Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lemon-Almond Crunch Parfaits with Berries

This has been one of those weeks that feels like it just couldn't have ended soon enough! I haven't been online at all in the past few days - not even to respond to work emails. I'm swamped with after school clubs.

So, yes, I know I promised the appetizer recipe. But it's finally sunny out and I feel like celebrating with a dish that's bright and springy.

Whenever we have dessert with my parents and cousin, the dairy in the dessert recipes has to go, as my cousin has an allergy. Bring in, then, the edible oil product known as Cool Whip.

Let me be perfectly honest here: while under just about all circumstances, I would reject Cool Whip, this recipe was so good that, not only did I not mind about there being Cool Whip, I actually preferred it with it. It was lighter and brightly lemony.

Lemon-Almond Crunch Parfait with Berries

(adapted from Canadian Living)


3/4 3/4cup cupwhipping cream (or 1 tub light Cool Whip)
1 can (14 oz/398 mL) apricot halves in light syrup , drained and quartered1 pint raspberries, blackberries or a mixture of both, rinsed and thoroughly dried

Lemon Curd:
3 egg yolks 3 3egg yolkegg yolks
1 egg 1 1eggeggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 1/2cup cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar 1 1tbsp tbspgranulated sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind 2 2tsp  (10 mL) finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup lemon juice 1/2 1/2cup cupfresh (125 mL) lemon juice
1 pinch salt 1 1pinch pinchsalt

Almond Crunch:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 1/4cup cupall-purpose flour
2 tbsp large-flake rolled oats 2 2tbsp tbsp(25 mL) large-flake rolled oats
1 tbsp packed brown sugar 1 1tbsp (15 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter , cubed2 2tbsp tbsp(25 mL) unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp slivered almonds 2 2tbsp t (25 mL)slivered almonds


1. Almond Crunch: Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats and brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in almonds. Dump mixture onto baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until mixture is golden and crisp. 

Do keep a close eye on it, because it will go from gorgeously brown to disastrously black in an instant.

2. Lemon Curd: In a heat proof bowl (you're going to be making a double boiler here, so choose your bowl appropriately), whisk together all lemon curd ingredients. Place over saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you have an instant read thermometer, it should read 160ºF. Remove from heat and strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, being sure to press wrap directly onto the surface of the curd. This will prevent a thick skin from forming.

3. To Assemble: Stir half the curd to break up. Mix in half the tub of Cool Whip. Stir to thoroughly incorporate. Gently fold in remaining half of the tub (alternatively, whip the cream and divide in half and proceed according to above directions).

Divide berries between 8 serving glasses. Top with lemon mixtures. Sprinkle with almond mixture. Serve with long handled spoons!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back from Ottawa

What a crazy whirlwind of a weekend! We drove up to Ottawa for the Easter break, which was well worth its while for the proscuitto wrapped grissini alone. We got to see my family and some friends, eat our weight in ham and chocolate and generally be merry.

I can't wait to share some recipes with you from the weekend, but as this week is pure madness (I've running two after school clubs, and two at lunch activities), I doubt I'll get around to a fresh post before the weekend.

One of the great presents the Easter Pig (we don't have an Easter Bunny in my family) brought me was Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook: My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. The recipes look amazing, and I'm really excited to start whipping some stuff up from it!

If you've made anything from it, I'd love to hear about your experiences and recommendations for recipes!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter Weekend

I'm off to Ottawa this weekend for Easter with my family. Have a great holiday for all those who celebrate, and a generally awesome weekend for those who don't!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Non-cooking related things that make me happy.

1. Taking 139 kids on a field trip to see Romeo and Juliet and having the kids behave well.
2. Not losing any children.
3. Only having one child vomit on the bus, while many others were threatening to burst. Who knew so many kids get car sick?
4. Having students cry during the play because they just got it, man.
5. Watching a very muscular, lithe Tybalt wander around without his shirt on. Yum.

Any Toronto area teachers out there - I highly recommend The Classical Theatre Project for all your Shakespeare needs. It's dirty (as it should be), funny and so accessible for the kids. They're also coming to Ottawa for Romeo and Juliet for a few performances in May!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quick and Easy Minestrone

When I think back to my painfully picky childhood, this was one of the first soups that had visible vegetables in it that I really liked. Prior to this recipe, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom and Tomato soups were about as adventurous as I got.

Thankfully, I got peer pressured into eating more vegetables, and I remember this soup being one of the first that I was genuinely surprised to like.

Having said all that, this recipe is in desperate need of a tweak as it dates back to the 1992 milk calendar and originally clocks in with close to 1000 mg of sodium. That's far too much in my books.

Plus, as it was in the milk calendar, there's... well... milk in the soup. And I just don't think that's either necessary or appropriate.

Quick and Easy Minestrone

(adapted from 1992 Milk Calendar)


3 slices bacon, diced (optional - use 1 tbsp olive oil in place of the bacon and its fat)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium or homemade vegetable/chicken/beef stock
1 2/3 cup fire roasted tomato pasta sauce
1 can (14 oz) kidney beans (that's about 1½ cups of beans, if you're making your own)
3 cups water
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moon or quarter moon shapes
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup small pasta (macaroni, shells, or really, whatever you have on hand)
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. If using, cook bacon in a large saucepan until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and drain any excess fat. You want about a tablespoon left in the pan. If you're not using bacon, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pan. Sauté onion and garlic until tender.

2. Add in next 9 ingredients (through thyme), bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add in pasta, and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Stir bacon back in. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with focaccia bread, fresh basil (or a dollop of pesto)!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quick Japanese Pickles

I wish I'd taken a picture of the bento boxes I'd made for my husband and myself earlier this week! Kara age (fried chicken), brown rice with umeboshi, carrot kinpira and Japanese pickled cabbage and cucumber.

God, I love pickles. Give them to me in just about any form and I'm a happy camper.

Unlike your dill or bread and butter pickles, these Japanese pickles don't use any vinegar as part of the fermenting process. Instead they rely entirely on salt.

And, if you like, you can toss them with a little soy sauce at the end.

Otherwise, just leave them alone. They're meant to cleanse the palate, not overwhelm it.

Quick Japanese Pickles

(adapted from both Washoku and Just Bento)


3 small Japanese cucumbers, thinly sliced (1/8" thick)
¼ head savoy cabbage, shredded or finely sliced
1½ tsp kosher salt
1 piece kombu, 1" square
½ tsp soy sauce


1. In a large bowl, toss cucumber slices with ½ tsp salt, massage for a couple of minutes, until slices begin to become limp and start to sweat.

2. Combine cabbage with cucumbers and toss with remaining salt. Massage again, increasing pressure as the vegetables become limper and you are able to squeeze a fair bit of liquid from them. Keep whatever liquid you get in the bowl.

3. Add in kombu and massage again. The kombu will feel a bit slippery which is a good thing. Place a plate, smaller than the size of the bowl directly on top of the vegetables. Weigh down with heavy weights (I put an 8 lb weight in a heavy jar on top of my plate) and marinate for at least 1 hour (preferably 3 hours) at room temperature (or 24 hours in the fridge).

4. Before serving, rinse under cold water and drain, squeezing to make sure no water remains. Drizzle soy sauce over pickles just before serving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

The first year we were living in Toronto, the Cobs bakery chain left about 10 coupons for free Hot Cross Buns in the mail boxes of our and our neighbours' mail boxes. Luckily for my husband and I, our neighbours kept throwing their coupons into the recycle bin by the boxes.

So we probably ate 7-8 free Hot Cross buns that year. It was fantastic. I love free food!

Now, as sad as I am that there haven't been coupons for the past couple of years, I have to admit, while Cobs' buns are good, they're not the best I've ever had.

Homemade is always better - especially because it'll fill your home with the sweet smell of cinnamon.

My version has no candied peel in it, but a combination of currants and sultanas along with the zest of an orange and lemon.

Hot Cross Buns

(adapted from Canadian Living and Martha Stewart)



½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water
2¼ tsp active dry yeast (one package)
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup milk, warmed
¼ cup melted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk 
zest of one large orange
zest of one large lemon
cups all purpose flour
¼ cup each dried currants and sultanas


2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp water 


½ cup icing sugar
½ - 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice


1. Mix 1 tbsp sugar, warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast proofs. Using the dough hook, stir in remaining sugar with next 10 ingredients (through lemon zest). 

2. Add flour, one cup at a time until a soft dough is formed. Add currants and sultanas and beat for about a minute. Remove dough from bowl and knead just to evenly distribute the fruit. Place in a greased bowl, tossing to grease all over. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm, draft free location to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

3. Divide dough into 10 equal sections. Form each into a smooth tight ball, stretching and pinching dough underneath to make tops smooth. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise again for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400º.

4. Using a serrated knife or a pair of scissors, slice a cross into the top of each bun. Bake in oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, whisk glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Immediately after removing buns from oven, brush them with glaze. Let them cool on the pan.

The glaze gives the buns a lovely sheen.
6. Stir together icing ingredients until smooth and pipe a cross on top of each cooled bun. If you don't have a piping bag, don't stress. Just fill a plastic sandwich bag with icing and cut off a small portion of one corner and then pipe out the icing.

Enjoy licking the sticky sweetness off your fingers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Japanese Inspired Soba Recipe

April is one of those months that teases. After cold winter nights and endless amounts of snow and frost, April is that month that whispers sweet nothings and tells you, soon, soon it'll all be over. She takes your hand and shows you the deep blue hyacinths and vibrant yellow crocuses, her sweet, blossom scented breath caresses your cheek.

And then, as you turn to meet her lavender eyes, she knees you in the crotch and punches you in the stomach with wild, blisteringly cold rain storms.

Heck, as I write this, sleet is bashing against our windows. Earlier this week, some of my students were wearing shorts.

This recipe is that warm blanket used on shock victims. Sink into its warmth and stay out of April's mood swings.

Soba with Beef and Onions in Shiitake Broth

(inspired by The Japanese Food Report)


3 cups water, divided
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
½ package (4g) dashi powder
4 tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 tbsp mirin
½ lb thinly sliced beef
1 medium onion, thinly sliced vertically
3 tbsp sake
2 tbsp sugar
4 oz dried soba noodles
shichimi spice powder to taste (Japanese 7 spice chili powder)
1 green onion, finely sliced


1. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Soak dried mushrooms in water for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms from liquid and set aside. Stir in 1½ cups water, dashi powder, 2 tbsp soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a simmer and keep warm on back burner while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2. Cut rehydrated shittake mushrooms into 5-6 slices each.

2. Place beef, onion, mushrooms remaining soy sauce, ½ cup water, sugar and sake in a frying pan, and bring to a simmer. Let cook until beef is cooked, onion is meltingly tender and liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Cook soba noodles in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, between 6-8 minutes. Divide between two large bowl. Top noodles with beef mixture. Gently ladle broth over noodles. Garnish with shichimi and green onions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baked Oats Brulée

Like many people, I'm a huge fan of crème brulée. What's not to love about luxurious amounts of whipping cream, eggs and burnt sugar? Back when I was a moderator over on the Knot's Food and Cakes board, we often talked about gluten-free cake alternatives for brides and grooms, and crème brulée was a really popular choice.

I mean, come on, replacing the cutting of the cake with the cracking of the brulée? Pure genius, in my opinion.

So, when breakfast rolled around today, and I was fixated with dessert possibilities (it's been a rough week at work - stress makes me crave sugar), I decided to throw the two ideas together. Why not do baked oats and top them with a burnt sugar crust?

There were no good reasons to avoid this.

Bacon is always an appropriate accompaniment.

The taste and texture of this dish reminds me of bread pudding - except this is way heartier and healthier for you.

Baked Oats Brulée


2 cups soy or cow's milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 dried peach halves, finely chopped
¼ cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
½ - 1 tbsp butter (optional)
2 tbsp brown sugar (approx)


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Spray a 9"x5" loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Bring milk to a boil. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts and oats. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in dried fruit and maple syrup. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mixture is puffed slightly and all liquid has been absorbed.

3. If using, dot butter over top of oats. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and then place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, watching carefully, or until sugar has caramelized. Alternatively, break out the blow torch and fire the top as you would crème brulée.

Serves 4 with all those fantastic breakfast items, like coffee, mimosas, fresh fruit and bacon. These oats basically slice up too!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Caramelized Onion Galette with Sour Cream Pastry

There are a lot of things that I'm terrible at in the kitchen and pastry is resoundingly one of them. Pies are the bane of my existence.

In my defence, there are lots of things I'm good at too. Like dirtying too many pots.

Galette style pastry is far more up my alley. Its free form shape is forgiving to those with clumsy, rough hands such as myself. I've made many of these throughout the years, and always chalk the cracks and leaks up to the fact that it's supposed to be rustic.

That's what I tell people anyway. They seem to believe me.

Although, perhaps they won't now that I've confessed my secret.

... I probably should have thought this through.

I will admit, I love this galette. The sour cream makes the pastry fairly strong. The trade-off, of course, is less flakiness, but I'm just happy to have a dough I can work with. Plus, it's a tangy so it plays off the onions really well.

The directions look long, but this doesn't take a lot of effort to pull together, I promise.

Caramelized Onion Galette with Sour Cream Pastry



1 2/3 cup pastry flour (or all purpose if you don't mind a sturdier [read tougher] crust - it still tastes great)
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp chilled, cubed, unsalted butter
½ cup sour cream
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-3 tbsp ice water


1 tbsp olive oil
1½ lbs peeled and sliced sweet onion
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (I use Ewenity sheep's feta)
¼-½ cup shredded P'tit Basque sheep's cheese (or use a good melting cheese like gouda or fontina)
1 egg, lightly beaten.


For Dough

1. Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to combine. Pulse in butter until mixture is coarse. In a separate bowl, stir together sour cream and lemon juice. Add to food processor and pulse again, until mixture is just incorporated. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Pulse until mixture is moist and crumbly, but don't go so far as to let it form a ball.

2. Dump mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat gently into a 5" circle. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready for use, at least 20 minutes. (Now is the ideal time to start the filling.)

3. Slightly overlap two sheets of plastic wrap. Place dough circle on top and cover with two more sheets of overlapped plastic wrap. Roll the dough, still covered with plastic wrap, into a 12" circle. Place on baking sheet and put in the freezer for 5 minutes, or until plastic can easily be removed. Remove top sheet of wrap and place dough, wrap side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Remove remaining plastic wrap.

For Filling

1. Preheat oven to 425º.

2. In a large frying pan, heat oil over low heat. Add onions, thyme, salt and pepper and cook gently, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until caramelized. Remove from heat.

3. Sprinkle feta cheese over centre of pastry, leaving a 2 inch border around the outside. Top with onion mixture. Sprinkle P'tit Basque over top. Fold edges of pastry up to partially enclose the filling, pleating as you go. Brush pastry with egg. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

I highly recommend serving this with a tart salad, something with arugula and either a lemon vinaigrette or something with sherry vinegar.

I mixed 1 tbsp hazelnut oil, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard with a pinch each of sugar and kosher salt for an easy vinaigrette. With mixed bitter greens, toasted hazelnuts and more sheep's feta, the salad was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet galette.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Totally Awesome Sweet Potato Chips

I cannot claim responsibility for this brilliant recipe; I found it over on the blog Everyone Is Vegan via Taste T.O.'s weekly blogger round up. So, I guess you could say then, that the people over there found it.

Long story short: you can make awesome, crispy Terra Chip style chips in your oven.

I know, it seems impossible.

But, never question a girl whose favourite food is potato chips and who happens to have given them up for Lent. If there's an awesome substitute to be had, you'd better believe I'm having it. These are ah-may-zing. I've made two batches thus far and they're just... drool. My new favourite snack.

Once they're baked, I don't know how long they'll keep for, as we've never managed to keep them around for more than a few hours.

In fact, I only have pictures of the first batch, because the second one (yam with our favourite curry powder) got inhaled too quickly.

This batch was made with Korean sweet potatoes. They have a really interesting grain to them as they bake up.

Sweet Potato Chips

(from Everyone is Vegan)


1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
¼-½ tsp kosher salt
(optional: mix in ¼ tsp spicy curry powder with the salt)


1. Arrange racks in oven so that you have one in the bottom 1/3rd and one in the top 1/3rd. Preheat oven to 200º. Line two large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Use a mandoline to slice your potato lengthwise into long, thin strips. You want them to be about 1/16" thick. Resist the urge to make them too thin at the start, because as they cook, they'll lose their moisture and have the potential to become too thin and more like a wafer than the crunchy potato chip that you're after.

3. Toss with coconut oil and place strips on sheets. If you can avoid overlapping, awesome. If not, don't worry about it, you can fix that later. Sprinkle with salt (and seasoning if you're going that route).

4.Bake in oven for 3-4 hours or until totally dry and crispy. Don't be afraid to let them go even longer if they are even the slightest bit chewy. Turn (and separate) slices every hour or so to get even crisping.

5. Brag to your friends about your accomplishments.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quinoa with Artichokes and Parsley

Quinoa is one of those ingredients that I love a lot. Its texture never fails to keep me interested, and I love that it's high in protein.

It's a personal favourite for brown bagged lunches.

And when you throw in artichoke hearts, another of my favourite things, well, that's just awesome.

The whole recipe is brightened up by handfuls of parsley, some fresh lemon juice and zest.

Quinoa with Artichokes and Parsley

(from Cooking Light)


1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup quinoa, well rinsed (don't omit that step, it's an important one)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp kosher salt


1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté onions with thyme for 4-5 minutes or until softened. Stir in artichoke hearts, and sauté for about a minute or until warmed through. Mix in broth and quinoa, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until broth is completely absorbed.

2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Best served hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Asparagus with Satuéed GrapeTomatoes

The first asparagus of spring are always exciting to get on the table. In my last trip to the grocery store, I walked out with two pounds worth, and, in the end, they all went into making the same recipe (on two different nights).

This is one that will go into regular rotation here. And, over the next few weeks, I rather suspect a few more bunches of asparagus will find themselves going into this dish too.

The key here is to get some great, super sweet cherry or grape tomatoes. They'll play off the balsamic vinegar in the dish.

Also, if you can, get your hands on some sheep's milk feta. The original calls for goat's cheese, but I think the bright saltiness of a sheep's milk feta is far tastier than the earthy creaminess of soft goat's cheese. If you're in southern Ontario, I recommend getting your hands on some stuff from Ewenity. They're an awesome farm cooperative that produces all sorts of sheep's milk products.

Asparagus with Sautéed Tomatoes

(adapted from Cooking Light)


1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (you can use regular balsamic if that's what you have)
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


1. Cook asparagus in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes. You want the colour to be bright and the asparagus to be no more than tender-crisp.

2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add in tomatoes and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional 3 minutes

3. Arrange asparagus on serving platter, and top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and black pepper. Serve immediately.

It's supposed to serve 4. Phil and I may (or may not) have eaten it all.


We ate it all.

Friday, April 08, 2011

East Coast Donairs with Creamy Garlic Sauce

I think we have this recipe cut out from a St. John (NB) newspaper back from the 1980s. Actually, I'm positive about this.

If you haven't had a donair before, now is the time! Much like the much beloved 3 am party nosh that is the shawarma, the donair holds a similar place in the hearts and stomachs of Maritimers.

Seasoned meat.

Assorted toppings (tomatoes, raw onions, shredded lettuce, minced parsley and some tahini for me).

A tangy sweet and sour sauce laced with subtle garlic (definitely different than the garlic sauce I get on my shawarmas). It soaks the pita and will dribble down your arm if you add a little more milk than the proportions listed below call for.

Remember, you're not in it for the elegance. You're in it for the in-your-face awesome flavour.

It's what you're craving after one too many beers, or after a long week. Best of all, they're dead easy to make.

Turkey Donairs

(serves 8)


3 lb ground turkey
½ cup bread crumbs
1½ tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne
1 tsp each freshly ground pepper, salt and oregano
½ tsp celery salt


1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Mix together all ingredients until it forms a sticky (or gluey consistency). You may do this by hand if you don't mind getting messy, or in a food processor if you're picky about these things.

3. Shape into an oblong log and place on a broiler pan (or cast iron frying pan) and bake for about 1¼. Drain off any fat as it cooks.

If you're making this ahead of time, chill and then slice. It's so much neater if you do it this way! Just reheat the meat before serving with pita, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onion and Creamy Donair Sauce.

Creamy Garlic Donair Sauce


1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk (for real luxury, use whipping cream)
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp white vinegar


1. Whisk together sugar, milk and garlic powder. Gradually whisk in vinegar until mixture is thickened.

Tangy and delicious!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake with Pesto

Once the choice pieces of a roast are used up in salads or sandwiches, what's left often doesn't amount to much. The casserole has long been the go-to for the budget cook who has limited key ingredients and needs to stretch them as far as possible.

Heck, it's the go to for many who aren't budget cooks because they're easy and comforting. Really, it's a win-win situation for all parties concerned.

What I struggle with when I look for casserole recipes is the number that call for processed ingredients. I'll be honest, we don't keep cans of soup in our cupboards. So, I'm often left not having those ingredients that are deemed staples.

Thankfully, I remembered this recipe from Cooking Light from about a decade ago that had a homemade cheese sauce base! With the exception of the pesto I threw in, there's no processed ingredients here!

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake with Pesto

(inspired by an old recipe from Cooking Light)


1 head broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
3 cups (give or take) cubed roasted chicken
4 cups cooked pasta (about 8 oz uncooked)
½ yellow or red pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pesto, plus additional for serving
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 8"x8" casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. Steam broccoli florets briefly (4 minutes or so), or until vibrant green. Toss with chicken, pasta, pepper and basil.

3. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots and garlic for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle flour over top and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Grab a whisk, and begin to pour the milk in slooooowly, whisking constantly. Doing this will prevent lumps. Once all milk is incorporated, cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese and pesto. Let melt and then pour mixture over pasta-broccoli-chicken mixture. Toss to coat and place in casserole dish.

4. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with an additional dollop of pesto.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Easy Roast Chicken

By god, do I love a Sunday roast. There's just so much you can do with the leftovers during the week! Sunday is becoming, more and more, the day when we cook meat. We use up the remainder during the week for salads, sandwiches, other recipes, but ultimately, if we're going to eat meat during the week, it's because we did something with it on Sunday.

I guess that's indicative of our shift towards a more plant-grain based diet.

But, there's something about Sundays that call for a roast. Perhaps it's the free time, perhaps it's because that's always what my mother did. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to carry on doing things this way!

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Smoked Paprika

(adapted from Cooking Light)


1  roasting chicken
2  teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2  teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2  teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4  teaspoon kosher salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2  garlic cloves, minced
1  shallot, peeled and halved
½  lemon, quartered


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Rinse chicken under tap, then pat dry with paper towel. Carefully loosen the skin around the breast and legs by pushing fingers between skin and meat. You'll find it generally separates pretty easily.

2. In a small bowl, combine butter with next 7 ingredients (through garlic), blending to form a paste. Rub on both chicken meat under skin and on top of the skin itself. Try to get as much of the garlic under the skin as possible, so it doesn't burn.

3. Truss chicken. Place on a rack in a roasting pan (or do as I do and use a rack on a cast iron skillet) breast side up, and stuff cavity with shallot and lemon pieces. Cook at 350º for 45-60 minutes, or until temperature at thickest part of the thigh reads 158-160º (or so). Raise the heat to 450º and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until temperature of thigh reads 165º. Remove from pan and let stand 10 minutes before carving so that juices can redistribute.

You can drain off the fat from the pan and make gravy using the pan drippings. The flavours here make an especially delicious one. Any leftovers of the gravy could be used to make a totally excellent poutine.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Maple Sponge Pudding

When 100 Mile Locavore posted about her maple syrup haul, I suddenly got a huge hankering for some sweet Canada-in-Spring flavour. Truthfully, maple doesn't make it much past the pancake stage in our kitchen, except with occasional forays out as a sugar replacement (see Chocolate Cherry Cookies).

But maple syrup has just such an interesting flavour. I'm totally inspired by the father of a friend who makes his own in spring - it really had the most unique, smokey flavour that commercial maple syrup lacks.

It's all about that small batch character, you know?

Two years ago, I took a group of ESL students to a local conversation area that taps its trees in spring, and bought some Toronto maple syrup. I admit to wondering how much city pollution affected this particular batch, because it was nothing to write home about.

While I might be dreaming of acres of land replete with sugar maples, the reality is that I'm probably never going to make my own syrup.

I'm okay with that, really.

I'm a fundamentally lazy person.

For now, I'll settle for my jug o'syrup that sitting in the back of my fridge. There's a lot less syrup in there right now after I whipped up this recipe in about 10 minutes time.

You've gotta love last minute desserts.

This recipe comes via Adventures in Dinner, who was kind enough to give me her grandmother's scone recipe the other week. I tweaked it the tiniest bit, but it turned out totally beautifully.

Most importantly, filled with maple goodness. Unsweetened whipped cream is an absolutely necessary accompaniment here.

Maple Sponge Pudding

(from Adventures in Dinner)


4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1½ cups maple syrup (use grade B or lower for a darker, more intense maple flavour)
3/4 cup water


1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Beat together 2 tbsp butter with brown sugar and egg. Mix in vanilla extract, then stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Pour batter into the base of a 8"x8" pan, or a very deep pie dish. Place dish on a foil lined baking tray (you do not want to end up cleaning burned maple syrup off the bottom of your oven).

3. Bring maple syrup, remaining 2 tbsp butter and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over batter mixture and place into the oven. Let bake for 40-45 minutes, or until edges have caramelized and centre is set.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Your best bet is to accompany it with something not too sweet.  A lovely buttermilk sorbet would not go amiss here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Rhubarb Red Wine Sprtizer

Ahhh, I love those first flavours of spring! As we transition into warmer temperatures, I find myself using the old Le Crueset less and less, and craving bright, vibrant flavours more and more.

One of the ingredients that excites me the most is rhubarb. I love its tart, tangy flavour. I only had about a cups worth of stalks though, so I decided to put it to use in a drink.

That's not wrong of me to do on a Monday morning, is it?

I imagine serving this drink to friends on a patio while we enjoy the daffodils. I use the word imagine because we have no outdoor space of our own. What I would do for a bit of earth!

It's still delicious served inside your kitchen while you dance around to Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap.

Rhubarb Red Wine Spritzers


1 cup cut rhubarb stalks
2 heaping tbsp white sugar
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups fruity red wine
1 cup club soda


1. In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb stalks, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and let simmer until rhubarb is tender and falls apart. Add vanilla extract and puree.

2. In a non-reactive bowl, mix together rhubarb puree and red wine. Let sit on counter for 1-2 hours to let flavours meld together.

3. Halfway fill two glasses with ice cubes, divide wine-rhubarb mixture between the glasses and top with club soda as needed.

Serves two happy people.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

It's got all the ingredients of a healthy recipe!

Dark chocolate? Good for you in moderation (the whole recipe contains 2 oz)

Dried cherries? Fibre and antioxidants!

Oatmeal? Good for lowering the blood pressure.

Maple syrup? Lots of great nutrients.

The fact that it's a cookie? Well, that's just pure awesome. Truthfully, I was sold at the words chocolate and cherry.

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

(adapted from Cooking Light)


2/3 cup all purpose flour (you can replace this with whole wheat, if you prefer)
1½ cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
2 oz 70% dark chocolate (the better the quality, the less you need!), chopped into chunks


1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Once melted, remove from heat and add brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla extract.

4. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture. Using an electric mixture, beat until just combined. Add egg, beating again to combine. Stir in cherries and chocolate, mixing thoroughly.

5. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 11 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes (until just about set) before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 dozen!

I think it would be really tasty to replace the dried cherries with dried pineapple or mango or papaya and use white chocolate in place of the dark. Heck, a few chopped macadamia nuts wouldn't go amiss either!

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Do you make menus for the week? Or do you just play it by ear?

I tend to alternate back and forth, but this week, it's all about the list.

What are your plans for the week?

Friday, April 01, 2011

___insert hyperventalation here___

Holy cow, what a week! I spent all day today negotiating student conflict and drama (not the subject I teach but the kind that involves teenage angst), trying to track down some vandals (success!) and surviving post district review (I'll hold my tongue here).

Let's just say there were a few nights of take-out.

I'm very much looking forward to reacquainting myself with my kitchen. Take-out (especially the sushi) tends to mean no leftovers for lunch, and, I've gotta say, the soggy graham cracker, grapes and cheese (which dried out because I didn't wrap it properly) totally didn't cut it today.
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