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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Linzertorte- Austrian Jam Tart

Most of my recipes for the holidays have some sort of family history. Either it's something my mom made when I was a child, or something that a relative would bring to the table every year.

The Linzertorte, however, is an exception. I have no idea when and why I started to make it, but I absolutely adore this dessert.

A Linzertorte is actually an Austrian dessert named after a city in Austria. It's a super easy tart to make because the pastry is pressed into the tart pan instead of rolled and the filling is jam. It's not too sweet but just sweet enough because of the jam, and the subtle spices, hint of lemon and nuttiness make it a perfect holiday dessert (or if you are my husband, you eat it for breakfast too!).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ginger Spice Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

A few years ago, my mom introduced me to these amazing Crisp Ginger Spice Cookies as an alternative to gingerbread cookies. They are crispy and delicious... kind of a cross between gingerbread men and gingersnap cookies. Ever since my mom discovered these, they have made a regular appearance in our Christmas cookie trays, and this year was no exception.

These cookies are really easy to make because they don't require rolling or cookie cutters. The dough is pressed into a loaf pan or rolled into logs and frozen. Then they are cut thin and baked.

When I arrived home this holiday season, I once again found myself enjoying these fantastic cookies. Then, it hit me.  The long, rectangular shape reminded me of something-- ice cream sandwiches!

So, I decided to turn these cookies into my favorite frozen dessert! I used white chocolate ice cream, but of course, you could use vanilla, peppermint or whatever kind of ice cream you prefer. In this case, I added the ice cream, squashed the 2 cookies together, and ate it, but you could also make the sandwiches and wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for a future frozen treat.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nanaimo Bars

Nothing says the holidays like Nanaimo bars. They are rich, creamy, nutty and the perfect after dinner treat. 

Nanaimo bars originated when a housewife submitted the recipe to a cookbook in the early 1950's. The bar was made in Nanaimo at many of the coffee shops and became very popular with tourists, who called it the Nanaimo bar.

How it became a Christmas tradition? I have no idea, but in our household, they always seem to appear around the holidays, when all of our favorite sweet treats find their way to the table. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mom's Best Hashbrown Casserole Recipe- Reinvented

My mom has a staple hashbrown casserole recipe. This delicious side dish finds its way onto every table when she is entertaining, and if it's not there, you can bet that someone will notice.

It's creamy, cheesy and yummy. Oh, and did I mention that it is the simplest side dish around? It is so easy to make and it's a definite crowd pleaser. Can't go wrong with that!

Well, today I decided to reinvent this famous side dish. I wanted to keep it just as yummy, but perhaps a little healthier. Maybe this version will make an appearance at our family dinners without any special occasion at hand!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nutella, Cranberry & Chocolate Cookies

With less than 1 month to go before Christmas, it is time to get baking!

I am usually a cookie traditionalist. I like my Christmas shortbread, thumbprint cookies and other classic Christmas cookies that my mom used to make at Christmas time. 

However, I always like to try something new as well and make new traditions. In this case, I was also looking for an easy drop cookie that could become a staple year round.

These fudgey, delicious Nutella cookies combine everything I like about Christmas (cranberries and nuts), with the creamy yummy spread we love.... Nutella. They are super simple to make and since they are drop cookies, you can put away the rolling pins, cookie presses and the like and easily make these cookies in an hour.

When they are warm, they are fudgey and delicious, and when they are room temperature, they are equally decadent. (oh, and they are delicious frozen too for those of you who LOVE frozen cookies like me!).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pulled Pork Quesadillas

A few months ago, I made Pulled Pork with Crispy Pork Crackling for the first time. Since then, I have made it on a number of occasions both when entertaining, and just for my husband and I to have for dinner.  And while pulled pork is incredibly delicious, it is also quite rich. So you can imagine, how much of that pulled pork we had left when it was just made for 2!

So, what I got into the habit of doing was pulling the pork, then putting it in tupperware containers and freezing it. I then pulled it out later for salads, sandwiches, and, my favorite, quesadillas.

I absolutely love quesadillas because they are quick and easy, but satisfy all those cravings for something warm, cheesy, flavourful and of course, easy to share. As long as you have the tortillas and some cheese, you can really put anything into them and they become great snack or a fast meal on the table.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Classic Christmas Shortbread

And so the Christmas baking begins! First on the list are classic Christmas shortbread. My mom made these every year and I love them!

So often, when Christmas comes rolling around, we seek out new and fun Christmas cookie recipes, but for me, there is something to be said about the classics.  It would be difficult for me to let a Christmas pass without these particular shortbread cookies.My mom used to make loads and store them in cookie tins sealed tight with wax paper in the freezer. Then, I would sneak down to the basement chest freezer and eat them, one by one. Yes, they taste fabulous right out of the freezer. They are crunchy, then just melt in your mouth! In fact, I prefer eating them out of the freezer than fresh!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Slow Cooked Short Ribs in Maple Stout

Meat on a bone...I don't care what anyone says, but meat cooked and eaten off the bone tastes better. Always. This applies to chicken, pork, beef, you name it. The flavour and moisture of the meat is just far superior.

Having said that, I have this ongoing fascination with short ribs. I see them all the time, and they have been on the "list of things to do" for ages. But, I have never gotten around to cooking them. That is, until now.

We were celebrating my brother in-laws successful completion of a real estate appraisal course. So, I figured, what better time than to cook some tasty meat that this occasion?

I found a recipe for slow cooked short ribs from the Canadian Living test kitchen that used Guinness. When I went to the liquor store, I found large bottles of local maple stout. First of all, you can't say no to supporting local business. Second, the sweetness and flavour of maple just sounded like it would be perfect for the short ribs. So, that's what I bought.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Indian Feast: Paneer, Pea & Eggplant Curry

There is something so comforting about Indian food. Especially when it's cold and rainy outside. The warmth of the spices and the heat from the chili just seem to sooth the soul.

This curry is quickly made even though the depth of flavours make it seem that it has cooked for hours. The added bonus is that Indian curries seem to benefit from a little age, so making it in advance or making extra to get you through the rainy weeks is well worth it!

This particular curry is vegetarian, and you do not miss the meat at all when you bite into the creamy Indian cheese (paneer). Heavy on taste, this Indian curry is a must have for those cold winter nights. Eat it over rice, with warm naan bread (or both!). I also served this with some Indian lentils.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cranberry Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Canadians face this question far before our American counterparts. But regardless of geography, the same question faces us all.... "It is Thanksgiving and I am invited for dinner. What should I bring?"

Normally, there are so many duplications of ingredients at a holiday event such as this. At a Thanksgiving gathering, this equates to all varieties of sweet potatoes, variations on stuffing, and pumpkin laced desserts. So, for those who want a slight break from tradition and who want to ensure that their flavours stand out from the rest, the question becomes:  "What can I do that is still festive but not going to add another level of "same" to the mix?"

The first decision to make was savory or sweet. In this case, I figured that people would choose to bring savory, transporting their family's traditional side dish to the shared table. So, I chose sweet.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Honey Garlic Pork Loin Roast

I have to admit something. I haven't been eating beef-- for the last month. And it has everything to do with the e coli contamination and recall of so much beef in Canada.  It has just turned me off of all beef. I feel bad about it. I really do. Because I shouldn't be punishing all the great beef farmers and processors out there. But I just can't eat it. At least, not right now. I am sure it will pass eventually.

In the meantime, I am eating a lot of pork. And chicken. And pork. And when I have company, I cook some kind of pork roast.

Roasts are easy for big groups of people because they take a little preparation, and then the oven does all the work for you while you entertain your guests. Normally I would alternate between beef and pork, but like I said earlier, I just can't do beef right now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baked Salmon with Oregano Lemon Crust

People say that tuna is the chicken of the sea. I understand why... because it is readily available and extremely versatile. But to me, salmon is my chicken of the sea. I guess that's because in British Columbia, it is always available fresh and I find that you can flavor it and cook it so many ways. It is meaty, has just enough fat ( just like chicken) and is just so delicious. 

By far, my favorite way to cook salmon is steamed whole, Chinese style with ginger, green onions and soy. That definitely has something to do with my mom, who always cooks fresh salmon that way. It's healthy, flavorful and comforting.

I also enjoy salmon simply baked with dill sauce or grilled with lemon and thyme. There are just so many ways to enjoy salmon!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beef Stew

My husband requested beef stew the other day. So, I went out and bought everything that I needed to make stew.  After a bit of thought, something occurred to me.... the stew that I was thinking of may not have been the stew my husband was thinking of. I mean, usually when he requests something particular, it's a dish that his mom used to make and he wants me to try to recreate. But beef stew? With potatoes, carrots and tomato? Never seen him mom make that! So, I thought I would ask.

And I was right. He was actually thinking of something similar to Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Stew) or some kind of slow cooked meat in a brown sauce and starch on the side.

Oh well. With the ingredients already in the fridge, I decided to go ahead with a traditional (well, by North American standards) beef stew.

Despite the fact that it wasn't what my husband had in mind, he loved it. And so did I! The ultimate comfort food!

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Cook a Turkey? Happy Thanksgiving!

I first referred to cooking a turkey in one of my earliest posts called How to Cook a Chicken? And in this post, I actually reference turkey as being the bird that introduced me to the method I now use frequently: Breast Side Down.

What, breast side down?? Yes, that's right. Regardless of how you season your turkey, if you stuff it or don't stuff it, cooking a turkey (or a chicken) breast side down is the key to the juiciest bird you will ever eat. 

As I said in my earlier post... "I love turkey, but as a child, I never really liked the breast meat (unless I smothered it in gravy) because I always found it too dry. That is, until one day, I asked my mom to cook the turkey breast side down. My mom asked me why I wanted her to do this. After all, having a nice, golden breast sitting up on a platter is generally how you serve, then proceed to carve, a turkey during the holidays. It's tradition! I explained to her that I thought if she flipped the bird over, the breast would soak up all the juices dripping through the turkey and into the bottom of the pan, and would soak up the flavors of all the aromatics she used to put in the roasting tray. So, she trusted me and she tried it. The result? A very tender, juicy breast and since then, neither she nor I has ever looked back!"

That was probably almost 15 years ago. And every bird I have cooked since then has been breast side down and amazing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles (Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce)

One night, I went for dinner at a place in Vancouver that makes handmade noodles called Peaceful Restaurant. Let me tell you, the food was fantastic. So tasty and exactly what I wanted. 

However, there was one small issue. It was packed. And I mean packed, line up out the door kind of packed. So packed in fact, that when we were ordering, the waitress asked us if we would want anything else because they only allow you to order once. Basically what she was saying is to order, eat and leave because there were other people to feed.

Despite the rushed experience, the food was delicious. Especially one of the dishes called Dan Dan Noodles. It was basically ground beef in a spicy peanut sauce tossed with homemade noodles. After finishing the noodles, we practically lifted up the bowl and drank and sauce it was so good. So, from that moment, I decided I had to recreate it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pulled Pork with Crispy Pork Crackling

Yes, I realize that it's been forever since I last posted. Thanks to everyone who has stayed with me:)

The reality is, with a new house (which is actually an old house), life has been full of projects from painting to insulation to excavation.  That doesn't mean that I don't eat. It just means that I find myself gravitating towards quick recipes that I know and trust.

That is, until the other day, when I went to the store and found myself buying a monstrous pork picnic roast (comes from the lower part of the pig's shoulder). I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time, but it looked tempting, so I bought it.

The next day, I prepared to roast it for most of the day. I took it out of the fridge in the morning so that it could come up closer to room temperature. Then I seasoned it generously, poked holes in it and filled them with fresh, slightly crushed garlic cloves, and roasted it at 250 degrees for about 7 hours. I pulled it out of the oven, tented it with tin foil, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. After resting, I pulled the crispy skin off (eating some of the delicious crackling while working), and started to pull the pork apart with my fingers.  The pork was perfect to eat just like that, with pieces of crackling, or with any variety of sauces including barbeque and chimichurri (sauce of garlic, parsley, red wine vinegar--- the acid is great as it really cuts through the fattiness of the pork).

Of course, since there was TONS of pork, I made lots of other stuff in the days that followed.... that's the great thing about a roast like this. There is minimal effort as the oven does most of the work for you, and then you have food for days!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Breakfast Quesadillas

After about a month of hard work on our new house, we finally had a chance to sit and enjoy a moment on our deck.

The sun was shining and we wanted to take a break and grab a bite, and breakfast quesadillas came immediately to mind.

I am not sure what it is about breakfast, but it's a comforting, relaxing sort of meal. The exact first meal that I would want to enjoy at our new house.

The quesadilla contained all the things I love... eggs, bacon and cheese and was served with guacamole and salsa. Fantastic!

Cheers to our new home!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Snapper (with Tomatoes, Onions, and Oregano)

When you are in the middle of a move or renovation, simple is best. But the simplest form of food (albeit not the healthiest) seems to be eating out or takeaway. Seems okay right? Well, after a week or more, home cooking and fresh tastes are what the palate craves. So, I went to the market, picked up a couple of ingredients, and made an amazing, easy snapper. Summery and fresh, it hit all the right notes.

Oh, and dinner on the deck? Priceless.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cookies for a Cause! Cranberry Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our company is riding for Juvenille Diabetes in September and is looking for support. To help the cause, we hosted a bake sale at work to raise money for our team. Help our cause by DONATING NOW.

For this occasion, I thought it was really important for me to create amazing cookies that people would just snatch up and that would also have some healthier, more substantial elements for those who would normally shy away from the regular cookie.

So, I made these Cranberry Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. They were just sweet enough for those that like them that way, but didn't scare the health addicts away. They were a hit and sold out in record time!

For those of you that were not around to buy these Cookies for a Cause, your support is always appreciated. Please click HERE to donate as every dollar counts and even just a small amount can change lives.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Salmon with Easy Dill Sauce

My extended family is visiting from France at the moment. That combined with the moving and our house renovations has contributed to my sparse postings recently.

But I wanted to share this one because it is quick, easy and delicious.

First of all, what could be a better marriage than salmon and dill? Especially to showcase the beautiful wild sockeye salmon available in beautiful British Columbia.

Secondly, what could possibly be easier that this recipe? The ingredients are straight forward and the salmon is baked in the oven. You need a baking dish or sheet for the salmon and a bowl to mix the sauce. The result? Easy clean up and a fantastic meal!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken Pot Pies (An Easy Make Ahead Freezer Meal)

I know I have been absent lately. It's all the moving, painting and housework that keeps me busy. And while in this transitional phase, I haven't been able to cook much. That's not to say I haven't eaten well though. Thanks to freezer chicken pot pies, I am able to have great home cooking without really having a proper kitchen!

Now let's talk about chicken pot pie. I have noticed that they are frequently served without a bottom crust. I've never really understood how a pie without a bottom crust came to be.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Apple, Craisin & Walnut Galette

So a galette is pretty much a free form pie. Okay, it's a lazy pie. It's all the deliciousness of a pie crust and the filling, without having to make it fit the pie tin and making a top crust. 

Having said that, I don't feel the slight bit guilty for making a galette. In fact, it's the perfect, quick, rustic end to a home cooked meal and it seems much less work and much less daunting than making a pie. You can fill it with whatever your heart desires, or whatever you have just kicking around in your fridge. Some great examples would be frozen fruit tossed in some cornstarch and sugar, some fresh sliced peaches or apricots, or a thick spread of your favorite jam.

Oh, and the best part is, there is no leftover, wasted dough. Nope, you roll it all out, put on your filling, and just fold it over. Easy as pie!

Apple, Craisin & Walnut Galette
Makes 1 Galette

For Whole Wheat Pastry Crust
1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp Ice Water
(**In this case, I made a whole wheat pastry crust, but you could use a the same recipe with white flour)

1 Egg beaten with 1 tsp of water (Eggwash)

For Filling
2 Apples, sliced
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
1/2 cup Walnut Pieces
1/3 cup Craisins
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
3 tbsp Plain Yogurt
2 tbsp Butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make Pastry Crust
In a food processor, mix together flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a course meal. Slowly add the ice water, pulsing just until the dough starts to stick together in a ball. Remove the dough from the processor, form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Filling and Baking
In a bowl, stir together apples, lemon juice and zest, walnuts, craisins and brown sugar.

Roll out pastry dough to about 1/4 cm thickness. Place on a a parchment or greased baking sheet. Put the yogurt on the dough and spread in the centre, leaving a 2 inches border around the edge of the crust clear. Place the apple mixture on top of the yogurt. 

Rustically fold over the borders of the pastry (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches all around), pressing down to seal it around the filling. Brush with the egg wash. Place spots of the butter onto the filling. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (and a slight mini peanut butter cup variation)

I love peanut butter and oatmeal. And oatmeal and chocolate chips. So I guess that means I would like peanut butter chips and oatmeal?

Okay, where this is really coming from is... I have this random bag of mini peanut butter cup chips in my pantry. I actually think it was an accident. I certainly don't remember buying them so perhaps I picked them up by accident instead of chocolate chips? Anyhow, regardless of how they got into my kitchen, I've got to use them. And to my surprise, they look and taste exactly like peanut butter cups. Hmmmm....

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies 
(and a slight mini peanut butter cup variation)
Makes 24 cookies

1/2 cup Butter, room temp
1/4 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg
2 tbsp Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 cups Quick Oats
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips (or mini peanut butter cup chips or mixed!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt and then add to butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in oats, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Roll into 3/4 inch balls and flatten slightly with your fingers. Place onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quick and Crunchy Fried Fish

Hi everyone. So sorry I have been absent for a while, but we've been moving into our new house! Actually, we haven't exactly done the moving part. It's been more like sanding, priming, painting, ripping out carpets, cleaning and everything we can possibly do to prepare for the move.

So, for anyone that's ever been through this, you know that cooking takes the back burner. Your kitchen is half packed, you start to live off restaurants and pantry items, and a hot, home cooked meal seems a distant memory. 

As the stress starts to build, the cravings begin. For me, it was fried chicken. The problem is, fried chicken is not close by for us, and it's not as quick to make as I would like.  However, fried fish is super easy and fast. So, that's what I made. Fried fish.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate Orange Buttermilk Cakes

Again with the buttermilk! Like I said, it pays to freeze the stuff in half cup portions because you never know when you are going to need it.

In this case, I wanted to make some cupcakes with a subtle hint of chocolate and orange. I wanted cupcakes that would stand without icing...kind of like a cross between a cupcake and a muffin I guess? Okay, I take that back. I was trying to make it sound healthy by calling it a muffin (even though muffins are not always healthy). 

Let's just say that it's a flavorful cupcake that will not be frosted. I guess you could frost it with orange cream cheese frosting or a chocolate butter cream, but let's keep it simple (and guilt-free) for the moment.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Salted Caramel Bars

My sister made some amazing caramel bars one day. I remember so vividly how I could not stop eating them, especially because they played on my love for sweet and salty. 

When I asked my sister for the recipe and I looked it over, I noticed that it used those wrapped caramel candies we used to eat as kids. This made the wannabe chef in me think "Forget those caramel candies! I am going to make my own caramel!" Okay, while this may sound like a good idea, let me just give you a few hints to start....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bacon & Egg Breakfast Pasta

Last night I made fresh pasta. Actually, I made Raviole-- my husband's favorite itty bitty ravioli filled with goat cheese, parsley and gruyere.  But of course, I had left over pasta dough. Okay, I lie. I actually got tired of making those itty bitty ravioli and decided that after making a whole container full that it was time to turn the pasta dough into something else.

So, I rolled the pasta into sheets and cut them about and inch wide to make papardelle. I laid them out to dry up a bit on my counter, then put them between sheets of parchment and into the fridge.

This morning when I woke up, I felt inspired to take advantage of this fresh pasta. So I decided to make a breakfast pasta of sorts with all of my breakfast favorites: eggs, bacon, tomatoes, fresh basil. And what a treat it was. Even if you don't stay up all night making fresh pasta, you can use pre-packaged fresh pasta or even dried pasta. Trust me, it is amazing that breakfast/brunch pasta has not made it onto the menus of my fave restaurants yet!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Super Moist Cornbread

I make bread almost every week, but never think to make cornbread instead! Perhaps because it's uses aren't the same as regular bread--- sandwiches, spreads, cheese.

However, with so much cornmeal in my pantry, cornbread just came to mind, and I am glad it did. I love this particular recipe because the cornbread is so moist and packed with flavor and texture. I especially like the chunks of onion and pepper throughout.

It pairs perfectly with a bowl of soup, chili or stew, or just on it's own (with a little butter too!).

Super Moist Cornbread
Makes 1- 8 inch by 8 inch pan

1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 Large Egg
1 cup Milk
1 can (14 oz) Cream Style Corn
1/4 cup Onion, chopped
1 tbsp Green Chili, chopped
1/3 cup Red Bell Pepper, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Enjoy with a bowl of chili or soup!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Ripe, frozen bananas and buttermilk are always two items that I have in my freezer. Why? Well, the bananas are pretty much self explanatory. I buy way too many, they get ripe really fast, and I through them in the freezer. As for the buttermilk, it seems that anytime I need buttermilk, I only need 1/2 a cup or so. And it just so happens that I can usually only find buttermilk by the litre. So, I use what I need, then freeze the rest in 1/2 cup portions for later use.

So, what to do with bananas and buttermilk (other than make my kick butt Banana Walnut Bread)? I was in the mood for peanut butter and what better combination than peanut butter and bananas? So, I decided to make peanut butter and banana muffins with an additional kick of peanut butter spread on top.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

White Bean Dip

I have a habit of arriving home from work starving. Regardless of what I eat during the day, arriving at home somehow signals my body that it's time to relax and refuel. Generally, this ravenous state causes me to eat whatever happens to be most easily accessed and needs minimal preparation. Thankfully, I don't keep many munchies lying around the house, but what I usually end up reaching for is crackers and cheese, bread, or some leftovers. And really, that is just to tie me over until dinner.

So, what I've gotten into the habit of doing is cutting up veggies and making a dip. That way, I have a healthy snack ready when I arrive home afterwork. This can also double and a healthy, game day snack (go Canucks go!) or part of a to-go lunch.

By the way, if you aren't feeling the "healthy" vibe, pair this dip with tortilla chips!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eggs Benedict- Step by Step

Brunch is the best meal ever. Some people may disagree with me, but in my opinion, it's the perfect excuse to go all out and create a fabulous mid morning meal. And many people feel the same way, which has why brunch has evolved into an event-- a time to meet up with friends and family on the weekends, catch up and relax. It is not too early, so you can sleep in, and not to late, so you can do other stuff during your days off.

This weekend was particularly special because all of the kids headed over to the island for the weekend (Victoria) to visit our parents and celebrate my mom's birthday. So of course, we had to make her something amazing. We wanted to serve her a restaurant style brunch in the comfort of our family home. And what better dish than an eggs benedict.

Yes, it may seem daunting because of the many components and the stresses of making the perfect hollandaise, poaching the eggs just right and timing it all to come together on a plate. But it really is easier than you may think. And the results are sure to impress!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lemon Oat Bran Muffins

So, about those lemons.....

I have mentioned my love of lemons many many times before in my writing. And I have gone on and on about how they make me happy, remind me of sunshine, and all the rest. And today is no exception.

When I broke open one of the warm muffins, the waft of fresh lemon filled my nose. It was like instantly everything was better than okay. Life was fantastic.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Frittata

Eggs are one of those staple ingredients always kicking around in my fridge. Whenever I am looking for a quick and easy breakfast, lunch or dinner, I usually resort to eggs. They are a great source of protein, but often get overlooked, especially for dinner.

I am not sure how eggs became a breakfast food anyways. When I was a kid, I never ate eggs for breakfast. And even to this day, many outside of North America think eggs are really a lunch and dinner food.

Whatever the reason, I love eggs at any time. They are so versatile and so healthy. I made this frittata for dinner, but of course, it would make a great lunch, brunch, or even breakfast. If you have leftovers, you can cut a wedge and bring it to work for lunch as is or in a sandwich. Yep, I said it. A frittata sandwich! So delicious with a few greens and some dijon mustard, chipotle mayo, or even ketchup!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rice with Merguez Sausages & Veggies

People always ask me how I decide what to make. And to be honest, it really depends.

Sometimes I get inspired in the grocery store or market, buy a whole bunch of stuff and then make up combinations on the fly depending on what I bought and what's left in my kitchen as the week goes on.

Other times, I read a book or see a recipe and that inspires me to go shop for specific ingredients (and of course, during that trip, I usually pick up lots of other stuff which I will find ways to use throughout the week).

There are times when I might just start to crave a specific taste or texture, often some form of comfort food, and try to replicate that nostalgic feeling.

And there are times when I just get stuck in a rut and keep making the same thing over and over and over.

But the other day, I asked my husband what he would like to eat. He often lets me know what he feels like or makes mention of a favorite dish, and I try to accommodate it into my crazy "to make" cooking/baking list" but it is very rare that I come right out and ask him point blank. But and did. And one of the things he mentioned was sausages with rice and tomato cooked together like his mom makes. Of course. It has to be like his mom's. And of course, I know that I can never come close to replicating his mom's cooking.  But, I thought I would give it a shot from my memory of this dish.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Red Lentil, Split Pea and Coconut Curry with Kale

I don't know what it is, but I often feel that a meal isn't a meal unless it has some kind of meat. I could make the best salad in the world and eat a ton of it, and still feel a little bit dissatisfied (and guilty for feeling dissatisfied).

Then I realized that it isn't really the meat. It's the protein that satisfies me. So I have started to add walnuts to my salads. And to be honest, just that little change makes a huge difference (plus, they give a great crunch). Totally satisfying.

This got me thinking. What other meals do I love with meat? Well, for starters, I love curries. I love duck curry, chicken curry, fish curry, you name it. But for some reason, I always feel a little bit guilty about eating curries because of their richness, with the coconut milk and duck (my favorite). So, that's it. Curry became the perfect candidate for a food makeover! The goal? Maintain it's warm and spicy flavors but turn it into an everyday, guilt- free but satisfying meal. And I was able to do that with split lentils and peas.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Bran Muffins

Breakfast is always a routine during the week. Not much thought... just the same actions everyday.  But sometimes, it's nice to shake things up a little. This doesn't mean waking up early, breaking out the pans, the eggs, the mess and cooking up a storm. It just means thinking about breakfast in advance and doing some relaxed cooking or baking the day before.

The perfect breakfast treat? Muffins. And I am not referring to those gigantic, fat and sugar laden ones that you buy at the coffee shop on the way to work. I mean homemade muffins. Granted, there are some healthy store bought ones now, but nothing beats the ones you make at home. They are actually very easy and quick to make, and are the perfect break from the daily grind.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lemon Cornmeal Poppyseed Bundt Cake

I cannot say this enough... I am in love with everything and anything lemon!

Especially in baked goods. I think it's something about the citrus cutting that baked good richness. And the bright yellow color of sunshine. Or maybe I just really love lemons.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ratatouille with Fennel

When I think of stew, I usually think of meat and potatoes that have been slow cooked for a long time until tender.

It's only recently that I have tried and enjoyed stews of vegetables, beans, and other stuff. One thing that I have discovered, is that veggie and bean stew doesn't take as long as the traditional. But it's just as flavorful and of course, healthier too.

To make things a little interesting, I had a bulb of fennel sitting in my fridge and didn't know what to do with it. So I added it to the ratatouille and it was fantastic. The fennel just gave the dish an extra layer of flavor and crunch which was perfect.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Ragout)

So, the plan was to surprise my husband with one of his favorite meals. A dish his mom used to make for him often, and that he always requests when we go to visit. Blanquette de Veau. It's basically a veal stew or ragout of sorts with a creamy sauce.

The goal was not to make it better than his mom's (because that would be virtually impossible), but just to foster a little nostalgia and warm and fuzzy, like a dish from your past should.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chinese Poached Chicken with Fragrant Ginger Sauce (Hainanese Chicken)

So, to the untrained eye, this just looks like a plain old chicken. And when I was a kid, this chicken was served with a horrible, spicy, pungent sauce that only my mom would like.

Now? This is a fabulously moist and tender chicken with a flavorful, fresh sauce as a complement. Super simple, but really, can it get any better?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blue Cheese, Walnut & Quinoa Chopped Salad

You know when you go through eating phases? Where you seem to eat a derivative of the same ingredients over and over for a while til you somehow switch to something new?

For example, I recently had a chicken phase. I had to eat chicken everyday. My favorite was a whole roasted chicken. I would eat the wings, my husband would eat the legs, and then we would use the breast meat in sandwiches, salads, and pastas. And when we were almost out of chicken (usually within a couple of days), I would get chicken anxiety, and I would run to the store and buy more chicken. Perhaps chicken legs or chicken breasts, but it had to be chicken. Nothing else was acceptable.

Now, I am in a salad phase. But not just any salad. Nope, that would be far to easy. It's got to be a salad with blue cheese and walnuts. Somehow, the richness of the cheese and the crunch of walnuts has made salads irresistible. And even though my pantry and fridge are stocked with tons of great ingredients, I have to run to the store to buy more stuff to make some kind of blue cheese and walnut salad. Go figure.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rotisserie Style Chicken Rub

Some things never change.

Yes, some of you may have noticed that my blog got a little uplift. So that changed recently. But some of my food habits don't. Like rotisserie chicken.

Yes, I am a Rotisserie Chicken addict. In fact, every time I go grocery shopping, I have to force myself not to pick up one of these juicy birds. They are so delicious and make the perfect, inexpensive, quick, guilt free pre-prepared food that can double as a ready to eat meal and a quick sandwich stuffer/ salad topper for lunch the next day. 

I have made rotisserie chicken before on my blog (click here to check that out). That was when I lived in Dubai and my kitchen was furnished with a massive oven with a rotisserie spit inside of it. But this time, I am using a regular old oven with my own spice rub, which gives the chicken that nostalgic rotisserie chicken taste.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jam Crumble Bars


Everyone needs a quick and easy "go-to" dessert. For those times when you want something other than ice cream or cookies, but don't feel like full out baking. For example, when you are weeknight entertaining. Or as a sweet ending to a relaxed brunch. 

These jam crumble bars have it all. They can be cut into bars and thrown into a lunch bag, eaten as a sweet on the go breakfast, or plated, garnished and served as a homemade dessert (who wouldn't love this warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream?). 

The other great thing about these bars is that they are pretty healthy. Made with whole wheat flour and oats, you really don't have to feel guilty about serving this to your kids or those who are watching their waistline. 

And you don't have to feel bad about leaving it on the counter and seeing your husband eat it for breakfast... 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Endive Salad with Walnuts

Endives. I am really not use to using these slightly bitter greens at all. But every time I go back to France, I find them in abundance in the fall, winter, and spring markets. It is especially noticeable in the winter, when there are few other "leafy" greens available... just cases upon cases of endives.

So, these become a winter staple. Cooked with bechamel and ham, sauteed with a little oil, salt and pepper, or as the basis of a fresh, wintery salad.

One of my favorites is this Endive Salad with Walnuts. It is light and flavorful, but the crunch of the walnuts and the slight bitterness of the greens remind you that it is still winter. Best of all, it is incredibly easy to make and apart from the endives, everything else is a pantry ingredient.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Healthy Corn Chowder

I have read that if you eat soup before a meal, you tend to eat less during the meal (and this can lead to weight loss). Of course, by soup, this is probably referring to a broth like soup as opposed to a creamy soup like Cream of Mushroom, or New England Clam Chowder (yup, that's the white one).

Now I have nothing against broth based soups, but I just love the texture and heartiness of a nice, creamy soup. But, if you are watching your waistline this new year, perhaps a cream filled soup isn't the best option.

Never fear! Creamy textured soups don't have to contain cream! They can be just as healthy and full of good stuff like a broth based soup. And the best part about soup is that you can make a big batch and freeze it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese Steamed Pork with Salted Egg

I'll be honest with you... it's not a dish that looks super appetizing to the untrained eye. However, I am telling you, Chinese Steamed Pork with Salted Egg is delicious and so so simple.

My mom used to make this dish all the time. We usually eat it with steamed white rice and some kind of stir fried vegetable. In theory, it's basically meat that is mixed with egg so that when it steams, it stays together. But in actuality, it is so much more than that.

Think of it as Chinese meatloaf. Except that the seasoning comes from the simply beautiful salted duck eggs.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chocolate-Orange Tart

Dark chocolate and orange really is a winning combination. Reminds me of those chocolates that my grandma used to buy as a kid that were large and round like an orange and wrapped in orange foil. I remember slamming that round orange chocolate on the table and it would break into segments just like an orange. The flavor... chocolate and orange of course!

I use this combination a lot. For example, my Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting and my Dark Chocolate Dipped Citrus Biscotti.

Today was no exception. A chocolate tart with orange liqueur and orange zest. Delicious.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mom's Other Pork Chop Recipe (and Chicken too!)

My mom is a perfectionist just like me. If there is a chance that some kind of tweak can make a recipe even better, she will try it. In this case, the subject matter was pork chops.

My mom made some simple and fantastic pork chops which I shared with you in November (Mom Miranda's Crispy Pork Chops). At that time, she also made some similar pork chops that I will share with you today. Now, there is some debate amongst us as to which pork chops we like better, but the bottom line is, they are both delicious. The main difference is that the ones I will share today are wet marinated, which some may argue is just more work. Others however, will say that this makes the pork chops taste better and stay moist.

So, I leave it to you to decide which ones you like better. And please, if you do happen to try them both, I would love to know what you think...

P.S. I did use this recipe to make chicken too, which was delicious!