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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Easy Pork Tenderloin with Maple and Mustard

Pork really is the new chicken. Well, in my eyes anyways.

The great thing about pork is that, like chicken, it is so easy to cook and is not as heavy as red meat. It also goes very well with pretty much any flavor. This makes it a great alternative white meat to chicken, which we have all had a little too much of lately.

And sweetened and spiced up with a little Canadian maple syrup and some Dijon mustard? This is a dish that is hard to beat!

Easy Pork Tenderloin with Maple and Mustard
Adapted from recipe at
Serves 2

1 Pork Tenderloin (approx 450g), cut into 6 pieces
2 tbsp Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh Black Pepper
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion, cut in large dice
1 cup Vegetable Stock
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped

In a dish, mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge each of the pork slices in the flour mixture.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add the diced onion and sautée for about 2 minutes, until they just start to soften. Add the stock and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the maple syrup, both of the mustards, and the lemon juice and stir until combined.

Return the pork to the pan, cover, and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the pork is cooked. Sprinkle with parsley.

Great served with mashed potatoes or steamed rice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thumb Print Cookies

These are definitely some of my favorite childhood cookies. Okay, forget childhood, they are STILL my favorite cookies. They remind me of Christmas, when my mom would make batches and batches of all sorts of cookies. Then after Christmas, I would sneak down to the deep freeze, and search through all the tins of frozen leftover cookies to find these ones.

My mom always rolled them in sesame seeds rather than nuts like in most recipes. And she usually baked them with the jam, usually strawberry. In my version, I baked them without the jam, then filled them before serving. I did this mostly so that I could freeze the leftover cookies and fill them with whatever inspired me later. In fact, since the making of these cookies, I have filled them with mulberry jam, homemade strawberry jam and of course, Nutella!

Thumb Print Cookies
Recipe Adapted from
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
1/4 cup White Sugar
1 Large Egg, separated
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 cup Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1 cup Sesame Seeds, untoasted
1/2 cup Jam for filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat just until combined. If the batter is too soft to roll into balls, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Place the sesame seeds on a plate. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Taking one ball of dough at a time, dip first into the egg white and then lightly roll in the seeds. Place on the prepared baking sheet spacing about 1 inch. Using your thumb or end of a wooden spoon, make a indentation into the center of each cookie.

At this point, if you want to fill and bake with jam inside, you can. Otherwise, you can fill the centers with jam before serving. This is best if you want to store the cookies for more than a few days as the jam will soften the cookies over time. Bake for about 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Homemade Strawberry Jam

It’s really not that hard. Really! Don’t you believe me?

I completely understand that the idea of making jam is daunting. Especially after seeing people pull jars out of boiling pans of water with tongs and all this worry about food safety.

But I have found a solution. Make a small batch of this jam, put it in a jar in the fridge, and eat it all week. Then, do it again. It’s not hard. I promise.

Because, in this case, this isn’t an exercise in preserving fruit—it’s an exercise in soul therapy. The idea that every morning (or night) when you eat your toast with jam, that you are tasting your own sweet success. Oh, and did I mention you can eat this drizzled in yogurt or on sugar or shortbread cookies?

Plus, I made this jam super simple. It just uses fresh strawberries, sugar (and I might add here that I used MUCH less sugar than the normally recommended quantity which is equal to ½ of the amount of fruit you put in, which in this case would have been 350 grams!!!), and a little special touch…some lemon and lemon zest. What could be easier?

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Makes about 2 cups of Jam
750 grams Strawberries, washed with stems removed (make sure they are ripe)
100 grams White Sugar
Zest of ½ Lemon
Juice of ½ Lemon

Mash all ingredients together in a pot. Don't worry about the mixture being a little chunky! It will make nice fruit bits throughout the jam.
Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Put jam into clean jars and cool completely. Place lid on and place in the fridge. It’s that simple! Will keep for about 1 week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Easy Lamb Osso Buco

When you think of Ossobuco, you usually think of veal, but in this case, lamb is what the butcher had, so lamb is what I made. And it tasted good. So good that I think you should try it!

I guess it really depends what you have around. Since I am living in the Middle East at the moment, there is an abundance of lamb at a decent price. But try this recipe with whatever you have and let me know what you think!

I served my lamb with creamy polenta and the braising vegetables. Yep, you heard what I said. I served the braising vegetables. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it seems to be a habit when ossobucco is made to discard of the braising vegetables. I for one believe that these are the best tasting veggies around. They are tender, flavorful, and hey, it means you don’t need to make vegetables!

Lamb Osso Buco
Adapted from a recipe at
Serves 4

8 lamb shanks, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Flour
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 cups Carrots, coarsely chopped
3 cups Onions, coarsely chopped
4 Bay Leaves
1 stem Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1/4 cup Tomato Paste
1 1/2 cups Dry White Wine
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 Whole Cloves
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Place 1/4 flour in a dish. Pat the lamb shanks dry with a kitchen towel. Season each piece generously with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

Heat olive oil on stove in an oven proof dish. Place the lamb in the dish and sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove the lamb from the dish and set aside. In the same pan over high heat sauté carrots and onions and a large pinch of salt, until the vegetables start to soften (about 5 minutes). Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and tomato paste and let cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the white wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cloves, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of flour. Bring to a boil. Add the lamb shanks back into the dish, and set inside preheated oven.

Braise for about 2 hours, turning once during cooking, until lamb is tender.

When cooked, strain liquids and reserve vegetables. Place liquids in sauce pan and reduce for about 20-30 minutes until it thick and creamy. Place Osso Buco on a platter. Garnish with sauce and sprinkle with gremolata

For the Gremolata
1/2 cup Flat Leaf Parsley
2 tbsp Lemon Zest
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 Clove Garlic

Blend all ingredients together.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quick and Easy Chicken Curry

Sometimes, I think curry has a bad reputation. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the idea that all curry is mouth burning hot. Or that they need to cook for hours. Or maybe that curries will make you hug the porcelain pony all night. Or that curry is creamy and therefore can’t be healthy. Honestly, I don’t know what it is. I love curry.

For me, curries combine everything good into 1 dish. Sweet, spicy, acidic, earthy, creamy, fresh, hearty…

Yes, the list of ingredients can be daunting. But don’t let that put you off! If you actually read the list, you will find that many are simple pantry ingredients. As for the spices, once you have them in your cupboard, they become a part of your kitchen, and you will find that you have opened the door on a whole new world of flavor.
So, just open the door and give it a try...

Quick and Easy Chicken Curry
Serves 2

2 Whole Chicken Legs, cut into pieces (thigh and drum)
4 tbsp flour
3 tsp + 1 tsp Curry Powder
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Onion, diced
1 Green chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Fennel seeds
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
1 cup Plain yogurt
Handful of Fresh Cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Plain Steamed Rice for serving

Mix the flour and 3 tsp curry powder together in a bowl and turn the chicken pieces in it, until they are coated.

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and cook until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan.

In the same pan, add the garlic, onions and chili, and cook for about 2 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the cumin, fennel, bay leaves, 1 tsp curry powder, and the chili powder and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and then add them to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back into the saucepan, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

Serve with plain steamed rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Double Chocolate Oat Bars

Looking for a healthy breakfast or snack that your kids (or husband) will eat? Believe it or not, these double chocolate oat bars aren't as bad as they sound for you. Made with rolled oats and whole wheat flour, and with only 1/4 cup of sugar, they will make everyone happy.

Double Chocolate Oat Bars
Makes 1 dish 20 cm by 20 cm (8.5 inches square)
1 cup Rolled Oats (not quick cooking)

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate (70% coca0), chopped
1/2 cup Water, Ice Cold

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Butter a baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together oats, flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add the butter and cut in using a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the dark chocolate, then the water, until the mixture comes together into a ball. At this point, you can either roll out the dough using a rolling pin until it is the size of the dish then fit it in the buttered dish, or you can place the dough directly in the dish and push it out with your hands (the end result will be a little more rustic).

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chinese Noodle Soup with Sesame

I love noodles. Especially when they are drowning in a flavorful, Asian inspired broth.

They remind me of sitting in a busy noodle house in Chinatown somewhere with my family amongst tables and tables of other families rhythmically slurping noodles and taking quick spoonfuls of piping hot broth to wash them down.
Yup, you know what I am talking about. Plastic tables covered in droplets of broth, a plethora of white napkins littered on the table, and jars of hot chilis nestled between bottles of sauces, a pile of plastic chinese soup spoons and a cupful of ivory chopsticks. It's all so comforting.

That's why when it's chilly outside or I have a cold, I yearn for a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. It transports me back to that place, where I was elbow to elbow with members of my family, staring into a big bowl of soup and slurping away!

When I made this soup, I didn't have any chicken around, so I used 2 cans of drained tuna instead. This is not at all traditional, but it tasted good, so I added it to the recipe as an alternative to the chicken. Perhaps you could try using both also!

Chinese Noodle Soup with Sesame
Serves 4-6

2 cans Tuna, drained or 500 grams of Chicken Breast, thinly sliced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 tbsp Tahina (sesame paste)
2 tbsp Fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 1/2 cups Red Cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup Green Onions, sliced
1 Whole Green Chili, seeded and cut into 4 parts
2 liters Chicken Stock
500 grams Thai Noodles or Egg Noodles
1/2 + 1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped

In a bowl, mix together garlic, tahina, ginger, soy, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar. Add the tuna or chicken. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the cabbage, green onions, and chili and sautee until the cabbage starts to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the tuna/chicken mixture, and let cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the chicken stock and 1/2 cup of cilantro, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the chilis once the soup has finished cooking.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in boiling water as per the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

To serve, place some noodles in a bowl. Ladle over the hot soup and garnish with remaining cilantro leaves.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chili Dusted Steak Wraps with Red Cabbage Slaw

Sometimes, I just crave meat. Not that it's a bad thing. Although, I often hear that red meat is not good for my health, or that it will not digest well, sit in my stomach, and prevent me from sleeping. I am not sure if I believe any of this though. I think everything in moderation can be good for you, and this includes red meat.

However, just so you know, this recipe is not just about one big hunk of meat. It's also about the spices that are massaged into the meat and the veggies that accompany it. As I've said before, it is all about balance, and this quick meal will satisfy any meat craving in a healthy and balanced way.

But quick and healthy doesn't have to mean bland and boring! These steak wraps are packed with flavor and texture, and are so colorful that they don't need a fancy table set up to be an impressive meal for entertaining! And accompanied by the Perfect Margaritas makes this meal even better!

Chili Dusted Steak Wraps with Red Cabbage Slaw
Inspired by the Chili-Rubbed Steak Tacos recipe from “Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger”
Serves 2

For the Steak
400 grams Sirloin Steak, cut about 1 inch thick
1 tbsp Chili Powder
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

For the Slaw
3 cups Red Cabbage, shredded
1 Carrot, grated
1 Red Pepper, thinly sliced
1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Cucumber, halved and thinly sliced on bias
1/2 cup Chopped Cilantro

For the Dressing
Juice of 1 Lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 tbsp Grainy Dijon Mustard
1/8 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Plain Yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste

4 pieces of Wrap Bread (Flour tortillas, Corn Tortillas, Iranian or Arabic flat bread)

In a small bowl stir together chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Massage this spice rub on both sides of the steaks.

In a grill pan on high heat, grill the steaks for about 4 minutes on each side (medium rare). Remove from grill and let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small jar or reusable container with a lid, combine the lemon juice and zest, grainy dijon, olive oil, and yogurt. Put on the lid and shake well until the dressing is combined and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the slaw. Drizzle the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat.

To serve, slice the steak thinly and place on a serving plate. Serve with the slaw and some wrap bread. Or, if you want to wrap them for your guests, place some slaw in the centre of the wrap. Top with some thinly sliced steak. Roll, ensuring that you fold the bottom end in to avoid dripping. Enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Words cannot even begin to describe how I feel about this chicken.

I have to tell you though, my culinary day didn’t start very well. I had my heart set on making Ossobucco tonight (Italian braised veal shanks), but unfortunately, the availability of veal shanks at the butcher was enough of a problem that I needed to switch dinner plans. The last minute switch caused a need for a dish that was just as satisfying and meaty as Ossobucco, but easy enough that I didn’t have to feel defeated once again. That and the fact that I really didn’t feel like searching the market for a lot of ingredients.

So, I found this recipe for Giada’s Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette. Just the sound of it made my mouth water. Oh, and I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen already. A definite plus. So, I set out to make this chicken. I did alter the recipe slightly (added some Grainy Dijon and Lemon Zest in the marinade and reduced the oil), but overall, it remained the same.

And I was not disappointed. It was so easy and so delicious. In a way, it reminds me of my mom’s soy sauce chicken, with the sweetness and saltiness, and tartness all in one dish.

It was just so juicy and flavorful. Served with some simple steamed rice which soaked up all the sauce and the juices, it was what my husband called “the best chicken dish so far.”

And we both have Giada to thank for this one! It was so simple, so juicy, and just so amazing, just like she said it would be!

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from recipe by Giada De Laurentiis from her book “Everyday Italian
Serves 4

4 Whole Chicken Legs (drum &thigh)
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
3 tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 tbsp Grainy Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
Zest of 2 Lemons
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Fresh Black Pepper
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped for garnish

In a large bowl or a ziplock bag, whisk together the balsamic, mustards, lemon juice, half the lemon zest, garlic, olive, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour the chicken and marinade into a large baking dish. Roast for about 40-50 minutes, until the chicken cooked. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Pour the marinade from the baking dish into a sauce pan over medium heat and allow to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and garnish with reserved lemon zest and parsley.

I served this dish with plain steamed brown rice and it was delicious!