewart, and motivated by feeling ill but still obligated to make something for a staff meeting on Monday, I whipped up a batch of dark chocolate bark using 5 ingredients from my cupboard.

Let's just say it was a hit. The art teacher at the school proclaimed it to be "Fabulous", which I absolutely insist you pronounce with an emphasis on the "Fah" sound, as she does.

Pistachio, Cranberry, Toasted Coconut Bark with Sea Salt


1 lb good quality dark chocolate (I used the leftover Callebault chocolate from the Cranberry-Chocolate Parfaits)
¼ cup toasted unsweetened coconut
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup unsalted pistachios
¼ tsp sea salt


Line a 9 x 12" baking sheet with parchment paper.

Met chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set on top of simmering water. It is incredibly important that you be careful with the water when melting the chocolate. One drop mixed in will cause the whole thing to seize up.

Pour onto baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Immediately sprinkle toppings over chocolate. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Peel off parchment, and break bark into pieces.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time for Chili!

That episode of the Simpson's where Homer eats the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper was on this week. That's definitely one of my favourites (along with the Scorpio episode). There are so many great one liners! My favourite is when Homer is doing the dance and whining "But Marge, we're missing the chili!".

This is a close second:

So, it seemed that chili was the totally reasonable thing to eat for dinner! Now, I'm not a huge fan of really spicy foods. This chili recipe was introduced into my family more than a decade ago through Canadian Living. It's called Stratford Heartburn People's Choice Chili, and because it regularly one that award at the Stratford (Ontario) Heartburn Annual Chili Cook-Off. It's sweet, tangy and smoky with bacon goodness.

Perhaps it shouldn't be called Chili. It doesn't actually have any chili powder in it.

We'll forgive it that, and in return you'll discover that it's a really forgiving recipe. Don't have enough bacon? Fine. Use what you've got. Have a 28 oz can of tomatoes? No worries. Throw it in, and let reduce longer. Don't eat beef? Use turkey. Because it cooks low and slow for 3 hours, the sauce is super flavourful and really infuses the meat and beans with its lovely goodness. By the time it's done, you won't be missing the traditional chili seasonings at all!

Stratford Heartburn People's Choice Chili


(Canadian Living Magazine, February 1997)

7 slices lean bacon (I often use whatever I have on hand. I used 2 slices this time) 1 lb lean ground beef 1 onion; chopped 1 clove garlic; minced 2 tablespoons brown sugar; packed 2 tablespoons fancy molasses 1 can (19 oz) tomatoes (again, feel free to use whatever you have, I used a 28 oz can) 1 can (14 oz) kidney beans 1 can (14 oz) baked beans with pork and molasses 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon each pepper and hot pepper sauce


Preheat oven to 300º.

In a Dutch oven (or any large ovenproof pot), cook bacon over medium heat. When crisp, remove and drain on paper towels. Crumble and set aside.

Add beef and onion to the pan. Sauté until beef is browned, about 10 minutes, breaking beef up. Drain off fat.

Add all remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven. Stir thoroughly.

Cover and place in oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (like once an hour). After the two hours are up, pull the chili out of the oven and remove the lid.

At this point, it's all about thickening this bad boy up. Return the lidless Dutch oven to the oven and let cook for another hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so (totally not a necessary step, but I like to make sure everything is coated with the delicious sauce). When it's ready, it'll look like this:

See how much liquid has reduced? Welcome to flavour country!

This recipe theoretically serves 4, but I think it serves more like 6, especially when accompanied with bread and a crisp green salad!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Technical Difficulties

As Dates and Quinces moves from its blogspot home to:, I think it's fair to say there may be (and currently are) a few bumps in the transition. Hopefully everything will be worked out soon!

Risotto with Mushrooms and Mascarpone

This was the first risotto recipe I ever tried, and I love it to death. It claims to serve four, but Phil and I have been known to eat the whole thing between the two of us!

While the recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms, I've used dried shiitakes with great success too. Short version: find yourself a cup's worth of dried mushroom and go to town!

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone

(from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2010)


2  cups  boiling water
1  cup  dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
1  (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
Cooking spray
1  cup  uncooked Arborio rice
3/4  cup  chopped shallots
2  garlic cloves, minced
1/2  cup  dry white wine
1/4  cup  (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
1/4  cup  (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

1. Combine 2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve 1 1/2 cups soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.

2. Bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm.

3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).

4. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of the broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, grated cheese, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently until cheese melts. Spoon 1 cup risotto into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon mascarpone and thyme leaves, if desired.

So creamy. So comforting. So delicious.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dutch Baby Pancakes

I'm not a pancake person. I suppose at one point in my life I was, but then a childhood pancake related trauma turned me off of them.

It's a long story.

Okay, no, that's not true. It's a medium length one.

When I was living in St. John (I think I was about 6 or so for this incident), we had one car. My brother needed to go to kindergarten in town, my father worked in town and I went to school in our neighbourhood out in the suburbs. So, that meant we had to get up at hour zero dark stupid, pile into the car and drive Dad to work downtown. Then we'd drive back, I'd go to school and my mum would take my younger brother downtown for school.

Have I mentioned I've never been a morning person?

Anyway, to deal with the tricky problem of school mornings and breakfast, my father would cook huge batches of pancakes (usually blueberry) over the weekend and then freeze them individually. Said pancakes were then popped in the toaster (we're talking pre-microwave days) and handed to us kids to eat in the car.

We did this three times a week.

I have this very clear memory of sitting in the car one winter day, bundled up in my snowsuit, the heat barely working and being handed a pancake.

The toaster had burned the outside. It was frozen in the centre. It was my third one like that that week.

And I just snapped. No more pancakes. I couldn't stomach the thought of eating them again.

Even now, they arouse no joy in me... unless, of course, we're talking about a less traditional kind of pancake. Martha Stewart's Dutch Baby Pancake makes a semi-regular appearance (read: once every couple of months) in our weekend breakfast routines. I like to switch up the apples for pears, the cardamom for cinnamon, maple syrup (the real stuff, please) for the honey and throw in a little vanilla to the batter. Whatever you decide to do, it puffs up all golden and brown and tastes NOTHING like the burnt pancakes I used to have to eat in the car.

 Have you been traumatized by a food from your childhood? Tell me I'm not the only one!

Martha Stewart's Dutch Baby Pancakes 


Serves 4.

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add butter. When melted, add apple wedges.

I leave the skin on for added nutrients. And it looks pretty.
Cook until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in honey and cardamom, and remove skillet from heat. 

Golden and softened
In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except confectioners’ sugar, until smooth. Pour over apple mixture.

Mmm. Batter + Apples.
Bake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer pancake onto a serving platter by flipping out.

Serve immediately, cut into wedges, with confectioners’ sugar sifted over the top. And, might I recommend a side of bacon? Everything is better with bacon!

Breakfast of champions!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Food and Travelling

Sometimes, my family and I joke, it seems that our travels are less about seeing places, and more about eating our way across the world. If you were to ask my parents about visiting Hiroshima, they'd talk about the okonomiyaki they ate there (unlike the okonomiyaki from the Chubu region, Hiroshima is famous for its layered okonomiyaki involving ramen noodles). Heck, I have no idea what their other highlights were there. All over Japan, my Dad was a HUGE fan of the vending machine coffee "shooters".

For me, memories of a place and what I ate are intrinsically linked.

Japan: I still dream about the fried chicken (karaage) from Senri (2004-2006) in Sakashita (My then-boyfriend, now-husband and I wrote most of the Tono section for this guide back in 2005. That "highly recommended bit about Senri's chicken? Yeah. That was me, half a decade ago), a local restaurant in my village. Eating fugu (2005) in Osaka and udon noodles on Shikoku (2006). Yakiniku in Ena (2004-2006). Fresh tofu in Kyoto (2006).

Thailand: A whole deep fried fish with a sweet chili sauce eaten beachside at a restaurant with four tables. The other three were occupied by white guys meeting erm... well... prostitutes. I can understand why they chose that place for their dates (do you call it that if it's really a business transaction?). Awesome location. Great food. Green curry bought from a 7/11 that burned my mouth. Eating fresh rambutan out on our balcony while watching the waves of the Bay of Bengal crash in. (2005)

England: Marks and Spencer's sweets (2006). The worst sandwich ever at Harrod's (1998). Chicken Kiev in Covent Garden (1998). Scrumpy Jack (2003). Real McCoy's Cheese and Onion crisps (2005). My search for the Lion bar (1994), which was problematic because I couldn't remember what it was called and resulting in me buying the better part of 20 + chocolate bars in an effort to find it. Thornton's Fruit and Nut Toffee (2003)

Wales: My first ploughman's lunch with Stone Soup (Avebury, The Circle Restaurant, 1994). It's a vegetarian restaurant, and I didn't eat veggies back in the day. It was my first foray into meatless meals. It was surprising to realize that I wasn't going to keel over and die.

Germany: when I was 7, I remember my uncle Steve ordering for my mother, and she ended up with fried bologna. She was not amused (1987).

Hawaii: the crispy sushi roll from Roy's (2007) and the butter poached lobster at Alan Wong's (2009). Our passion fruit mousse filled wedding cake (2009). Big Island Candies Chocolate Covered Coconut Brownies (2005)

St. John, NB: Saltwater Taffy (1986) and Pete's Frootique (1986-1989)

Calgary, AB: Skor Fudge (1994) from this little spot in Stony Creek. On a day trip from there, we also had the best ice cream ever.

Salt Spring Island, BC: Blackberry port (2007), the Fishery's Smoked Salmon Mousse (2007).

Victoria, BC: The Sunday brunch at the Empress (1984), the smell of my Nana's bread baking in the oven (1984-1994), Dolly Mixture (also courtesy of my grandparents)

Church Point, NS: The lobster dinner at Université Sainte-Anne (2003). Pure carnage. Red lobster carcasses everywhere.

What about you? Is there a food you strongly associate with a place?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dessert of Shame

It's been one of those weeks.

Sometimes, you end up with a bunch of odds and ends left from various recipes. And sometimes, it seems like a brilliant idea to put them together.

More often than not, this ends in abject horror and guilt as you eat the monstrosity you've created.

Truth be told, I'm still a bit horrified, but I don't feel the least bit guilty. It was delicious.

Any guesses what's in this?

I'll give you a hint.

There are only 3 things in this.

I've used the leftover ingredients from the sponge toffee recipe and from the cranberry chocolate parfait.

Okay, so obviously there's sponge toffee crumbs but along with it are Callebault chocolate shavings and a whole lot of light cool whip (pronounce it Stewey style: cool who-wip).

Food doesn't always have to be fancy, you know? Anyone else want to confess their secret love for a trashy food?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pasta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Bacon

Until about a month ago, I'd never had kale before. Now it seems that I eat it 2-3 times a week! I cannot get enough of this stuff.

This recipe from Cooking Light turned out to be a total winner, in spite of my husband and I agreeing that we wanted more. We ate this meal then did our Christmas cards (while sipping our Chestnut Liqueur). It was the perfect weeknight meal.

I will say, even though I used the 5 cups of chopped kale called for, I felt the recipe could have used more.

Orecchiette with Kale, Bacon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

8  ounces  uncooked orecchiette pasta
5  cups  bagged prewashed kale
2  slices center-cut bacon
1/4  cup  oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
3  large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
3/8  teaspoon  salt
1  ounce  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice

1. Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes or until almost tender. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

2. While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; crumble and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add sun-dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add pasta mixture, reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, black pepper, and salt to pan; toss to combine. Top pasta mixture evenly with bacon and cheese; drizzle evenly with lemon juice.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Just in case you didn't believe me.

Photographic evidence.

My shame is now complete.

Beef and Barley Soup

For the past 2 years, practically every Tuesday night I have eaten alone. Phil usually has a class that night, and so I am left to my own devices.

Confession: when cooking for myself, my own devices usually involves the jar of peanut butter and bread.  Or crackers eaten directly from the box.

Or if I'm really feeling like I want to cook, then scrambled eggs.

I do not like cooking for myself - not because I don't like cooking, but because I hate cleaning up after.

Last night, as I walked home through the downtown core, the windchill brought the temperature down into the negative double digits. I knew peanut butter was just not going to work for me.

So, I braved the thought of creating a mountain of dishes and decided to make soup. Of course, I didn't have all the ingredients I needed for either my beef barley recipe (I only had ground beef) nor my dutch meatball soup (no leeks or egg noodles). In the end, I created a hybrid. And, if I do say so myself, I think it turned out pretty well.

Using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid infuses an earthy flavour to the soup.


1 lb lean ground beef
½ large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp sage
½ package dried porcini mushrooms
7 cups water
1 beef boullion stock cube
½ cup pot barley, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
2 tsp tamari soy sauce
3 tbsp dry sherry
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper


1. In a large pot covered with cooking spray, sauté beef until just brown over medium heat. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and leave in a bowl while you prepare the vegetables.

2. Meanwhile, cover dried mushrooms with 4 cups of boiling water. Let sit, while you prep the remaining ingredients.

3. Sauté onion, celery, carrot and garlic with thyme and sage until soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove mushrooms from liquid (be sure to save this) and coarsely chop.

5. Return beef and its juices that have accumulated in the bowl to the pot. Add chopped mushrooms, their soaking liquid and the remaining 3 cups of water along with the bouillon cube and the barley and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes until barley is tender.

6. Just before serving, add sherry, tamari, parsley. Taste and then add salt and pepper accordingly.

Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich, and you're set for that brisk winter night!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Stuffed Pork with Prosciutto and Lemons

I think my love of pork prevents me from ever becoming a vegetarian. And, as the weather turns cold, I find myself turning on the oven more often so I can slow roast.

I won't lie to you. This recipe had... erm... challenges.

One: I am not a butcher. My pork looks... well... not that pretty.

Two: My oven sucks and took twice as long to cook the stuff.

Three: Neither of the above two should matter because it was delicious, right?

Lemon and Prosciutto Stuffed Pork Loin with Broccolini


1 4-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed
12 thin prosciutto slices (about 6 ounces)
1 large lemon, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 pounds broccolini, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 cup Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Place pork, fat side down, on work surface with 1 short end facing you. Using long thin sharp knife and starting 1/2 inch above underside of roast, cut 1/2 inch in along right side. 
Continue cutting 1/2 inch above underside, unrolling roast like carpet. 
Yeah, it's not pretty. I know. Amateur + dull knife = less than amazing butchering.
Arrange prosciutto evenly over pork, overlapping if necessary. 
Arrange lemon slices over prosciutto. 
Sprinkle with panko, then chives. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 
Turn pork so 1 short end faces you. Beginning at 1 short end, roll up pork; arrange seam side down on work surface (fat side will be facing up). 
Using kitchen string, tie at 1- to 1 1/2-inch intervals. Transfer pork, fat side up, to roasting pan. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Meanwhile, place roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high heat. Add broth and wine; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Stir in butter. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain sauce into small pitcher. Season with salt and pepper.

Using kitchen scissors, cut string along top of roast; discard. Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on platter. Drizzle lemon juice over broccolini; season with salt and pepper. Serve pork with broccolini, passing sauce alongside.

Divide broccolini between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle olive oil over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place in oven and roast until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets halfway through roasting. 

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Place pork on lower rack; roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; roast pork until instant-read thermometer registers 145°F when inserted into center of pork, 45 to 60 minutes longer, depending on thickness of roast. Transfer to cutting board. Increase oven temperature to 375°F.

Cook broccolini in pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; cool. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pork; chill. Wrap broccolini in paper towels, then plastic; chill.
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