Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Orange Coconut Chocolate Bites

This one's for my sister. No dairy, no wheat, no nuts for her so this is what came to mind: zesty orange, balanced with rich coconut, coated in dark, dairy-free chocolate.

I forgot to toast the coconut. My sister she preferred it to be chewy but I think she was just trying to be nice.

I pressed these into a mini-cupcake tin lined with paper cupcake liners so my sister could easily eat them on the go. I think they would make great mounds or even rounds if you don't have mini-cupcake tins or liners.


Zest of 1 orange
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
100g good quality dark chocolate

Mix together the orange zest and coconut. In a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt dark chocolate.

When the chocolate is about 2/3 melted, remove from heat. Stir in the coconut and orange zest.

Spoon the mixture into mini-cupcake liners, or on top of parchment paper in mounds.

Dry for about 1 hour.

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

I read about these fantastic-looking treats on a chat forum and followed a link that took me to this blog. Giver's Log has a lot of beautiful, wonderful gift ideas. I'm really excited to give these hot chocolate sticks to people for the winter holidays. My mom and sister were really impressed with how they turned out.

I used old-fashioned hard plastic ice cube trays and had a hard time getting the chocolate out of them. If you twist the tray too soon, the chocolate will crack, and let's just say 2 of my chocolate cubes had to be sacrificed to the "greater good". I'll bet those new-fangled silicone ones would be much easier, plus they come in very fun shapes. Giver's Log featured ones made in a long stick mold which would be perfect!

I packaged mine in cellophane bags and filled the bag with abotu 10 mini marshmallows.

Be sure to use decent quality chocolate. I used Swiss dark chocolate, Belgian milk chocolate, and a very good white chocolate (Green & Black's).

I crushed some candy-canes to a peppermint hot chocolate, chopped up some candied ginger for a slightly spicy hot chocolate, and of course left some plain for the purists.

Here's what you'll need!
(I ended up with 12 cubes)

Heat proof glass bowl (like pyrex)
Medium sized saucepan that the bowl can sit on
Wooden stir sticks or spoons if you can find them.


300g of good quality chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
50g of good quality chocolate for dipping the cubes in (optional)
toppings, like crushed candy cane, chopped candied ginger, spices, etc. (optional)


  1. Chop chocolate into meltable pieces. Simmer a couple of inches of water in a pan and place glass bowl over the top to make a double boiler. Be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water beneath it. Be sure to check the waterto make sure it stays at a simmer. Dump chocolate into the clean, dry bowl and stir as the chocolate melts.
  2. Once the chocolate is 2/3 melted, with just some pieces of the chocolate unmelted, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until chocolate is fully melted.
  3. Add cocoa, sugar, and salt and continue to stir until combined.
  4. Lift the bowl off the pan and use a towel to dry off any drips of water. Using 2 spoons, spoon the chocolate into the ice cube tray (about 2 spoonfuls per cube)
  5. Tap the ice cube tray on the counter to make sure all the chocolate settles into the mold. Add a stir stick and you’re done. The stir stick should stay upright without any trouble.
Let the chocolate cool at room temperature for 3 or more hours. Resist the urge to poke or twist the ice tray!

To remove, wiggle the stir stick slightly and give a gentle tug. If it really seems stuck, jab a sharp paring knife between the chocolate and the mold wall.

I had air bubbles in some of mine so I melted white chocolate to dip the cubes in for a snow-topped look. You can place these in a tall mug, stick down (of course) for the the topping to dry.

To enjoy, stir 1 stick of chocolate in a cup of very hot milk.

Giver's Log attached lovely tags to the stir sticks. Great idea!

Leftover pantry/fridge/freezer stuff soup

On a rainy, windy Sunday, the last thing you want to do is go outside to buy groceries, holding your loaded shopping bag in one hand, an umbrella in the other, trying not to get rain in your face (yes, it was that kind of rain). Some stuff I had lying around: frozen ground turkey, dried black beans, dried chick peas, red curry paste, and fresh corn on the cob.

OK, I admit, this soup would require a bit of planning (maybe the morning of) but it's mostly stuff that you'd leave to soak and thaw. If you happened to have canned beans, this would be a lot easier since a lot of time goes into soaking and cooking the beans. I would not really expect anyone to go out and buy these ingredients just to make this soup. But, I hope you can see what I had in my kitchen to make a very filling soup for yourself.

So here it is:

Spicy Turkey Bean Soup

1/2 cup dried black beans (mine soaked for 4 hours)
1/2 cup dried chick peas (mine soaked for 4 hours)
1 pound ground turkey breast
1/2 large onion diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ginger root, peeled and minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off with a sharp knife
2 tbsp red curry paste
4 cups stock
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large pot, cover black beans and chick peas with water and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce to med-low and simmer, covered until the beans are soft. This took about 1-2 hours for me. I used this time to check my e-mail. Once the beans are soft, drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat oil, and saute onion, garlic, and ginger until softenend, about 5 minutes.
Add the curry paste and 1 cup of the stock, mixing well. Add carrots, celery, corn, and beans, and cover, cooking until carrots are somewhat tender.

Add remaining stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, and season with salt and pepper as desired (1/2 tsp each?)

You could also add 3 tbsp of fish sauce for more flavour.

Spicy Carrot and Lentil Curry Soup

A definite winter soup! Thick, hearty, warm-your-body goodness with vitamin A and protein! I chose to blend my soup with an immersion blender for a smoother soup. The problem with blending carrots and lentils is that they end up looking like barf. I took this soup to work a few times last week and got some curious stares. If you get queasy easily, maybe just chop everything up very fine and leave it unblended!

This would be delicious with some hot naan bread, or rice.

From Alive Magazine (November 2009 Issue)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 tbsp red curry paste
4 cups stock (veg or meat, your choice)
2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup dried split red lentils
1 cup frozen shelled edamame beans, thawed
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; saute for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally.

Stir in curry paste and 1 cup of the stock to blend. Add carrots and crushed red pepper. reduce heat to med-low . Cover and cook until carrots are crisply tender, about 5 minutes. Stir.

Add remaining stock, lentils, and edamame beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir in cilantro, salt, and pepper.

Spoon into individual serving bowls and garnish with additional cilantro and/or sour cream or plain yogurt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to incorporate a skin-on, bone-in chicken breast...

... into your soup! Skin-on, bone-in chicken is always cheaper at the supermarket. Maybe it's because they're sold by weight and so they work out how much the extra bone and skin would weigh? Or it's because they don't have to pay someone to skin and bone the chicken breast? Who knows... I've never tried to de-bone a raw chicken before but just imagine it's just much easier to do when it's cooked.

The idea behind this meal was to cook the chicken, get broth from the skin and bone, and then get the meat off the bone. It worked pretty well so I'll definitely do this again for other soups. Tonight's soup was:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Que Pasa tortilla chip bag
Yield: 4-6 generous servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (you can keep or discard the seeds depending on how hot you'd like it)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium tomato, chopped

6 cups water
1 can black refried beans
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
juice of 1 lime
1 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast

Heat a heavy bottomed, large soup pot on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, and place the chicken breast, skin side down. Sear for about 2 minutes, then flip and sear for an additional 2 minutes.
Add the onions, garlic, peppers, cumin, and coriander for 5 minutes. Stir to make sure the onions absorb the chicken-y goodness!
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken breast and place on a plate to cool.
Add refried beans (optional: for a smoother soup, use an immersion blender)
Once the chicken has cool, remove the skin and bone. Chop or shred chicken to desired thickness/size. Add the chicken back into the soup.
Add the cilantro and lime juice, and stir well. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serve with guacamole, tortilla chips and garnish with cheese and/or sour cream (if you eat dairy).

It was a pretty good soup with a decent amount of flavour. I think it could have been a little better if it had more chicken flavour. Maybe I'll use 3 cups water, and 3 cups chicken stock next time...

Crumbly Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

I'm probably missing some not-so-secret ingredient, but every time I make wheat-free cookies, they end up very crumbly. Like, every time I even touch them, they turn to 50% crumbs and 50% actual cookie. Well, if it's eating crumbly wheat-free cookies or no cookie at all, I can handle some crumbling. If you're lucky enough to be able to eat ice cream, the caramelized sugar, toasty oats and coconut crumbs would taste heavenly sprinkled on top of vanilla ice cream. Oh, how I miss dairy sometimes!

Crunchy, chewy, toasty bits...

My mother-in-law, J, sent me the recipe for these very fragrant, chewy but crispy cookies. I don't know where she got the recipe from, but I think it's from an Australian cookbook. J had mentioned that the first time she baked them, she didn't bake them for long enough and so she put them back in the oven the next day, and they were fine.

My problem was getting them off the cookie sheet. I greased the sheet, but did not flour it. Lesson learned. I'd be interested in making these into squares of some sort in the future... Maybe adding some more nuts and/or dried fruit?

The edges get nice and caramelized

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: approx 2 dozen

1 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, unsulfered coconut)
125g (4oz) butter (I used 1/4 cup vegan shortening and 1/4 cup coconut oil)
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I chopped some blanched, sliced almonds)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add beaten eggs and vanilla, beat well.
Stir in oats, nuts and toasted coconut.
Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture on to lightly greased and floured oven trays;
allow room for spreading. Bake in moderate oven 10 minutes; cool on trays.

I baked them at 350 C for 10 minutes, then lowered the temp to 325 C, rotated the pans and
baked for another 5 mins. That was probably not the best idea; I should have baked them
at 300 C for about 15-20 mins. Lesson for next time...