Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Caramelized Chicken Stir-Fry

On the one hand, I feel like I should be apologizing for all these Gwyneth Paltrow based dishes. On the other, they've all turned out really well.

Stir-fries aren't a popular dish in our house on account of my husband not really being into them. But, I really like them, and I'm the cook, so sometimes he just has to put up with what I put on the table.

He went back for seconds, so that should tell you a little something about this recipe!

Now, Gwyneth brands this as "the best chicken stir-fry" and I don't know that I agree that it's the best, but it is very good. I'll give her that. I'll also give her that this recipe comes together about as quickly as your local Chinese take-out joint would take to deliver to your house.

You might as well just make it, if you ask me!

Chicken Stir Fry

(mildly adapted from My Father's Daughter)


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4" cubes
2 tbsp potato starch (you can use cornstarch instead)
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
6 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced ginger
4 green onions, minced
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Toss chicken cubes with potato starch and a healthy pinch of salt and a generous seasoning of pepper. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick wok. Add the garlic, ginger, green onions and chile flakes and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken cubes and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add in the vinegar and sugar and additional black pepper. Allow to boil for about 3 minutes, or until the sugar has really caramelized and the whole sauce is thick and sticky. Stir in the soy sauce, cook for an additional minute and then remove from heat. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.

Makes enough for 3-4, depending on their appetites.

We ate it with sticky rice with tossed with cooked kale and soy sauce.

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Favourite Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Most of us, at some point in have had an egg salad sandwich or a tuna salad sandwich or chicken salad. Now, I love a good tuna salad as much as the next person, but sometimes, you just want something with a little more oomph, and a little less slathered in mayo.

Enter Fresh's Chickpea Salad. Smashed chickpeas, carrots, celery, green onions and dill pickle... it's got all the right stuff going on. Pumped up with dijon mustard and honey and a mere tablespoon of mayonnaise (I've recently swapped this out for vegenaise because the latter just tastes SO much better), this is a friendly riff off of a classic comfort food.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich with Avocado and Pea Sprouts

Chickpea Salad 

(from Fresh at Home)


1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 green onion, minced
1 large dill pickle, minced
1½ tbsp dijon mustard
½ tbsp honey (or agave)
1 tbsp vegenaise/mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
kosher salt and pepper to taste


1. Break up chickpeas in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Alternatively, you can mash them with a potato masher.

2. In a large bowl, mix together chickpeas with remaining ingredients. Mixture will keep for 3 days in the fridge.

Makes enough for 6 sandwiches. I like topping mine with avocado, roasted red peppers and some alfalfa sprouts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Newest Pile of Cooking Related Reading Material

I've talked about my deep and abiding love of Coralie Bickford Smith's Penguin Classics Covers before. Last week, I got my first big shipment of one of her latest projects, Penguin's Great Food series.

The collection consists of different books about food. The only one I have read is Samuel Pepys' Joys of Excess, but the rest are all brand new to me.

Over the past couple of nights, I've tucked in to the The Elegant Economist (1845) by Eliza Acton and The Campaign for Domestic Happiness (1861) by Isabella Beeton, which not only includes recipes, but also tables detailing how much you should be paying your servants (Scullery Maid - £4-8 a year). She also writes on appropriate dress and behaviour of the for mistress of the house.

My favourite section detailed the social rules for paying visits of courtesy and friendship:

"These visits [those of courtesy] should be short, a stay of fifteen to twenty minutes being quite sufficient. A lady paying a visit may remove her boa or neckerchief; but neither her shawl nor bonnet.... In paying visits of friendship, it will not be so necessary to be guided by etiquette as in paying visits of ceremony; and if a lady be pressed by her friend to remove her shawl and bonnet, it can be done if it will not interfere with her subsequent arrangements"

"It is not advisable, at any time, to take favourite dogs into another lady's drawing-room, for many persons have an absolute dislike to such animals; and besides this, there is always a chance of a breakage of some article occurring, through their leaping and bounding here and there, sometimes very much to the fear and annoyance of the hostess. Her children, also... should not accompany a lady in making morning calls... The children can be taken in the vehicle and remain in it until the visit is over."

Personally, I find is especially hilarious that the bit about dogs is placed before the bit about children.

And that they are compared to the animal, and not vice versa.

They books are just lovely little snippets of different time-periods! I highly recommend picking the series up. I'm thinking of attempting to cook one recipe from each book (not all contain recipes) where possible...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Lightened Up Breakfast Poutine

One of my absolute favourite brunch places in Toronto is Fire on the East Side. They do this artery clogging but totally delicious breakfast poutine that features pulled pork, poached eggs, chipotle hollondaise sauce and mountains of home fries.

It's insane. And totally delicious. And a luxury, because eating that much egg and butter isn't good for anyone.

Around lunch time today I found myself thinking about that poutine. I really, really wanted a poached egg and more sweet potato fries. But, I also didn't want mountains of calories. We had kale in the crisper, Ewenity Sheep's Milk Feta and a ton of cremini mushrooms.

Slowly, a recipe began brewing in my head. I'd nix the sauce (hollondaise or otherwise) and top a bowl of sweet potato fries with some sautéed mushrooms and kale. In order to keep the flavour of luxury though, I made the sweet potato fries with white truffle oil and some truffle salt. This added a great depth of flavour.

Truffled Sweet Potato Fries topped with Kale, Mushrooms, Feta & Poached Eggs


1 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch kale, tough stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
1 oz feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

1 batch sweet potato fries, made with truffle oil (if possible)


1. Heat ½ tbsp oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add in kale and 1/3 cup of water, and let kale steam just until the water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from pan and set aside somewhere to keep warm.

2. Wipe out frying pan, return to heat and pour in remaining oil. Sauté mushrooms for 5-10 minutes, or until liquid is complete evaporated and mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

3. While the mushrooms are frying, heat 1" water in a small saucepan. Stir in 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp vinegar. Bring to a gentle simmer. A small stream of bubbles should just be breaking the surface. If you have an instant read thermometer, it should read about 200ºF. Crack egg into a small dish and gently slide egg from dish into simmering water. Cook, for approximately 3-5 minutes or until the white outside the yolk is just set. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon and set aside while you cook the next egg.

4. To assemble the poutine,  layer potatoes in two shallow bowls, sprinkling each bowl with a quarter of the feta. Top with kale and mushrooms, one poached egg on each dish and sprinkle with remaining feta.

An easy, lightened up breakfast luxury!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Love 'em? Me too. Nothing beats a crispy sweet potato fry. The problem with so many recipes is, because of the natural sugars inside that delicious spud, the outside burns before the potato cooks through.

Soggy sweet potato fries? Not lovable. Oh sure, I'll still eat them. But they don't make me jump for joy.

You could deep fry them. It's delicious, but certainly not as healthy.

So, you can imagine my joy when I pulled out these crunchy little babies:

Crispy, but not burned on the outside. Fluffy in the middle. My work here is done.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

(based on an Alton Brown recipe from Food & Whine)


1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tbsp all purpose flour (approx)
1 tbsp canola oil
 seasonings: sea salt, curry powder, smoked paprika... the choice is really up to you.


1. Preheat oven to 425º.

2. Cut the sweet potato into equally sized widths (I did about 3/8th of an inch square). If you have a mandoline, this is a great time to pull it out as it will allow you to cut the potato evenly.

3. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with egg white, then sprinkle with flour and toss again. You can add a little more flour if the mixture looks too runny, but try to avoid that if you can. Sprinkle with seasonings and toss a third time.

4. Drizzle a parchment lined baking sheet (or two) with oil, and place potatoes on sheet(s). Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, flipping half way through. If using more than one sheet, bake at the top and lower thirds of the oven, rotating halfway through when you flip the sweet potatoes over.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oprah's Lentil & Brown Rice Burgers

So, after a weekend of barbecued meat, my husband and I were both ready to get back on the whole grain/legume train. As much as I love the kimchi burgers (which I made again up at the cottage - this time with coarse ground chuck - amazing) and the Huli Huli Chicken, I'm seriously beginning to feel like having meat at every meal slows me down. Heck, even having it 4 nights in a row made me feel sluggish.

I'm guessing about the cause of the sluggishness. It might also be a bit of work burn out, lack of sleep, or general stress about the school year winding down. Perhaps it's unfair to blame the meat.

Whatever the case, veggies and legumes are what we're craving right now, so that's what we're eating. And, in honour of Oprah's last show yesterday, I made the Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers out of the June issue of O Magazine.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

Now, what's interesting about this recipe is that the lentils aren't actually cooked until you throw the patties into the frying pan. That lends a bit more texture to the burgers. My husband devoured two of these last night, they were that good!

Lentil & Brown Rice Burgers

(adapted from O Magazine)


½ cup mixed dried lentils (French, green, red, brown) or standard green lentils
3/4 lb mixed shiitake and cremini mushrooms, trimmed and roughly quartered
2½ tbsp canola oil, divided
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp miso
1½ tsp kosher salt, divided
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2½ cups cooked brown rice (I used brown basmati)
2 tbsp flaxseeds
2 tbsp toasted oat or wheat bran
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
3 scallions, minced

whole grain bread or buns
hamburger toppings (we used pea shoots, alfalfa & onion sprouts, romaine lettuce, dill pickle, roasted red pepper and vegenaise, ketchup and ballpark mustard)

if you're not going vegan for this, the magazine recommends sharp cheddar cheese for melting on top


1. Rinse and drain lentils. Place in a small bowl and cover with water. Let sit covered in the fridge overnight. Drain the lentils and pulse in a food processor until very finely chopped, but stopping short of forming a paste. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

2. Wipe the food processor clean and add mushrooms to the bowl. Pulse until very finely chopped. Heat 1½ tbsp oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms with soy sauce, miso and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper until liquid is evaporated. Add to bowl of lentils, along with all remaining ingredients (through scallions). Fold together until just combined. Divide into 6 balls and shape into patties, about 1" thick.

3. Working in batches, heat ½ tbsp oil over medium low in a pan. Add half of the patties and cook for about 5 minutes. Once a good crust has formed, gently flip patties over. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until golden. Place on a plate in a warm oven to keep hot. Repeat with remaining oil and patties.

4. Serve with whatever toppings make you happy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Cottage Recipe: Huli Huli Chicken

One of the things I miss about not being in a house with a yard is a barbecue. With hints of sun finally appearing after what feels like a month (or more) of rain, all I want is to be able to stand outside and cook my food.

On the second floor apartment without a balcony, this dream gets deferred until I'm at the cottage. Over the May long weekend, I knew there was no way I was going to let the throngs of mosquitoes that like to come out at the dinner hour keep me inside. And, as much as I hate applying DEET, sometimes, you've just got to make the hard choices.

I chose flank steak, burgers and Huli Huli Chicken. And, in spite of the DEET, I have at least 5 bites around my ankles.

But, I stand by my decision. The chicken was worth it.

 Huli Huli Chicken is one of those fantastic Hawaiian recipes that has about a million variations. The short? Barbecued chicken marinated with (amongst other things) pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. We chose to spice it up considerably with the sriracha.

Huli Huli Chicken

(adapted from Norah's Menus)


4 cups water
1 cup soy sauce (I like to use low sodium here)
½ tablespoon vegetable oil (you can use sesame if you like)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1" knob fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts

2/3 cup pineapple juice (the fresher, the better)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cup soy sauce
2 tbsp cup ketchup
2 tbsp cup rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1" knob ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoons sriracha

1 cup each applewood and hickory wood chips (soaked 30 minutes)


1. In a large, nonreactive dish, whisk together the marinade ingredients (water,  soy sauce, oil, ginger and garlic). Add chicken and marinate for at least an hour, but no more than 8. The chicken will be too salty if you let it sit for longer.

2. In a saucepan, stir together sauce ingredients (juice through sriracha). Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced to approximately ½ cup. This will take anywhere between 20-30 minutes. Set aside.

3. Using tinfoil to create foil packages for your wood chips. This step is essential in creating a smokey chicken. It really makes the dish. The size of the package doesn't really matter, so long as the wood is packed in nicely. Cut several slits in the top of the package so the smoke can escape.

4. Place foil package on bbq burners (Norah has great instructions if you're using other kinds of barbecues), and fire up the grill, with all elements on high. While the grill is heating up (and preferably before the wood is smoking), oil the grill. I find the easiest way to do this is to dip some paper towel in oil and use tongs to swab it across the grates.

5. Once wood packet is smoking, reduce elements to low on all sides and place chicken on grill. Move quickly, because you don't want the smoke to escape. You can discard the marinade at this point.

See that sweet smoke? Hello flavour country!
6. Depending on the thickness of your chicken (and your cut), grill for about 15 minutes (8 per side), or until internal temperature registers 165º. Resist the urge to peek at the chicken. You'll be paid off by flavour in the long run. Brush with sauce and let brown for 1-2 minutes extra. Serve with any extra sauce.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow's Vietnamese Prawn Sandwiches

I'm back from the cottage, covered with mosquito bites and carrying a couple extra pounds.

For the sake of my sanity, I'm going to choose to believe that some of that is muscle from the first kayak of the season.

More likely, some of it came from this:

For the record, I have no idea why the carrot is so neon. I forgot my camera at school, and used my mum's, which was an exercise in annoyance. It wouldn't let me adjust both the white balance AND shoot on macro.

So, just rest assured that the carrot was normal carrot coloured.

Vietnamese Shrimp Sandwiches

(from Gwyneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter)


1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp canola oil
½ tbsp toasted sesame seeds, ground
1 tsp peeled and finely chopped ginger
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
½ tsp coarse salt
½ tsp granulated sugar
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
½ cup mayonnaise (or do as Gwyneth does and use Vegenaise)
Sriracha to taste
juice of one lime
1 baguette
½ English cucumber, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
handful fresh cilantro
handful fresh basil


1. Put the shrimp in a small bowl and toss with soy sauce, oil, sesame seeds and ginger. Cover and set aside in the fridge to marinate for an hour. Meanwhile, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water.

2. To make pickles, combine carrots through vinegar in another bowl, cover and set aside for an hour. In a third bowl, combine mayonnaise and sriracha and lime juice. Cover and set aside (for an hour!).

3. Fire up the bbq. While it's heating, thread shrimp onto skewers. They'll be easier to manage if you use two skewers per set rather than one.

Grill for about 2 minutes a side, or until pink and no longer translucent. Cut into bite sized chunks.

Assemble sandwich as you see fit, layering carrots, cucumber, herbs, sriracha mayonnaise and shrimp.

Try not to eat the whole baguette.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Friday!

I'm especially happy because I'm on my way up to the cottage! We have a PA day today, and that means I get to do my marking wherever I want. The cottage it is.

The May long weekend means the following:

1) We have to put the dock in the water.

And by "we", I mean the guys of the street. I usually stay on the shore with Jenn and stay nice and dry. Sometimes I take pictures of people's dogs.

It's a thing.

Anyway, once we get the dock in the water, it's play time, which means I get to go out round the bend here:

and go check out my favourite little bay: Dirty Gut Bay. It's at least 6 kinds of awesome.

Of course, there's only one way to travel:

Kayak, my friends. Yes, it's a river, and yes, I know, ocean kayak. But, it works and I love it.

Last year, my cousin Catherine joined us and had an awesomely cute encounter with a younger guy down the street.

Although she got an invite over, we didn't... so she stayed behind and we played awesome board games instead.

Have you played Dread Pirate? It's a good time. Recommended, for SURE.

Anyway, I'll be back on Tuesday! Have a great weekend everyone.

Toasted Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies with White Chocolate

This summer, Phil and I are going on vacation in Hawaii - we'll be escaping on our own in Kauai for a bit before joining my parents at the condo they've rented in Kauai and then we're all going back to Maui.

I've been dreaming of this:

View to Kahului from the Waihe'e Ridge Trail

and this:

Eggs Benny /w Portugese Sausage and Coconut-Pineapple Pancakes at the Hula Grill Waikiki

And the trees at the Kahana Village (I took this picture from my seat at dinner the night before my husband and I were married:

Add caption
And most of all the water. God. I love the water.

Kahekili Beach, Maui
All the thinking and dreaming of my summer vacation has me salivating for island food. So, riffing off of the vegan brownie bites I did last week, I played around and came up with this recipe. The coconut oil just called for more coconuty goodness, you know?

Toasted Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies with White Chocolate


1 cup oatmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt (if you're feeling adventurous, replace the salt with 1½ tsp white miso! Inspiration here.)
1/3 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp coconut extract

¼ cup chopped toasted macadamia nuts
¼ cup toasted flaked coconut
¼ cup coarsely chopped white chocolate (use dried pineapple or mango if you want to make these vegan)


1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. In a large bowl, stir together first 6 ingredients (oatmeal through salt). In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients (milk through extracts). Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir, just to combine. Stir in chopped hazelnuts and coconut and white chocolate.

3. Divide batter into 20 balls (roll with your hands), and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1" apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Do not overcook these! You want them to be nice and chewy.

4. Remove from pan and let cool on rack. Keeps in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chickpea and Swiss Chard with Wheat Berries and Tahini-Lemon Dressing

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post from Cooking Light's facebook page that asked if people did a meatless Monday and, if they did, why they chosen to do it. After reading a lot of the responses (good for the environment, want to cut costs, have been vegetarian for years, their family will only allow them on meal a week that's meatless), I realized that our transition (and by our, I mean my husband and I) into more meatless meals has been less about making a conscious choice. Whenever we make vegetarian or vegan meals, I don't think "I'm going to have a vegetarian or vegan meal", I think "this looks good for dinner, I think I'll go with that".

We've just kind of naturally bent into it. When I think about it, I think this attitude (at least on my part) can be attributed to the parents of an ex of mine who were very much flexitarians. His mother was the first person to introduce me to the joys of eggplant, tomato and black olive stew (a recipe I've since lost, so if you ever read this Penny, I'd love to have it again!) about a decade ago. In their house, it wasn't about the fact that meat was missing from the table, it was about celebrating whatever was there.

And that's where the idea of Meatless Mondays doesn't work for me. There's this implication that some integral part of the meal is missing. I'd say, for us, there is no integral part of the meal. As long as there's protein in there, I don't care if it's black beans or flank steak. If it's prepared right and tastes good, I'm a happy camper. I just don't think we appreciate non-animal forms of protein enough, you know?

You're probably tired of hearing me ramble. Let's get to the point.

This recipe, like yesterday's, was born out of a need to empty out the cupboard and the laziness of avoiding the grocery store.

Chickpea and Swiss Chard with Wheat Berries and Tahini-Lemon Dressing

(adapted from Oh She Glows)


1 cup wheat berries
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups sliced washed swiss chard, stems separated from leaves
1 cup washed, stemed spinach leaves
Lemon-Tahini Dressing (recipe below)


1. Cook wheat berries in 4 cups water (the ratio for cooking wheat berries is 1:4) for 60-70 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic for 6-7 minutes, or until onion is tender and beginning to colour slightly.

3. Add cherry tomatoes and Swiss chard stems. Sauté for another 5-7 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst. Add Swiss chard and spinach leaves. Let cook for about 1 minute. Add in Lemon-Tahini Dressing and stir to coat. Mix in cooked, drained wheat berries and chickpeas.

Serves 5-6.

Lemon-Tahini Dressing


¼ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, bitter stem removed
juice of one lemon (about 1/3 cup)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
optional: grated Parmesan


1. Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

That was easy, wasn't it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicken Simmer with Spinach, Capers and Onions

Cleaning out the fridge is almost always an exercise in experimentation. This recipe was born out of the need to do something with some bone-in chicken thighs and some leftover pizza sauce (really just whole tomatoes and garlic simmered together).

A sort through the fridge revealed half a bag of spinach, half a sweet onion, a little leftover pesto and some capers. I opted to save the pesto for another day and came up with this little number.

Chicken Simmered with Spinach, Capers and Onions


Rub for Chicken

1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

1 lb bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 cup pasta/pizza sauce
½ cup full bodied red wine
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
4 cups fresh spinach, washed and torn into bite size pieces
3 oz spaghetti
¼ cup fresh basil
freshly grated Parmesan for serving


1. Combine all rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Rub all over chicken thighs.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken thighs, 2-3 minutes on each side. Don't worry about cooking all the way through, you just want to get a good colour going. Remove chicken from pan. Add in onion and sauté until translucent.

3. Pour in wine and deglaze the pan for about 30 seconds. You don't want it to all evaporate though. Stir in pasta sauce and capers. Return chicken to pan. Bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook, turning chicken once, for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked and tender.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a full boil and cook pasta, about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5. Remove chicken from pan and pull meat from bones, discarding fat and bones. Add spinach to skillet, cover and let cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Return chicken meat to pan. Toss to incorporate. Add in pasta and toss again.

Serve with basil and Parmesan and the rest of the bottle of wine. Makes enough for 2 for a rainy weekend dinner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cherry Coca-Cola Cupcakes

Last time I made cupcakes for our school's bake sale for Free the Children, I made Oreo cupcakes, and they were awesome.

This time, I decided to make Cherry Coca Cola Cupcakes. They feel totally retro - like something you might eat if you lived in Pleasantville. Can't you just see the cupcake all in black and white, except with the bright red cherry?

I won't lie to you guys, they're pretty tasty. And I'm a dedicated Coca-Cola hater... so you know they've got to be good.

Just like the last batch of cupcakes, these ones came courtesy of Annie's Eats. I made two batches and a few adjustments to the original recipe - mostly adjusting amount of cherries and the glaze proportions(Yes, there's a glaze under that pillow of whipped cream) and the method.

I think it would be fun to try a batch with Coke and a batch with Pepsi and see if there's a difference.

Cherry Coca-Cola Cupcakes

(from Annie's Eats)


1½ cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

3/4 cup Coca-Cola

½ cup buttermilk
¼ tsp maraschino cherry juice
2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
1 large egg

16 maraschino cherries (in juice/syrup, not candied), halved


1 cup icing sugar
¼ cup Coca Cola

To serve: whipped cream & maraschino cherry halves.


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour through salt. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, mix together buttermilk, Coca-Cola, cherry juice and vanilla.

3. Cream together butter and sugar (either using your stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand held mixer) until light and fluffy. Add in dry and wet ingredients, alternating between the two, beginning and ending with the dry (so, add ¼ of the dry ingredients followed by 1/3 of the wet).

4. Fill each muffin cup about ½ full. You will have batter left in the bowl. Place three maraschino cherry halves in the batter each muffin cup, pushing down slightly. Top with additional batter, until it reaches the 2/3 - 3/4 mark.

5. Bake in oven for 22 minutes. Cupcakes are done when tops spring back when touched lightly. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to rack to finish cooling.

6. While cupcakes are cooling, mix together the glaze ingredients. Pour 1 tbsp over each muffin, spreading to coat with the back of a spoon.

7. Just before serving, top with whipped cream and a cherry half.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An explosion of flowers

This week, the trees of Toronto have burst into bloom. On Monday night, I went to bed surrounded by bare trees. Tuesday morning, I awoke to this outside our carpark:

And then later in the week, my favourite plant, a little plum tree let its colours show. I just adore this tree - I've never seen plum blossoms like it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Bites

I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty much madly in love with this recipe. The best, best, BEST thing about batter without eggs in it is you don't have to have your Mum's voice in the back of your head going "there're raw eggs in that! Don't eat it!"

So, when it tastes awesome when cooked too, that's just a win-win.

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Bites

(adapted from Oh She Glows)


1 cup oatmeal
½ + 1/3 cup flour (either whole wheat or all purpose)
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp hazelnut butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)


1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. In a large bowl, stir together first 8 ingredients (oatmeal through salt). In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients (milk through extract). Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir, just to combine. Stir in chopped hazelnuts and dark chocolate.

3. Divide batter into 20 balls (roll with your hands), and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1" apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Do not overcook these! You want them to be nice and chewy.

4. Remove from pan and let cool on rack. Keeps in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Another Soba Bowl: Marinated Tofu, Mixed Greens and Cilantro-Cashew-Coconut Pesto

Over the last weekend, while doing our weekly clean, my husband and I finally put away our winter boots. April had been so cold and wet, I just kept holding off on putting away the boots, but it seems like now, maybe, just maybe it's time to pack it all away.

Yesterday's pesto got me thinking. Along with the winter boots, mitts and jackets, it also feels like it's time to put away the cast iron dutch oven and to get out the salad spinner.

It's spring and I feel like eating my weight in vegetables.

Also, I'm in a wedding this summer AND going back to Hawaii and a man wished me a happy mother's day as an expectant mother last Saturday, which tells me that the belly fat has got to go because I'm not even vaguely pregnant.

Not hot.

And, what better way of plowing through some delicious greens than doing that than another gigantic vegetable-noodle bowl?

Tamari Marinated Tofu

(from More.ca)


1 block tofu, cut horizontally into 8 pieces, each piece then cut diagonally into triangles.
3/4 cup tamari
½ cup apple cider vinegar (I love the Eden organics brand)
¼ cup water
1½ tsp canola oil


1. Mix together all liquid ingredients in a non-reactive container (I used a glass container with a lid), then layer in the tofu. Cover and refridgerate for at least 1 hour and up to 5 days. Obviously, the longer you let it sit, the more marinade the tofu will absorb.

2. Grill tofu for 1-2 minutes per side.

Easy as pie... erm... tofu.

I like this served with soba noodles that have been tossed with the Cilantro-Cashew-Coconut pesto, topped with steamed broccoli, rainbow chard, bok choi and bean sprouts. A tablespoon each of cashews and toasted pumpkin seeds pumps up the crunch.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cilantro-Cashew-Coconut Pesto

I don't think I should be calling this pesto at all, but to simply call it sauce seems to do it a disservice. I came up with this recipe as the companion to another of my Fresh inspired noodles bowls. It's bright and herbal, with lots of room for adaptation.

I wanted something slightly Thai inspired, but without the heat. This is creamy, smooth and would be so great as a counterpart to a spicy summer roll or dolloped on top of a curry for contrast. YUM.

Cilantro-Cashew-Coconut Pesto


2/3 cup dry roasted, unsalted cashews
½ cup light coconut milk
juice of one lime
1 large handul cilantro
1 large handful basil leaves
1 tbsp tamari (or Thai fish sauce, if you're not concerned about keeping it vegetarian)
¼ cup water

(suggested add ins: 1 garlic clove, a spoonful of green curry paste, minced lemongrass, minced serrano pepper if you want some heat)


1. Pulse all ingredients except water in a food processor until think. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time until mixture reaches desired consistency.

Now, that was easy, wasn't it? Serve with noodles, if you like.

The pesto on soba noodles. Yum!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hamburger Buns

After I'd gotten home from doing the grocery shopping yesterday, I'd realized I'd forgotten to pick up both the eggs (I had one) and butter required to make what look like the most amazing hamburger buns ever. Because, you know, I needed something awesome to go with last night's awesome burgers.

In spite of the fact that I had to go out again to Korea town to pick up some kimchee, I knew I wasn't going to be picking up the butter and eggs there. So, I had to throw out the old plan and come up with a new one.

Enter Epicurious. Of course, once finding a recipe that didn't have butter or eggs in it, I was hit with the challenge of milk. I only had 1% in the fridge and their recipe called for half and half AND 1 cup of whipping cream. While I'm sure the cream makes the buns insanely delicious, I'd prefer to spend my calories on the burger, you know?

This recipe takes a while, though most of that time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. Actual hands on time is about 15-20 minutes.

Hamburger Buns

(adapted and scaled down from Epicurious)


1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp warm water (105º-110º)
1¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp coarse salt


1. Warm milk either in a pot or in the microwave until just below simmering. Set aside and let cool to 105º-115º (any warmer and you'll kill the yeast).

2. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if you don't want to use a stand mixer), mix together the warm water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over top and let proof. Mixture will be bubbly. Add in flour, salt and warmed milk mixture, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary until the flour is all incorporated. Knead with dough hook for 6 minutes. The mixture will be sticky, and that's exactly what you want.

3. Set aside in a greased bowl (remember to turn dough to coat all over with grease), cover and let rise in a draft free place until doubled in bulk 1-2 hours.

4. Once doubled, punch dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll (lightly) with a rolling pin into a circle that's about ½" thick. Using a sharp 3-4" cookie cutter (you can use a glass, which is what I did, but you'll be forcing a seal on the edge of the buns that way and they won't rise as well as they could), cut out as many rounds as possible. Gather scraps and re-roll and cut out more rounds. Discard any excess dough after the re-rolling. Place dough rounds on 3" apart on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.

5. Loosely cover dough with plastic wrap that has been greased (the dough will still be sticky) and let rise again in a warm, draft free location for 2 hours.

6. Preheat oven to 375º, with racks in both upper and lower thirds of the oven. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the position of pans in the oven half way through. Buns are finished when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to racks to let cool completely.

Makes 9-12 buns, depending on the size of your cookie cutter!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Hamburgers with Spicy Kimchi Mayonnaise and Minted Slaw

Why have I not cooked out of the LCBO's magzine Food & Drink more often? Holy moly, there are some wicked recipes in there.

You know, the kind that make you go back for seconds, even though you're totally stuffed.

This is one such recipe.

I made 4 burgers and between my husband and myself we have no leftovers. I don't know if it was the Rowe Farms beef or the amazing slaw... whatever the case, I'm sad I didn't make a full recipe (one that serves 6), because, my god. I could SO go back for more.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, kimchi is a spicy Korean dish of fermented cabbage. It smells a little of old socks, in my humble opinion, but tastes amazing. I used to bbq it at yakiniku joints in Nakatsugawa.

For the record, these burgers call for a sturdy bun. I decided to make my own off an epicurious recipe that I'll be posting tomorrow.

Hamburgers with Kimchi Mayonnaise and Minted Slaw

(from LCBO Food & Drink Early Summer '11)



1 lb lean ground beef (preferably grass fed, free range, if you can get it)
½ tsp sriracha
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
salt and pepper to taste (I only added pepper as the soy sauce had plenty of salt)

Kimchi Mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped kimchi
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ tbsp lemon juice

Minted Slaw

1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
½ cup julienned cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped green onions (1 green onion)
2 tbsp slivered mint
½ tbsp rice vingear
½ tbsp canola oil
½ tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp grated ginger


1. Mix together burger ingredients in a large bowl. Divide into 4 and shape into 4 patties, each ½ inch thick. Set aside in fridge.

2. Stir together kimchi mayonnaise ingredients and set aside in fridge.

3. Heat a cast iron grill pan (or a bbq) over high heat. Grill burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve on sturdy burgers topped with mayonnaise and slaw.

3. Combine lettuce through mint in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar through ginger. Pour over lettuce mixture just before serving.

I've got to be honest, the May 2-4 weekend is coming up, and I think this is the perfect recipe to open cottage season!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

The funny thing about working with teenagers (especially that super awkward age that is 13-14) is you really get to see those parent-teen dynamics in action.

When we were in Ottawa over the Easter weekend, I picked up an old diary of mine (written back in '92-'93). Opened to a random page, I read about a fight I'd had with my mum. We used to have fights - and when I made her cry, I never felt like the victor. I felt like a gigantic loser who'd made their mother cry.

I still wasn't very good at apologizing.

I know, I know, way to open a tribute to my mother. What I'm trying to emphasize now though, is my Mum put up with a lot.

Frankly, I could understand if she'd voted me off the island.

I love my mother to the world's end. She was the one who took me to the library every week (sometimes more than once) and never once judged my reading choices (which was especially important when I started venturing into the romance section). She was the one who taught me that being smart was a label to be proud of. She was the one who taught me patience, how to take a deep breath and, how to let things go. She also has (though I think she doesn't know it herself) a wicked sense of humour, and if you make her laugh so hard that she cries, well, that's an accomplishment.

Mum and I at the Kona Village Luau
 I don't think I've ever been successful in that regard, but my husband and brother manage to get her a few times a year.

She also taught me how to clean my oven cleaned my oven because I didn't know how I had never bothered to learn. When I moved to Japan, I wanted nothing more than to talk about absolutely nothing with her. Every time I saw my family and had to say good-bye again, I cried, because I knew I would miss her.

As my husband and I start to think about having a family of our own someday, I'm completely overwhelmed by the burgeoning knowledge of really, really everything my Mum has done for me. The things mothers all over the world have done for their children.

Nothing I say or do can say enough thank yous. And, I wish I was in Ottawa to give her a hug and a kiss and to tell her in person how much I love her.

Failing that, all I can say is Happy Mother's Day, Mum! You're awesome.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli with Sesame Tossed Soba

The other night, my husband and I ate dinner at Fresh, a tasty vegetarian restaurant here in Toronto. The one at Spadina and Bloor is always packed, but turnover is fairly quick, and most of us in the waiting area weren't kept longer than 10 minutes. Truthfully, the last time I was there was more than two years ago, when I was in teacher's college.

My favourite things there? The fantastic smoothies (I'm such a sucker for smoothies), and the noodle bowls. I had the Green Goddess last night which consisted of a mountain of steamed bok choi, kale and broccoli on top of tahini dressed soba with barbecued tempeh. It's gorgeous.

Plus, last time, we're pretty sure we ate dinner beside Trish Stratus, of WWE wrestling fame (and a yoga studio).

So for dinner tonight, I decided to riff off of the Fresh dish.

invisible: soba noodles beneath the toppings

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli with Sesame Toasted Soba


1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
3 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1½ tsp sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1" piece ginger, peeled and minced
zest of one lemon
6 oz soba noodles
your favourite sesame dressing*
pickled ginger to top

* this is my favourite sesame dressing: Kewpie Deep Roasted Sesame


1. Preheat oven to 425º. In a large pot of boiling water, cook broccoli for 1 minute, or until bright green. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

2. In a large bowl, mix together dressing ingredients (vinegar through zest). Add two tablespoons sauce to broccoli, stir in shrimp and toss to coat. Dump mixture on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked and broccoli is slightly browned. Place cooked shrimp and broccoli into the dressing mixture and toss with red pepper.

3. While broccoli and shrimp are cooking, bring another pot of water to boil and cook the soba noodles for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water. Toss with sesame dressing and place soba in bowls. Top with broccoli, shrimp and pepper. Garnish with pickled ginger.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Husband's Favourite Curry Recipe

We got this recipe from the people who make Perfect Taste Curry Powder. Now, I don't usually go in for premade spice mixes, but we tried their stuff at a tasting at our local grocery store last year, and were blown away by depth of flavour of the spicy blend. Served with their caramelized onion chutney (which is the finest I have purchased to date), this really is a winner.

Plus, they work out of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which I think is all kinds of awesomely local.

The original recipe is significantly higher in oil, meat and sodium content, so I reduced all of them.

Ground Chicken Curry with Potatoes and Chickpeas

(adapted from Perfect Taste)


3 tbsp canola oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2" ginger, peeled and minced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tbsp mild curry paste
1 tbsp hot curry powder (preferably Perfect Taste)
1 lb ground chicken
1 28-oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 large waxy potato, peeled and diced
1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
1 palmful cilantro, chopped


1. Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown, add ginger and garlic and stir until just fragrant. Do NOT let it colour. Add in curry paste and powder. Mix well with onion mixture. Add meat and stir to break up large chunks. Let brown, and then add tomatoes with their juices, potato, chickpeas, salt and water. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes for a quick dinner, or 1 hour if you want something with more flavour.

Serve, sprinkled with cilantro, with basmati rice, chutney and naan. We find it makes between 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Darjeeling Chai Spiced Muffins with Pistachio and Vanilla

I love the rich, fragrant flavours of chai tea. Earlier this school year, I was drinking chai everyday - so much so that one of my new students (who'd just arrived from India) got his mother to make me a batch of "the real stuff" as he put it.

And, what's not to love about cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and ginger? These are flavours that warm the soul, I tell you. When it's a rainy, blah day, I see these flavours as a warm, cozy blanket.

So when Cooking Light's May issue arrived this week, showcasing not one but two chai infused recipes (muffins and cream pie), I knew I had to try at least one of the two out. But, because I was missing a few ingredients (namely, chai tea), I had to improvise.

I started by trying to infuse some milk with cinnamon, cardamon and cloves. Now, I don't know what went wrong with that train of thought, but the milk curdled on me while I was heating it. Twice (Once at the 120ºF mark and the second time at the 140ºF mark). It was very, very strange - especially because I've made many a batch of chai tea before. I cleaned the pot and all the tools I used for measuring and stirring between attempts, so if anyone can tell me what might have happened, I'd be forever in your debt.

In the end, I had to improvise, but the results were definitely worth it.

Darjeeling Chai Spiced Muffins with Pistachios and Vanilla

(adapted from Cooking Light)


7.9 oz all purpose flour (1 3/4 cup)
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cardamon
1 1" piece ginger, finely grated on a rasp
3 tsp loose darjeeling tea
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar)
¼ cup butter, melted
1½ tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup shelled dry roasted pistachios, chopped
½ cup icing sigar
1 tbsp water


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line a muffin tray with 12 muffin cup liners and spray the inside of liners with cooking spray, if desired.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour with next 8 ingredients (through tea). Make a well in the centre of the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, 1 tsp vanilla and egg. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir just until moist. Divide batter evenly between liners. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool for 5 minutes on a rack.

4. Combine remaining ½ tsp vanilla with icing sugar and water, stirring until smooth. Drizzle evenly over muffins. Serve with tea and let the rain fall outside the window.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Grissini Sticks with Asiago Dip

Two days late is better than never, right?

I love, love, love this recipe. I love that it took minutes to throw together. I love that the ingredient list is pretty straightforward, but most of all I love the combination of flavours.

Peppery arugula + fatty prosciutto + salty, garlicky asiago dip = pure bliss.

Prosciutto Wrapped Grissini with Asiago Dip

(from the LCBO)


12 grissini
6 slices prosciutto
1.5 cups fresh baby arugula


1 c. low-fat mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sour cream
1/4 c. grated asiago cheese
1 clove garlic, finely grated or chopped
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 scallion, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste


1.    Cut each prosciutto slice in two lengthwise.  Lay them end to end, and lightly cover with arugula leaves.

2.    Starting at the end closest to you, lay a grissino down sideways, with the tip resting on the prosciutto.  Using both hands, gently roll the grissino up and over the prosciutto, until the stick is completely covered.  Crimp at the end to secure.

3.    Stack of place in a tumbler and serve with chilled dipping sauce.

4.    In a medium bowl, add all ingredients and mix until evenly blended.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 12 with plenty of dip left over.
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