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Category Archives: Recipes

Video: Guacamole Giddiness

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I have not always been an avocado fan, in fact I would have to describe myself as anti-avocado in the past. My family would enjoy “alligator pears” with just a spoon and a smile while I gagged in the background. It was mostly a texture thing, I refused to eat salads that were slimed with ripe avocado or swampy looking guacamole. I started to tolerate small touches of avocado in sushi rolls, but only after scraping off any brown bits. After that slippery slope, I began sliding my tortilla chips into seven layer dip, trying to keep the green goo to a minimum. I finally leapt in and became an avocado convert after my talented husband, Exec Chef, made a chunky tomato heavy guacamole at home. I’d always known guacamole as greenish sludge that sat there limply until it turned brown and crusty. When I changed my perception and saw it more as a relative of salsa, which I eat by the sombrero full, it became a lot more appealing. Once that first batch ran out, I dared to make my own. I tweaked and seasoned until it tantalized my taste buds and then proceeded to demolish the entire bowl on my own. Since then I have hoarded avocados, impatiently waiting for them to ripen and then concocting bright fresh gloriously green guacamole!

Recipe: Chunky Guacamole

Serves: me

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados

1/2 small red onion

2 small tomatoes

2 limes (more if they are dry)

1 medium jalapeño

1/2 bunch of cilantro

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Cut the limes in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl.

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit. You can scoop out the flesh, but I like to peel them.

Chop up the avocado and add it to the lime juice.

Dice the tomatoes and mix with the avocados and lime juice.

Using a rubber glove (or a latex glove) on your non-knife holding hand, dice the jalapeño and add it to the bowl. Most of the heat is in the seeds, so leave some in if you like it spicy.

Finely dice the onion and toss it in the bowl.

Chop the cilantro roughly and add it to the bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Video: Roasted Cauliflower

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Apparently, I just can’t get enough cauliflower. I was seduced by the intense colour of this purple cauliflower at Thrifty Foods and I felt the need to document its journey from produce to dinner. It’s my first video ever, so forgive the roughness.
The best part of making this video was my 9 year old son, using this clip as his recipe, made me this for lunch during the BC Teachers’ Strike this week. The power of Youtube! There will be more videos to come, it was too much fun NOT to do again, so subscribe to my channel on YouTube to see what happens next.

Watch the clip and see the pretty curds above turn into the flavourful dish below.

I hope that the next time you find yourself in the produce section of your local grocer, you too find inspiration in the bounty presented that you must make room for in your basket.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Salad

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I don’t have a picture of the salad in question to show you, because it just keeps disappearing so quickly!

Have you ever just thrown some tasty ingredients together, making it up as you go, and somehow it turns into something so crazy delicious that you and everyone else can’t seem to get their fill? It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens. Instead of just recreating somebody else’s recipe, you have designed a dish of your own. I used to fool around with a Southwestern pasta salad with corn and chorizo and it was always pretty good. But, I’m trying to up my nutrients and dial back on the wheat, so I started playing around with it even further. In the fall, I subbed black quinoa for the pasta, added black beans for more fibre and went crazy with the veggies. My fellas went for seconds and made lots of happy sounds as they ate.

I ended up making an unseemly amount and took some of the overflow to work. I set it out at lunch time and invited everyone to dig in. Many of them hadn’t tried quinoa yet and displayed some reluctance to dive in. But, I persisted and after the first couple tried a bite it disappeared quickly. Almost every single person asked me for the recipe, but I didn’t really have one. It was just thrown together. I’d tell them a bunch of ingredients and then remember something else later and have to update them. Some of my coworkers even made their own versions at home! The highest of compliments.

When my husband, Exec Chef, came home that night he asked if there was any of the salad left and was disappointed when he found out that I’d taken it to work. For a guy who doesn’t do leftovers, this was pretty impressive. As autumn turned to winter and I couldn’t get any flavourful tomatoes or fresh corn, I took the salad in a new direction and switched in roasted root vegetables as a seasonal substitution. So, I present you with not one, but two recipes and there may be more versions to come!

 
Black Beauty Salad: Autumn Version
Dressing Ingredients:

juice of one lime (or maybe 2 if they are on the dry side)

splash of extra virgin olive oil

Tbs of dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dry black quinoa (or red quinoa or white quinoa)

2 chorizo sausage diced (Freybe makes a nice one)

1 can black beans or 1 cup dried black beans (rehydrated and cooked)

1 ear fresh corn sliced off (or 1 cup frozen)

2 medium tomatoes diced

1/2 bunch cilantro minced

1/2 cup black olives (sliced)

1/2 cucumber diced

1 red onion diced

2 green onions sliced

Method:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the quinoa, turn down to low and cover. Let it cook for 15 minutes, or just make extra when you have quinoa for breakfast.

Cook the chorizo on medium heat until the edges get dark and crispy.

Drain and rinse the beans. Toss the beans, corn and red onion in withe chorizo once it starts sizzling.

Let the quinoa and the chorizo mixture cool for a bit, so that they don’t cook the other ingredients. Then mix them all together and withe the dressing.

 
Black Beauty Salad: Winter Version

Dressing Ingredients:

juice of one lime (or maybe 2 if they are on the dry side)

splash of extra virgin olive oil

Tbs of Dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

1 medium parsnip diced

2 medium carrots diced

1 bell pepper diced (red, orange and yellow work better than green)

1 cup dry black quinoa (or red quinoa or white quinoa)

2 chorizo sausage diced (Freybe makes a nice one)

1 can black beans or 1 cup dried black beans (rehydrated and cooked)

1/2 bunch cilantro minced

1/2 cup black olives (sliced)

1 red onion diced

2 green onions sliced

Method:

Preheat oven to 400. Toss the parsnip, carrot and bell pepper with extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. Spread them out of a baking sheet and roast until golden (about 25-30 minutes)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the quinoa, turn down to low and cover. Let it cook for 15 minutes, or just make extra when you have quinoa for breakfast.

Cook the chorizo on medium heat until the edges get dark and crispy.

Drain and rinse the beans. Toss the beans and red onion in withe chorizo once it starts sizzling.

Then mix all the ingredients together and toss with the dressing.

Now, watch it disappear right before your very eyes.

Cauliflower Confluence

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We’ve all heard the phrase “great minds think alike”, well  it seems like a lot of online food-type people are thinking about cauliflower! Now, this could just be a case of new car syndrome, like when you or a friend gets a new car and you suddenly start noticing that same make and model wherever you go, or it could be because it’s in season. Cauliflower recently came back into my cooking repertoire in a big way, so maybe I’m just more likely to click on a cauliflower related link.

 Photo 2 - 2012-02-23
I was never a huge cauliflower fan growing up, but a while back I started adding it to curry dishes and I found that it readily absorbed the flavours of the sauce and the texture held up nicely, plus Young Fresh Chef would ask for seconds. Double yay, since cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable which is a code name for cancer fighting vegetables, in fact I’d say it’s something of a super food.

Photo 1 - 2012-02-23

Just to warn you, broccoli is a gateway veg, I started out roasting the green stuff after reading this one hungry night. Then with a desire for more, I turned up a recipe on epicurious that sounded too easy to not try. I did have to go out and buy cumin seed, but I’ve found lots of other uses for it.

One day my niece, Divette, came over for a visit with her new iPad. I was chopping up some cauliflower when Young Fresh Chef wandered into the kitchen with Divette in tow.

Divette: “Auntie, what are you doing?”

Kitchenette: “I’m making us a cauliflower snack.”

Young Fresh Chef: “My Mom makes GREAT cauliflower snack.”

When I talked to her mother later, I mentioned what a hit the roasted cauliflower was, she said that she’d already heard about the, “yummy white broccoli”!

Photo 3 - 2012-02-23

If you find or have any other cauliflower-centric recipes, share them in the comments!

More links:

10 Cauliflower Recipes from Canadian Living

Dinner with Julie: Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan Cheese

Quinoa Quandary

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The only difficult thing about having quinoa for breakfast, at least in our house, is deciding what to mix in with it. My son, Young Fresh Chef, would have straight up quinoa for breakfast everyday, but I am not a creature of flavour habit and I need to switch it up. I’ll usually make a big batch of neutral flavoured quinoa at the start of the week so I can get creative with the additions. While it cooks up in only 15 minutes, it’s even faster to just reheat it, which gives me more time to play around with the add ins.

Quinoa works well in savoury side dishes, but takes on sweet flavours just as well. This South American seed gives you the goods to get your day off to a promising start, packing a complete protein punch. It also delivers as a good source of dietary fiberand phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. So I always feel I’ve done well to send YFC off to school with a bowl or two in his poke-able belly.

The only caution that comes with quinoa is, “Beware the saponins!” This bitter coating protects the growing plants from hungry birds which makes means less pesticides are needed, so it’s easier to grow it organically. I would recommend buying quinoa has already been pre-rinsed for your laziness.

It’s pretty easy to find quinoa at the corner grocery store, as long as you bring your specs! My favourite source for white quinoa is Costco  where they carry Truroots  organic pre-rinsed quinoa. I like the white quinoa for breakfast, while I find the red and black varieties hold up a bit better in cold salads.

So, what do I like to use to jazz up my morning bowl of quinoa? First, I feel the need to gild the nutritional lily:

chia (either ground or in gel form)

flax (ground)

wheat germ

Then I pick a flavour combo:

-raspberry and unsweetened coconut

-apple or pear or whatever is in season with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, etc)

-blueberry and walnut

-dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, what have you) and almonds

And just a touch of sweetness:

Agave Nectar

Molasses (iron!)

Maple Syrup (manganese and zinc!)

Xylitol

-Brown Sugar (special occasions!)

As you can see, the variations are limited only by your imagination and your provisions! My top pick right now is raspberry and coconut with xylitol and just a splash of coconut milk. I use frozen berries, but I dream of when they will be back in season…

How do you like your greens? Crisp!

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I remember clearly my first taste of Coffee Crisp. I had one in my bag of Halloween loot many moons ago (pretty sure I went as a clown, can’t get much scarier than that!) and the first taste of bitter coffee was too much for my young palate, I spat the tiny half chewed treat into the trash, only to have my mouth then filled with the mochalicious aftertaste. I learned not to judge a food by its first flavour profile as there may be more, and better, to come.
When I first had kale, it was cooked by Momette without additional flavouring. I did not enjoy it, to say the least. But, when, as an adult, I bravely shared a spicy kale-centric dish at Vij’s restaurant with my husband, it was fantastic! I realized that kale was just a vessel and must be filled with flavour.

Kale has a ridiculous amount of nutrients and calorie for calorie is the best thing you can give your body! It’s a sturdy leafy green that can take the heat and soaks up flavour like a tasty sponge.

My new summertime favourite is when Exec Chef blanches kale, marinates it in lemon juice and garlic, then throws it on our charcoal grill. Seriously, I could eat it all day long. Smoky, sour, garlicky goodness that sticks to the ribs (and goes well with ribs!).

The blogosphere has been whispering in my ear about the amazing tastiness of kale chips/crisps. The words are compelling, but the images lean more toward the repellant. Dry green leaves covered in goop. I’ve been enjoying kale in soups, now that the grill has been put away for the season, and it was only a craving for chips of the potato variety that made me join the food focussed blogistas in their kale chip cult.

I had been resisting the urge to buy Honey Dijon Kettle Chips until one day the snack food satellites aligned in my local Save-On-Foods. Kettle Chips were on sale for 2 bags for $5, the racks were mostly empty and there wasn’t a single orange mustardy bag of goodness to be found. It was only when I was zipping back to the produce department to grab some purple yams (so pretty!) that my eyes landed on a single bag of potato-ey gold that had been abandoned by the newly installed self checkouts. I practically scaled the Mt. Everest of Lucky Charms boxes, shoving Lucky and his crusty “marshmallows” to the side, to rescue the lonely bag. It was obviously meant to be mine and I may have stroked it gently as I made my way to the register.

Once I had them in the kitchen, I decided to reverse engineer the tongue tantalizing taste and find a less nutritionally void vehicle to deliver dijon spiked sweetness to my pleasure centre. I mixed, tasted, mixed again and used the excuse of “research” and “comparative analysis” to stuff my face with the crispy taters. I used olive oil as a base with Keen’s mustard powder, one of my go to ingredients for all things savoury, providing the necessary tongue curling zing which was mellowed by Maille’s Dijon Originale and creamed honey. Apple cider vinegar provided a tangy kick, which was rounded out by onion and garlic powder. Tumeric added it’s sunny colour and an earthy sweetness that only needed the finish of salt and pepper to match the taste of the half-finished bag of inspiration.

I massaged by mustardy elixir with my tumeric toned hands into the waiting leaves of kale. The oven dried them to a crispy conclusion and it was time for the final comparison.

The translucent leaves shattered into delicate shards on my tongue and the flavour was almost exact, there was just a subtle vegetal undertone that melded nicely with the mustard. They were a hit with Young Fresh Chef and he insisted on packing them in his school lunch for the next day. So, if you’ve been resisting the call of kale, give in!

Jicama Hi-jinks

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This is the vegetable that I like to make friends and coworkers try. People expect it to taste like raw potato and they are always pleasantly surprised by how crisp and refreshing it is. To me, the flavour is like fresh peas still in the pod. For others, they compare it to an unripe apple or pear.

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Usually, I just munch on it au natural (the jicama, not me), but I also like to squeeze some lime juice over it to give it a citrusy boost. Jicama is loaded with fibre, vitamin C and is a good source of folic acid (extra important for Mamas-to-be).

To add a little more complexity, I hit it with a dash of chili powder. That’s one way they serve it in South America. It would also be great in a salad to add some crunch or it can be cooked as well. Cooking brings out more of a water chestnut type flavour.

Look for jicama or yam bean root, as it’s sometimes labeled, in your local supermarket near the jalapeño peppers. Pick out a smaller one that feels heavy and has the nicest skin(but don’t eat the skin, it’s nasty). Keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic once it is cut or slice it all up and dip it in lemon water to keep it fresh. Just remember to share it, get your friends and family hooked on jicama!

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Caesar Seizure

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Caesar Seizure

When I met my husband, he was not yet the Executive Chef I know and love today. He was an apprentice line cook at a semi-veggie restaurant in our provincial capital. I loved taking my friends and family on Wednesday nights to sample his latest dish that he had created for their weekly appetizer special. My best gal, Lassette, STILL talks about the corn broth with cheese filled raviolis, even though it was over a (gulp) decade ago that she sampled it.

One of my favourite things about those days was when my boyfriend (tee hee) would call me at the end of his shift to see if he could bring me anything. Most nights I would reply with,”Oh, you know what I want, baby.” And he did, and he would deliver. He’d come home, I’d hear his key in the lock and cross the room to the door before he even had it open. I’d give him a kiss hello (if I remembered) and grab the bag from his hand. I’d already have our only mixing bowl out on the counter with utensils nearby. The first container held fresh, crisp romaine leaves that almost filled the bowl. Next, a smaller container chockfull of house made croutons, that started their life cycle as focaccia bread and then where blessed with copious quantities of garlic and olive oil. After that came the dressing (two containers if I was extra lucky), thick, creamy golden goodness to be scraped out over the leaves and croutons. Then I tossed it all together gently, to spread the dressing around in order to delicately coat each leaf and crispy cube of golden bread. Finally, the last container holding freshly grated Romano cheese was sprinkled over the slick surface.

Forgoing plates, and armed with forks, we’d take the single step to the couch and eat directly from the bowl. Those were the good old days, before we had a car, a kid or a clue. I think of those days fondly, and when I get to reminiscing, I am usually seized with a craving for that Caesar Salad of yore. Fortunately, the restaurant published a cookbook with their Caesar Salad dressing recipe. It’s pretty much the only way I can get my Chefs to eat salad without complaint (or conversation, we are all to busy enjoying). I usually add chicken to make it the full meal deal.

The croutons themselves are snacktastic. I don’t make them from focaccia, I use either sourdough (left over from making French Toast) or Italian (the bottom half only, the top gets used for garlic bread). I’ll freeze the cubed bread if I’m not using right away and let it fully thaw before letting them soak in olive oil flavoured with garlic, salt and pepper. I tend to snack on them while making the dressing, just the ugly ones of course.

I have the ingredients for the dressing memorized: roasted garlic, fresh garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, dijon mustard, capers, anchovies, salt and pepper. The roasted garlic is easy to do: cut off the tops of two whole heads, place it in the centre of a square of aluminum foil, douse it in olive oil and s&p liberally, pop it in the oven at 450 for 45 minutes (I love the symmetry of those numbers). I measure everything else by taste. Once the roasted garlic is ready it goes into the blender (well, right now I’ve been using my immersion blender, apparently I wore my pastel yellow Kitchenaid blender out). Half a lemon gets its juice squozen in (yes it’s a new word, feel free to use it), one large, or two small sliced cloves of fresh garlic, a nice pile of parmesan falls gently from the grater, a squidge (second vocab word of the day) of dijon mustard, five or six capers,one single anchovy (oops, suddenly not vegetarian), a few grinds of pepper, a generous pinch of kosher salt and a splash of olive oil. Then the blending/tasting/blending/tasting begins! The quantities are never exact because the flavours change with the season, or the brand. Somtimes I use oil packed capers and anchovies, sometimes salt packed. This changes the intensity of the flavour and the impact to the dressing. Lemons can be sweeter or drier, garlic can be subtle or strong. This is where the tasting comes in.

Once the first round of all the ingredients are in and all blended together, a tiny spoon drops a taste on your tongue. Whatever ingredient you can taste individually doesn’t need to be increased. So, just keep adding more of everything you don’t taste until it’s a beautifully balanced blend of all the players. The best way to tell when you’re done is when you just start eating, rather than tasting, the dressing (you just may be too hungry to care, but that’s fine). Leftover dressing makes a great dip for carrot sticks or croutons the next day. Just kidding about the croutons, they wouldn’t last more than a day around my house!

Radioactive Blackberry Crisp!

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Radioactive Raspberry CrispAhhh… the joys of a fruit crisp. The easiest way to turn excess fruit into a baked dessert that fills your kitchen with the aroma of fruit and spices. This crisp started with a stroll through our neighbourhood, only a block away from home Young Fresh Chef and I found a blackberry bush just begging to be unburdened of its bounty. I came back later and filled a container with berries, the squishiest ones somehow ended up in my mouth.

I always seem to end up with new combinations of fruits for my crisps. I ransacked by fruit bowl and found some plums that would balance the ripe berries quite nicely with their firmer texture. I knew they didn’t have a lot of flavour, but the berries were meant to be the star anyway. I sliced up the plums and tossed them with white sugar and the juice of a lemon in a small ceramic baking dish.

Knowing that this crisp was intended for my darling Momette, who is on the nuttier side of the health food spectrum, I made the topping from whole wheat flour (no, it was not home ground, sorry Momette) and added walnuts, flax flour, wheat germ and hemp seeds. I stuck with my guns on the butter and brown sugar (I don’t dig on lethicin spread or stevia). For spices, I went with a healthy dose of cinnamon and a fine grating of a whole nutmeg. Whole is the way to go with nutmeg, since it keeps its flavour longer and it is loads of fun to grate. Plus, I save the end bits for spicing apple cider.

I picked up a container of Stonyfield Farm Gotta Have Vanilla Ice Cream, which even impressed my darling Executive Chef with its flavour and mouth feel. The crisp was welcomed at Momette’s and was a fitting tribute to the last days of summer.

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