Monday, November 22, 2010

Buckwheat Molasses Cookies

As the weather gets colder, I tend to spend more quality time with the oven - hey, it keeps the kitchen warm! And what better cookie for this colder weather than something spicy, like gingerbread or gingersnaps? Unfortunately, with my wheat sensitivity, ginger snaps are not an option but I've found some wheat-free ginger cookies recipes that I'm more than happy to try.

I found this recipe while searching for a buckwheat gingerbread cookie online. Why buckwheat? Well, as the blogger of Always in the Kitchen says, it does have a very strong taste. I love it in soba but not so much in baked goods. I bought a rather large bag of dark buckwheat a while ago, and it's been sitting in our pantry, waiting to be used. I can still detect buckwheat in the cookies, despite the spices, but I don't mind that at all.

I wouldn't suggest running out and buying buckwheat just for this particular recipe. I don't even know if I'd ever buy buckwheat flour again. I think I'll just stick with spelt and oat, as usual. I made gingerbread with spelt once, and they turned out nicely. Not as crunchy as wheat gingerbread, but still tasty.

The buckwheat cookies will be very soft and fragile when they first come out of the oven. They will be quite fudgey and almost raw-looking in the middle but they firm up once they are completely cooled.

I made a few changes from the original recipe, which will appear is italics in parenthesis.

Buckwheat Molasses Cookies (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)
adapted from Always in the Kitchen

1 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
(I used corn starch)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
(I used 1/2 brown sugar, 1/2 evaporated cane juice)
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, molasses, and sugar. Add egg and beat until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift buckwheat flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix to combine.

Add dry ingredients to wet, and using a large rubber spatula, fold.

Roll 1 tbsp of dough in hands, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 C for 10 minutes. Cookies will be very soft at first but will firm up after they cool.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jerk Chicken Chili-Soup in the Crockpot

This chili-soup, (I added the -soup part because I didn't add any cornstarch to thicken it. I don't mind it being soupy at all) is surprisingly warming on these chilly November days, considering Jerk is a Caribbean flavoring. The husband and I started taking off our sweatshirts as we tucked into this soup, as the chili-like flavors heated up our cores. The rich smell of cinnamon will fill your kitchen throughout the day, as this soup simmers away in the crockpot.

The soup looks watery at first, but once the chicken is shredded, it definitely thickens up. Because the chicken cooked in the crockpot, it comes apart very easily with a squish of the ladle. You could also take the chicken out and shred with 2 forks but I found that the chicken was falling apart so much as I tried to pick the pieces out, that I just stopped trying. I used water instead of chicken broth and I found the soup to be well-flavored. I've had a few over-salting incidents recently, so I decided with this one, to leave the salt out completely, and just add as much or as little salt as we like at the table.

I made some changes to this recipe to fit what I had in the kitchen. One major change is that I put a raw chicken breast and thigh in the crockpot. I know some people are hesitant to do this, as the chicken will stay at a low temperature for a long period of time. I'm not one to worry too much about that, so this truly is your judgment call. The original recipe suggests using a rotisserie chicken, shredded of its meat but I kind of thought it was a waste to go out and buy a rotisserie chicken, just to rip meat off of it and put it in a soup. I would have rather used the seasoned chicken to make sandwiches or Vietnamese-style salad rolls.

I also used 3 fresh tomatoes instead of a can of diced ones. I had three ripe ones sitting on the counter so that was a no-brainer. For the beans, I just used what I had in the pantry. I've added my changes in parenthesis.

We found this soup to be quite mild. It could definitely be kicked up with cayenne or more jalapenos! It's the perfect winter dish, which will definitely be made again!!

Jerk Chicken Chili (Soup in the Crockpot)
4-6 servings
source: Pam Anderson, Perfect One-Dish Dinners

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (I used green)
3 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 large rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 6 cups) (I used 1 breast and 1 thigh)
4 cups chicken broth (I used water)
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (I used 3 fresh medium-sized tomatoes)
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) small white beans, drained (I used kidney beans)
2 tbsp chopped pickled jalapenos (I used 1/4 of a fresh one, some seeds included with a tbsp of vinegar)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 oz semisweet chocolate (I used dairy-free)
2 tbsp cornmeal or 3 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water (optional for thickening) (I omitted)

Here are Pam Anderson's directions:

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add chili powder, thyme, cinnamon, and allspice. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add chicken and stir to coat with spices. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, and jalapenos, bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce heat, and simmer to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.
5. Stir in garlic, cilantro, chocolate, and either cornmeal or cornstarch/water slurry if desired. If you add the cornstarch slurry, bring the heat up to medium-high and allow the chili to thicken. Turn off the heat and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Here are my directions: 1. Add all ingredients except the chocolate and cilantro to the crockpot. Stir well and set to low and cook for 7 hours. 2. After 7 hours, add chocolate and stir to make sure it has all melted. 3. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quebec City Restaurant: le Saint-Amour

Restaurant le Saint-Amour is a pretty fancy restaurant by night (Sir Paul McCartney dined there!), but for lunch simpletons like me and the husband can dine for about $20 each. The focus is on creative, innovative cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. Lucky for them (an those who dine there) Quebec is full of wonderful vegetable farms, animal farms, dairy farms and other local terroir. I would love to try the inspiration menu or the discovery menu sometime!

The lunch menu is a 3-course meal, with coffee or tea. I can't remember what the husband started with, but it was red quinoa, with some chopped vegetables. I remember it was a clean tasting dish, perfect to whet the appetite for the richness of the main course!

I started with the aspargus and cheese melt, with candied tomato, and parma ham. This starter was quite rich because of the cheese, but if you love cheese then this would be perfect for you! Even though it was cheesy richness, it felt good to be getting some veggies!

The husband's main meal was veal with a port wine sauce. I can't remember if it came with rice or potatoes... one or the other... The husband made sure to save some bread to mop up some of that beautiful port wine sauce!

For my main, I chose the omelette. It, like the aspargus, came with a layer of melted cheese on it (but it was a different cheese). The eggs were fluffy and light (not dense and overcooked like the ones I make), and had a creaminess to them. It balanced very nicely with the melted cheese.

Now for dessert! I ordered a chocolate cake (with raspberry and mango sauce), and the husband ordered a blueberry creme brulee. I don't think I need to tell you how these tasted. Just look at them!

Quebec City Restaurant: Le Lapin Saute

This review comes over a month late, but I remember this meal as if it were yesterday! We read about this place in our guidebook, and it sounded delicious. I had never really had a piece of rabbit meat before, so I didn't really know what to expect. For those of you who can't bring yourselves to eat cute fluffy animals, there are other items on the menu like burgers and such.

The restaurant itself is very charming. The lovely summer weather allowed us to sit outside where little birds flitted around from tree to tree, and curious squirrels would scurry up and down tree trunks. Even though it's in the middle of a major pedestrian street, with people staring at you while you eat, it does have a "country" feel.
The husband (savoury pie lover that he is) ordered the rabbit pie. It came with a fruit ketchup that he devoured! He doesn't usually like fruit with his meals (like chutneys, etc) but something about that fruit ketchup made the rabbit pie even better!

I ordered the cassoulet. It came with rabbit leg (confit), bacon, and rabbit sausage. The rabbit leg was tender and the meat came away from the bone with a gentle tug of the fork. It kind of tastes like chicken, but is much more flavourful (like dark meat). I could taste more of a gamey-ness in the sausage, but the seasonings made it so hard for me to stop eating it!

We had a pretty boring breakfast that day of fake croissants and costco muffins, so this rich, satisfying lunch was just what we needed! If we are ever lucky enough to return to Quebec City, this restaurant will definitely be our first stop.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Masala Salmon

I'm a sucker for a good deal. Especially when it comes to food. I will buy 10 avocados when I only need 2, if it saves me a few measly cents. When I saw a whole, wild caught salmon at Uwajimaya for $4.99/pound, I knew I had to get it the whole thing. $25 for a five-pound fish! I knew it would make at least four meals for us. Fortunately, the fish monger cut it up into four large fillets. One fillet is enough for the husband and I, plus a bit leftover for his lunch.

I'm also a sucker for freezing food. As soon as I got home, those fillets were tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the freezer. I've used three out of four fillets so far. The first one was poached in a green curry and coconut milk sauce, the second one was baked after being marinated in a soy, garlic, ginger mixture. Although both of those were quite good, the third time was the charm. I got the idea from Route 79. I only ended up using half of the spice mixture, and I added some garlic ginger paste I made and keep in the freezer.

When it comes to salmon, I'm usually hesitant to use anything more than salt, pepper and lemon because salmon already packs enough flavour on its own. I'm usually afraid that using too many spices will cover up the awesome richness of the fish. Fortunately, these spices didn't overpower the salmon at all. The outside had a nice fragrant flavour, but the inside was still salmon-y, even though I let it sit in the marinade for about 2 hours.

Paired with brown rice and roasted green beans and broccoli, this made a great dinner for us. Route 79 pan-fried the salmon, but I baked mine in the oven at 475 F for 12 minutes.

Masala Salmon
from Route 79 (serves 2)


1 salmon fillet (about 1/4 of the salmon), cut into 4 pieces
oil to coat fillet and baking sheet
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garam masala
salt for seasoning the fish

Pat fillet dry with a paper towel. Season with salt. Place in a shallow dish (like a pyrex) and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle spices evenly over the fish (I only ended up using about half of the spice mix), and using your hands, flip the fish over and move around the dish so that the spices and oil create a paste and coat the fish evenly.

Place the pieces skin-side up in the marinade, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475 F. Place the fish pieces skin-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove fish from pan, and place on paper towels to absorb the oil.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thai-inspired Eggplant Stirfry

There is a seasonal eggplant dish I absolutely love at Mae Nam in Vancouver. On their menu, it says that the eggplant is fried with fermented bean paste (I'm assuming with something like miso). Doing a quick internet search didn't turn up anything, so I decided to give it a try using one of many recipes without the bean paste.

I had globe eggplants on hand. Some websites said globe eggplants would be fine in this dish, other said the skin would be too thick, or that the texture wouldn't be very good. I found that using globe eggplants didn't affect the texture much, but the skin was noticeable. The skin wasn't too hard or tough, but it was just... there. I definitely think I'll use the skinny eggplants next time.

The original recipe didn't call for ginger, but I added it in, and I think it gave the dish an extra something. I also added dried red chili flakes because I forgot to grab fresh chilies at the market earlier today.

I also added some fresh red bell pepper (it was starting to get a bit wrinkly) and some blanched green beans, too. The result was a fragrant dish that was slightly salty, zingy from the ginger, a little fiery from the chilies, and just overall tasty!

So here it is!

Eggplant Stirfry (Pud Makua Yow)
Adapted from

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch thai basil
1 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 asian eggplants
2 chili peppers

I added:
3/4 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
1 handful blanched green beans

Slice the eggplants into irregular shapes for easy turning in the pan. When it's sliced into a small disk, it tends to stick to the bottom of the pan and makes it difficult to flip or turn.

Chop garlic (and ginger, if using) and slice chili peppers. Pick the leaves from the stem of the Thai basil.

Heat a pan or wok over high or medium high. Add oil, chili peppers and garlic. Stir until the garlic turns golden brown. Add eggplant and stir to coat. Add 3/4 cup of water and cover the pan or wok with a lid. Keep the lid close until the eggplant is cooked. It should take about 5-7 minutes before the eggplant is done. The eggplant turns from white to translucent when it is done. Almost all of the water should have been evaporated at this point. If the eggplant is still not cooked, add a little bit more water and keep lid closed until the eggplant is ready. Add fish sauce and sugar and stir. Add Thai basil and quickly stir to heat the basil, so that it retains it color. Turn off heat immediately.

Serve hot with rice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Italian sausage, leek, and potato soup

This is one of those I-bought-more-veggies than-I-know-what-to-do-with meals. The one veggie I didn't know what to do with? Leeks. I'm not even sure which is the usable part. A lot of recipes say to chop off the dark green part, and then go on to tell you that they can be used for something else. Well, I ended up removing most of the green part. I chose to puree the soup with a hand blender, but if you chop the veggies smaller, it can be left unblended.

I think the sausage I used must've been pretty salty because I didn't need to season it much. Even though there is no milk or cream in this soup, it comes out very rich-tasting and creamy-feeling. I will definitely be making this again!

Makes 4 large bowls of thick soup.

2 tbsp of olive oil
Leeks, 3, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
3 italian sausage links, removed from casing
1 large yukon gold potato, peeled, rinsed and chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped
4 cups chicken stock

Heat the a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Heat up the olive oil, and add the sausages, crumbling with a wooden spoon as they cook. Once the sausages have cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the potatoes, leeks and cabbage and cook until all vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

If you are using a hand blender, turn off the heat, and puree the soup until it reaches the desired consistency. I left mine just a little chunky. Add the cooked sausage bits from before and stir. If you would like a thinner soup, add more chicken stock or water, and reheat before serving.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Montreal Restaurant: Joe Beef

This famous restaurant was a suggestion from my sister-in-law. She and her new husband (woohoo! Congrats, guys!!) were meeting up with us for a few days in Montreal so we decided to meet for dinner on 2 of the nights. Joe Beef was on night numero un.

As the name states, steaks are the specialty here, but there were several other surf or turf items like lamb, duck, pork, scallops, trout, and lobster just to name a few. Their entire menu is actually written on one of the walls, so if the place is packed, you might feel a bit awkward standing at the board (where several tables are lined up) reading off of the wall. Alternatively, if you are seated at the wall, you might have a bunch of open-mouthed diners staring over your head. Oh, and the menu is in French, but our server didn't seem to mind translating each item to us.

Our table had crispy pig's ear salad, beer cheese dip, and stuffed squid to start. Mains were, trout topped with crab cake mixture, seared scallops topped with pulled pork, gnocci, ribs, and a raw choux pastry, baked with lobster meat. I had the baked choux pastry. It was really, really salty. Tasty, but I could barely finish half of it because of the saltiness.

My favourite part of the meal was this drink! It's a just Caesar but look at all the goodies it comes with! It's pretty much an appetizer in itself!

I don't think I'd go to Joe Beef again. I loved the Caesar and some of the appetizers were delicious, but the mains all seemed too salty. The ribs were apparently delicious but since we don't eat beef, that's doesn't help us much. If you are a steak lover though, I think this could be the place for you!

Also, I don't want to ruin the experience so I won't post a picture of "it" but promise me if you go here, that you'll visit the bathroom?

Affordable Accomodation in Montreal

It sure didn't surprise me to see a 2-star hotel on Hotwire to be priced at over $100 a night, in high season as Montreal is one of the most exciting places to visit in Canada. Whether you're a fashionista, history buff, foodie, or whatever else piques your interest, this is a city that has something for everyone. The only thing that might turn you away, might be the extreme cold in wintertime.

What did surprise me, was seeing these apartments for rent! We stayed here twice during our trip (we went to Quebec City in between). We stayed here and here. We stayed on the 16th floor the first time, and on the 3rd floor the second time. The studio on the 16th floor obviously had a better view, but also had a kettle, and a lot of random cooking supplies and stuff like spices, S&P, etc. On the 3rd floor, our window looked onto the back of another apartment, so if you had to close the blinds or the curtains any time you wanted to change. Both units were equipped with (noisy) AC and a fan.

We also chose to rent an apartment rather than stay at a hotel, so that we could cook some of our own meals. We decided to try and have at least 1 or 2 meals a day at the apartment both to save money and to be healthy. Breakfast was usually the meal we chose to have at the apartment. We usually had oatmeal and fruit to start the day. We were planning to have some very rich meals during our stay, so we planned out a few "clean" meals of fresh veggies. Marché Jean-Talon was a great place to buy all kinds of produce and cheeses. It's worth it to do a bit of research beforehand to see which shops carry things like locally made cheeses, meats, etc.

The location of the Ste. Famille Street apartments were great, as they were just minutes from Boulevard Saint Laurent, Saint Catherine and Saint Denis. It's a bit of hike to the Old Port and the Old Town of Montreal, but unless it's the dead of winter or during a thunderstorm, it makes for a pleasant walk through Chinatown. Some areas seem a bit rough on they way, but with all the tourists you see walking with you to the Old Port, it's not scary at all.

I wouldn't hesitate to stay here, or at one of the other apartments for any future trips to Montreal. I wouldn't recommend it if you are looking for a romantic trip, like, say a honeymoon.

They also do a B&B. We did not see the B&B but the breakfast smelled pretty good!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread with Goat Cheese

I crumbled more goat cheese on top. Thank goodness to for big bulk logs of this stuff!

I had no idea what spoon bread was until I made this dish. The cookbook is got the recipe from, didn't have pictures so I really had to guess. It was the ingredients that made me want to try this one out.

Apparently, red-fleshed sweet-potatoes are mistakenly referred to, and labeled as yams. I went to the store and bought what was labeled as "sweet potatoes" but really what I should've bought were yams. No biggie, because it still turned out delicious!

Heidi Swanson's recipe calls for goat cheese (which I love!) and that is what appealed to at first glance. I loooooove how the cheese gets all creamy when baked. The tanginess of the cheese and the sweetness of the potatoes are a perfect balance. The recipe calls for shallots, which I don't use very often. I don't know if it's just the nature of shallots or if the particular shallots I bought were really strong tasting, but I found they added almost a pungent bitter, acidic taste. I would definitely replace this with onions, or just reduce the number of shallots in the future.

Melty goat cheese = good! Not-quite-set middle section = not good...
Next time, I shall use a larger casserole dish so the spoon bread will be thinner.

I baked mine for about 35 minutes but found the middle to be not quite set. The sides of the dish were perfect, and the goat cheese had browned beautifully, though.

Yellow sweet potatoes tasted fine for this spoon bread but I can see why this recipe would call for red ones. Next time, I will ignore the supermarket labels and buy the right potato!

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson


3 medium - large red-fleshed sweet potatoes, baked (labeled as "yams")
1/3 cup unsalted butter (I used olive oil)
4 large shallots, sliced into thin rings
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1/4 cup cornmeal, and 1/2 cup spelt flour)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
I cup boiling water
3 large eggs, beaten
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (omitted)

Preheat oven to 350F, position a rack in the middle of the oven, and grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Prick each sweet potato with a fork a few times, then wrap them in foil. Prick foiled potatoes, this time to let steam escape. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Cool until they can be handled, then use a big, wide spoon to scoop the flesh in to large bowl. Increase oven temp to 425F.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then stir in the shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are golden and the butter has browned, about 9 minutes.

Whisk or blend the goat cheese with a fork until fluffy and light; you may need to add 1 or 2 tbsp of water if the cheese is on the dry side. In a large bowl, combine the flour, onion powder, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Add a splash of the boiling water and stir to make a paste. Continue adding water a bit at a time until it is all incorporated, and don't worry if the batter is a bit lumpy. Add the sweet potatoes and mash. Stir in the sauteed shallots and all of the butter in the pan, then stir in the eggs in sections.

Put two-thirds of the potato mixture in the prepared casserole dish, and top with dollops of the whipped goat cheese. Finish with dollops of the remaining sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until goat cheese begins to colour and the potatoes have set.

Simple Spelt Bread - no wheat, no yeast!

I halved the recipe and baked it in a 9x5 pan, and it made a pretty flat loaf.

The availability of non-wheat flours has really improved over the years. I remember having a friend in high school who had a wheat allergy, and how she had to go to specialty stores just to get bread. Although I can easily buy wheat-free bread, the price is pretty steep. I don't know if making it yourself is that much cheaper but hey, at least it's fresh.

I like this recipe because there is no yeast, and you can use a more natural sweetener like molasses or honey, and best of all, it only calls for about a tablespoon for 2 loaves.

I do still long for wheat breads like baguette, foccacia, rolls, pizza dough and just plain ol' sandwich bread. Unfortunately, this spelt bread is nothing like any of them, but as long as I can't eat wheat, I don't really have a choice. I do however, think this bread tastes better than some of the stuff they sell in stores. I'm really glad I found this recipe by Jean Roberts.

Instead sesame seeds, I used millet, which you can see peeking out from the crack.

This loaf has a thick, hard crust, and the bread itself is quite dense. It was really hard for me to cut through but that seems to be the case with most wheat-free breads. I won't be able to use this bread to make sandwiches but I think I'll top it with stuff (pesto and chicken) and have it open-faced. Maybe sprinkle a little goat cheese on top and put it in the toaster? I'm curious to see how it would taste if I made french toast with it. Maybe the milk/egg mixture would soften the crust up a bit?

Super-thick, hard crust.

From Jean Roberts on All Recipes. (makes 2 loaves). I halved the recipe to make 1 loaf.


  • 8 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds (I used 1/4 millet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/4 cups milk (I used 2 1/8 cups soy milk)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the spelt flour, sesame seeds, salt, molasses, baking soda and milk until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Placing a tin of the same size over the top of the loaf while baking gives it a lovely crust.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Curried Carrot Soup

I looooove carrot soup! I've tinkered around with several different recipes, which sometimes had not-so-great results (too spicy, too bland, etc), but this recipe from Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast was very well balanced. I have to admit though, I did tinker with this recipe, too!

Instead of 2 pounds of carrots like the recipe calls for, I used about 1.5, and added 4 oven roasted roma tomatoes. I love the tangy flavour they add.

I didn't taste much curry in this soup. I didn't mind that, but I might add garam masala instead if I want more of a curry flavour. Who knows, maybe the tanginess of the tomatoes took away from it.

Source: Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast

2 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon curry powder
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
3 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (I used 1.5 pounds)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (omitted)
(I added 4 roasted roma tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep vegetables while oven preheats. Cut tomatoes in half, and scoop out seeds using a spoon. Arrange tomatoes on an olive-oil greased oven-proof dish. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large (4- to 5-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoons pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, and set the roasting pan aside.

Add the broth, carrots, and 3 cups water. Add some of the water to the pan used to roast the tomatoes, and scrape all those wonderful cooked-on bits, and pour in the saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth (I used a hand blender). Stir in lemon juice, and garnish with cilantro (if using).

Simple Grain-ola

For the past 2 years, I've replaced toast, bagels, and cereal with oatmeal. Oatmeal has been my breakfast almost everyday. There are days I love its simple taste, and others where it's the last thing I want to eat. The latter puts me at risk of stopping by a cafe on the way to work to grab a fatty muffin or worse.

I've often substituted cereal on those days but I really noticed the sugar content, and the price of so-called "healthy cereals" to be pretty high. Even if it uses cane sugar or some other natural sweetener, it's still sugar, and I'm not too crazy about having the first thing to enter my tummy be too sugary.

Enter Heidi Swanson's Grain-ola. It's simple, and with a slight tweak, I reduced the 3/4 cup of honey to 1 tablespoon, added a bit of maple syrup, and one grated apple. It just came out of the oven and it smells amazing. I couldn't resist and poured some cold soy milk over a bowl while it was still warm. Yum! The fragrant orange zest helps to make it seem sweeter than it actually is.

Oh, and I have a confession here... I don't like dried fruit. I'll eat it if it's already in something but it's not something I reach for. I don't know if it's the chewiness or the shrivelly factor but it just doesn't really appeal to me. Want to hear something worse? It's the unsulfured kind that just looks awful to me. Brown and wrinkly stuff? No thanks!

Back when I made my Homemade Oat Treats, I had to cut the dried fruit really small. I've left all the dried fruit out of this one (except for the coconut) so I can add fresh fruit if I want.
Makes about 10 cups!!

adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts, chopped into halves or quarters (I used almonds and pecans)
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups assorted unsulfured dired fruits (omitted)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
3/4 raw mild-flavoured honey (I used 1 tbsp of honey, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1 small, finely-grated Spartan apple
1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 300F and set aside 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, nuts, coconut, dried fruit (if using) and zest in a bowl. (Toss and use a sturdy spatula to make sure the zest is evenly distributed throughout the mix).

Heat the honey (maple syrup and grated apple if using) over low heat (until it bubbles slightly). Whisk to thoroughly combine, then pour over the oat mixture and stir until everything is well coated.

Divide the mixture between the baking sheets and spread into a thin layer. Bake stirring every 10 minutes for about *40 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*In my oven, the grain-ola started to brown after 30 so be sure to keep an eye on it.

Basic chicken stock

This recipe has become a major staple in my weekend cooking. Whenever my local supermarket has a special on skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, I stock up. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze then so I can just take one out the night before I'm planning on using it.

My reason for wanting to make my own is probably the same as everyone else's. I want to control the salt (and the type of salt), and the type of chicken that goes into the stock. Yes, I'm aware that I can just buy stock in a carton (and I sometimes do!) but when you make your own stock, you get the stock, and the chicken meat. Sometimes I use the chicken meat in whatever soup I'm making, and sometimes, I'll wrap and freeze it. Shredded chicken freezes pretty well!

This is what I use for a light chicken stock, as in, you probably wouldn't want to add any water to this when using it for another recipe.


Olive oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan)
1 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast, rinsed and seasoned with salt and pepper.
1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, scrubbed and cut into quarters
2 stalks of celery (or about 4-6 celery tops)

Heat a large saucepan or dutch oven over med-high heat. Make sure the pan is well-heated before adding the oil, otherwise your chicken will stick.

Place the chicken skin-side down, and cook for about 4 minutes (the skin will get brown and crispy, and the fat and flavour will render out). Using tongs, flip the chicken so it is skin-side up, and cook for another 4 minutes. You can also use the tongs to "press" the chicken on its side so skin/flesh on the side gets cooked (hey, more fat, more flavour!).

Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook for about 4 minutes, until onions slightly brown.
Pour 8 cups of water over the chicken, reduce heat to medium, cover, and bring to a simmer (about 30 minutes).

Remove chicken and cut through to see that it's cooked thoroughly. If it is, let it cool on a cutting board or plate. It not, return to pot and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Then remove again to see that it's cooked throroughly. Cool, and remove meat from bones, discarding the skin.

I like to let the stock simmer for another 30 minutes after the chicken has been removed.

Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables, and discard. Let the stock cool and skim off fat.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spinach, mushroom, and sundried tomato frittata with feta

If you're like me, you've got random bits of stuff sitting in your fridge, or else something just looks so pretty at the supermarket that you have to buy it.

Here's what I had:

A small chunk of feta
A huge jar (a la Costco) of sun dried tomatoes in oil
Extra firm tofu
Too many eggs

Here's the really pretty thing I just had to get at the supermarket:

A bunch of fresh spinach.

This bunch of spinach looked so clean, green an unbruised - all things that make me want to buy the bagged variety. It was also organic!

Serves 3-4 people.
Adapted from:

5 eggs
1/2 bunch of spinach - washed, dried, stems trimmed
4 large white mushrooms
1/4 block of tofu, patted dry with a paper towel and crumbled
2 tbsp of sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
3 tbsp of soy milk (or regular, of course)
Crumbled feta cheese (or any other cheese you have)

  1. Adjust top oven rack - with a skillet (ovenproof!) on it, you want the top of the skillet to be 4-6 inches from the broiler. Turn on broiler.
  2. Heat oven-proof skillet ( 10") on medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom and sides generously.
  3. Add any the tofu, mushrooms, spinach, and saute until spinach is wilted, and mushrooms are soft. Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes and continue to saute for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk eggs with 3 tbsp of soy milk. Add egg mixture to skillet.
  5. On medium heat, cook eggs for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom with a heat-resistant spatula. When eggs are mostly cooked but still very wet, stop stirring. You want to see cooked egg scattered throughout, but loose egg in between.
  6. Continue cooking on stove for another minute so underside sets.
  7. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Put skillet under broiler for 5 minutes. This may vary oven by oven so watch carefully while top browns.
  8. Remove skillet from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes to finish cooking in center.
  9. Cut in wedges and serve.

The salt from the sun dried tomatoes and the feta give the frittata a lot of flavour so go easy on any seasonings. I read somewhere that frittatas reheat well so I'll probable make this again to take for lunch with a side of steamed broccoli, and maybe some soup.

I made this with stuff I had kicking around in the fridge, but I'd love to make it again with other ingredients like pancetta or sausage, bell peppers, goat cheese, pesto, etc.