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Shamrock Smoothie

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Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

There is a certain fast food chain that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a suspicious green sludge dubbed the “Shamrock Shake”, while I admit to having consumed one or two in my reckless youth, I’m no longer foolish enough to put the 54 ingredients that add up to 820 calories of no-goodness into my body. Especially not when I’ve created a delicous and very healthy drink I’m calling the Shamrock Smoothie.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

I came up with this smoothie when my 10 year old, Young Fresh Chef, was getting bored with all my fruity smoothie combinations. I was looking through my baking cupboard trying to come up with something fresh when I spied raw cacao powder and mint extract. I am a big fan of mint and chocolate together so I knew I could make something wonderful.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette FindsI’ve been adding frozen baby spinach (the kind you buy fresh in the plastic tub) for over a year with my son’s knowledge and approval and when I recently tried frozen kale it got a thumbs up as well. I used frozen bananas as the only source of sweetness and almond milk to help it blend better, but the chocolate and mint are the real stars!

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When I tested this on the Young Fresh Chef he finished it down to the last drop and declared it his favourite smoothie ever. So it’s definitely a winner. He couldn’t taste the kale at all, when it’s frozen it pretty much disintegrates when blended. By using bananas that were left to ripen until they were super sweet and then broken into chunks and frozen it could satisfy any sugary craving. I use raw cacao powder to get all the antioxidants and minerals that are usually lost when cocoa beans are roasted. Cocoa powder would still work in a pinch for the flavour.

Shamrock Smoothie

After sucking back this smoothie I always have a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It’s a much better feeling than what you would get after a visit to your local heart attack shack and your body will thank you for years to come.

Recipe for Shamrock Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana (very ripe)

1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your preference)

2 handfuls of frozen kale (or frozen baby spinach or a combo)

2 drops of pure peppermint extract (or to taste, it’s powerful stuff!)

2 TBS chia gel (optional, I use 1 part chia to 6 parts water and keep the extra in the fridge for up to a week)

Method:

1. Blend all ingredients in a glass or mason jar with an immersion blender (or in a blender)

2. Enjoy!

Shamrock Smoothie  - Kitchenette FindsWhat are some other sweet ways you get your greens?

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Peanut Butter Cookie Cavalcade

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Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Twitter told me today that March 1st is Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, not to be confused with Peanut Butter Day on January 24th. I was planning on making Peanut Butter Cookies anyway, but I decided to include my social networks in the process. I instagrammed, tweeted and facebooked and probably made some people drool in the process. Here are the Instagram photos with the accompanying tweets followed by the normal recipe.

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies

makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soft butter

1/2 cup brown sugar – packed (I prefer light brown)

1/2 cup honey (the written recipe says 1/2 cup white sugar, but I always use honey)

1 egg

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla (or to taste)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2.Cream butter with sugar (and honey if using instead of 1/2 cup sugar).

3. Beat in egg, peanut butter, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

4. Add flour.

5. Roll about 1 Tablespoon of dough into balls with wet hands and place with lots of space between on a cookie sheet.

6. Press a wet fork gently in a cross pattern on the balls of dough.

7. Sprinkle with kosher salt (optional)

8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

What’s your favourite way to use peanut butter?

Bay Leaf Bonanza

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Kitchenette Finds Bay Laurel Leaf

My favourite part of our kitchen, since our renovation, is the shelf that cradles my collection of spices and herbs. I can travel the world just by inhaling the heady aromas enclosed in the purple apothecary jars that preserve the flavourful treasures within. I’d like to share some of these seasonings and why they make me so giddy!

My tasty collection

My tasty collection

The scent of Bay Leaf always takes me back to the California coast where groves of California Bay Laurel trees fill the air with a heady scent as the trees sway in the constant ocean breeze. My other strong scent associated memories of California are the night-blooming jasmine in Napa and the ever-present scent of Ranch Dressing in the capital city of garlic, Gilroy. While the leaves of the California Bay Laurel can be used for seasoning dishes, the more subtly flavoured Bay Laurel that is native to the Mediterranean is more commonly used in cooking and more widely available. There are also other varieties of Laurel trees outside of Europe that are used in local cuisines, including: Indian Bay Leaf, Indonesian Bay Leaf, West Indian Bay Leaf and Mexican Bay Leaf. Each has a different flavour profile, but they all have a similar appearance.

Bay Laurel Leaves

While dried Bay Leaf can be purchased at any grocery store, it’s always better to dry the fresh leaves yourself for maximum flavour. While I have never been lucky enough to have my own Bay Laurel, I have been the recipient of branches from generous friends and neighbours who have. My most recent bough was overflow from a bushel given to my mother. The fresh leaves are quite mild and need to be dried for several weeks to reach their full flavour capacity. I like to use the newly dried leaves as I find the flavour is more buttery and rich. In the photo below, the leaf on top is one from the branch above and the bottom leaf was purchased.

Bay Laurel Leaf

I use Bay Leaf in almost every soup and sauce that I make (including Cranberry Sauce), as it works well with most other spices and herbs adding a slightly floral complexity. I always use whole leaves and fish them out near the end as they are inedible unless ground to a fine powder. You can also place the smaller pieces in a tea ball or muslin bag, which can also be improvised with cheese cloth. As with many herbs and spices, bay leaves have long been used for their medicinal properties, but the leaves of the laurel tree are most often associated with the laurel wreaths worn by Olympians in Ancient Greece and victors of war in Ancient Rome. Bay Leaf is always a winner in my books and I will continue to rest on my laurels when I’m looking to create a more complex flavour.

Bay Laurel BranchWhat dishes just wouldn’t be the same without a hint of bay leaf?

Olive Greek Salad Dressing

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Cooks always start by mastering the Garde Manger station, our home kitchen is no exception. I started my son, Young Fresh Chef, on salads and appetizers. My mother, Momette, has always made salad dressings from scratch and I’ve continued the tradition. Years ago, when I was making a vinaigrette with my son, he couldn’t have been any older than 6, he asked why I didn’t add some of the olive juice from the bottle of Kalamata olives that I was using from the salad. I’d never considered adding the brine as an acidic element, so I splashed some into the dressing and it was fantastic!

Olive Salad Dressing Ingredients

Later, when we told his dad, Exec Chef about our latest creation there was a glint in his eye that a new menu item was about to appear at his restaurant. It was the first time that our son had inspired a dish and he was as proud as physically possible to be a part of the creative process.

Lately, I’ve been trying to healthify (this is now a word) our food at home and one way is by cooking with fats from whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) rather than using extracted fats (butter, oil, shortening, etc). When trying to make a new type of salad dressing, I thought back to the flavours that I loved to put together and, of course, I thought of the olive juice salad dressing. Why not use whole olives instead of olive oil?

I decided to go with a Greek flavour profile, based around Kalamata olives. So, I threw together some fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a bit of feta cheese, some Kalamata olives, salt and pepper in a little jar and blended it together with my immersion blender.

Blended Olive Salad DressingI topped a salad of romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot and celery with some of the dressing and I couldn’t believe the amazing olive and feta flavour that was delivered with every bite. Usually, when I add whole olives to a salad I try to space them out to get maximum enjoyment. With the blended olive dressing, I felt like every forkful was filled with salty tang of Greece.

Enjoying Olive Greek Dressing

Cranberry Craze

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When the leaves twist and turn and fall into colourful piles, waiting for boots to crunch their way through, it’s time to prepare for comfort food simmering on the stove. Years ago we started a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas that Young Fresh Chef and I make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. Mostly I do the prepping and cooking and he just lets me know when it is sweet enough. I had always been a fan of the canned variety, piling it on turkey sandwiches and maybe even eating a spoonful on the sly. 

But when you look at the ingredient list on the can it is short and sweet: CRANBERRIES, GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE, GLUCOSE, WATER. I knew I could do better. I researched recipes years ago and I took the bits and pieces that appealed to me and created my ultimate cranberry sauce! The least daunting of the traditional turkey accompaniments, it’s a great take along if you are invited to a holiday feast.

Living in the heart of B.C.’s cranberry country, I can usually buy cranberries in the Fall, fresh from the bog, at the local Farmers’ Market. They are also easy to find in the produce section in your grocery store this time of year. I usually pick up some extra to fill a vase or pile around a pillar candle for a centre-piece.

Once you have the cranberries, next come the seasonings, and while it is necessary to add some sweetener to balance out the pucker inducing tartness of the berries, you can also add some holiday spice to add layers of flavour. The key to keeping it on the savoury side instead of being jelly is bay leaf and white peppercorns. By placing the smaller spices in a tea ball (or a cheese cloth pouch) you don’t have to fish them out individually, or wonder where that last clove is hiding.

While cranberry sauce completes the holiday table and elevates turkey to a special occasion, it’s also great mixed in with yogurt and granola, slathered on a peanut butter sandwich or maybe just a straight spoonful or two!

Recipe for Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries

1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice

3/4 cup honey (or other sweetener to taste)

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

zest of 1 unsprayed/organic orange

3 whole cloves

4 white or black whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 piece of nutmeg seed (optional)

1 thread of mace (optional)

1 allspice berry (optional)

1 star anise pod (optional)

3 cardamom pods (optional)

1 piece crystallized ginger (optional)

salt to taste

Method:

1. Place small spices in a tea ball or make a cheesecloth pouch tied with string.

2. Place all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

4. Simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally (about 20-25 minutes).

5. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaves and spices.

6. Allow to cool, the sauce will thicken up even more.

7. Refrigerate sauce until cold.

8. Serve with turkey, or yogurt or swirl into muffin batter!

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Share your favourite homemade holiday tradition in the comments.

Cherry Pie Serenade

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Lattice-Top Pie Dough

Ingredients:

3 cups (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

7 Tablespoons  vegetable shortening, chilled

10 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

8-10 Tablespoons ice water

Method:

1. Blend the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add in the shortening and pulse until it has the texture of coarse sand (about 10 seconds). Space the butter pieces evenly on top of the mixture; pulse until the texture is that of coarse crumbs, with the butter bits no larger than pea size (about 10 1-second pulses). Transfer mixture to a medium size bowl.

2. Sprinkle 8 Tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Use a rubber spatula in a folding motion to combine. Press firmly down of the dough with the spatula until it sticks together, use the remaining 2 Tablespoons of ice water if needed. Divide the dough into two balls (16 oz and 14 oz) and flatten into discs (5 inches and 4 inches). Wrap separately in cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling out.

Lattice-Top Sour Cherry Pie

Ingredients:

1 recipe Lattice-Top Pie Dough

Flour for dusting the work surface

1/4 cup (1 oz) cornstarch

1 cup sugar (plus 1 Tablespoon for the top crust)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

drop of pure almond extract (or teaspoon of almond liqueur )

sour cherries (one tree full or about 6 cups, pitted)

Method:

1. Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit until malleable. Roll the larger disc to a 15 inch by 11 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, between two sheets of parchment paper then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet (you can reuse one of the parchment sheets to roll the bottom crust). Trim the long sides of the rectangle and then cut lengthwise into 8 strips (15 inches long by 1 1/4 inches wide). Place the baking sheet in the freezer until firm (about 30 minutes).

2. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a 12 inch circle. Transfer to a 9 inch pie plate. Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate and place in the freezer until firm (about 15 minutes).

3. Mix the cornstarch, sugar (adjust to taste), cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with the cherries and almond extract  (or almond liqueur).

4. Take the dough strips out of the freezer, if they are too stiff to be flexible, let them warm up just a bit. Weave the strips into a lattice top (Smitten Kitchen has a great MacPaint How To). Put back into the freezer until firm again (about 15 minutes)

5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and place a baking sheet on it (to catch any excess juices) and preheat to 500.

6. Take the dough covered pie plate from the freezer and fill with the cherry mixture. Remove the lattice top from the freezer and place on top of the filled pie crust. Trim the lattice scraps and fold the overhanging dough into a crimped pattern. Lightly brush the lattice with 1 Tablespoon water and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar.

7. Turn the oven down to 425 and place the pie on the baking sheet. Bake until the crust begins to brown (25 to 30 minutes). Rotate the pie and turn the oven to 375; continue baking until the crust is a deep golden brown and the cherry juices are bubbling up (25 to 30 minutes longer).

8. Cool the pie on a wire rack for a minimum of 2 hours before serving. Cut at least two slices before you try to remove one.

Photos: Macro Spring Produce

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