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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It is a blistering 40 C outside with the humidity and I have the joy of living in the third floor apartment with air conditionning limited to the bedroom. That means that the hot sun hitting the black shingles, the lack of breeze through the windows and the humidity seeping it is literally an oven in my living room and kitchen. Needless to say cooking over a hot stove or turning on the oven right now is not really appealing. Although I am of the opinion that it is warm enough in here for things to cook on their own - something tells me it is not a good idea. I could grill but the downtown air is thick with smog and there is no shade to protect me from the ball of fire in the sky. Therefore I have decided to enjoy a few cold drinks.... liquid dinner I guess. I was going to grab a refreshing cold Corona with lime or a Smirnoff Ice. But then I was reminded of those relaxing days in Mexico when all I had to worry about was what bar I should sit at or should I swim in the pool or the ocean. My favourite drink from my favourite and bartender was a delicious and absolutely refreshing Mojitos. There are many ways to make them, and some are sweet, some bitter, but the one that I enjoyed seemed to have the right blend.


1 part Rum (Bacardi is good)
3 parts Club Soda
Mint Leaves
1/2 Lime
1/2 part sugar

Place a bunch of mint leaves, the sugar and lime slices in a glass and crush with at the bottom of your glass. Add rum, then club soda and stuff or top with mint leaves.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

For me there is nothing like getting up Saturday morning relaxing with a cup of joe and a healthy breakfast, then going for a hike/run in the Gatineau Park. My husband has been making pancakes on Saturday morning for years - fluffy banana pancakes, oatmeal pancakes, chocolate chip or berry pancakes. This morning he made some nice light fluffy low-fat and energy packed pancakes - Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. These were enough to kick start our day which resulted in a 20km (31/2 hr) hike in Luskville.

1 cup each whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder and baking soda
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cocoa
1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

In a large bowl combing flours, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and sugar. In separate bowl whisk together egg whites, buttermilk and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir just until moistened. Gently stir in blueberries (or add to each pancakes separately).

Spray a large wide skillet with non stick spray. Heat to mediumheat. Spoon about 1/2 cup batter for each pancake onto skillet. Cook until underside is brown and then flip and cook for 2-3 more mins. Serve with maple syrup or vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas

1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes)
1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's)
1 T chili powered
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice
8 (6") whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup salsa
1 cup reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese
3 T chopped fresh cilantro

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture thickens. Add rice and cook for 5 mins, until heated through.

Spoon a rounded 1/2 cup down the center of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish coated with non stick spray. Spoon salasa over each tortillas. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for 25 mins.
Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Bake 2-3 mins until cheese melted. Serve with lowfat sour cream.
Serves 8

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shiraz Cabernet

Being that it is Friday I have food and wine on my mind, well more than usual that is. The hot sun of the day has disappeared behind dark stormy clouds and the wind is picking up to the point the old windows are vigorously rattling. As weather plays an intergral part in my mood, I am more than content to open a bold bottle of wine, cook some comfort food and relax.
A wine that I have grown quiet fond of and fortunately is non expensive is Lindeman's Cawarra Shiraz Cabernet, Australia.

This wine has prominent aromas of spicy plum and dark fruit characters complemented by subtle vanilla oak. Medium bodied with firm tannins, the ripe cherry fruit flavours and balanced toasty oak character linger on the long, complex finish. It goes well with grilled or barbecued meats and meat flavoured pasta dishes. (yes I stole this from the label).

Many recipe books offer suggestive beers and wines to serve with dishes. However, tonight I think I will plan my food around my drink. Therefore tonight I will be having a Grilled Sirloin Tip Steak served with Toasted Cousous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables.

See Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Veggies

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (old fashioned)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 large eggplant, quartered lengthwise
10 spears asparagus, trimmed
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup basil chiffonade or chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
340 g whole wheat couscous
2 or (2 1/2) cups salted vegetable stock, heated

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Keep the other 1/2 for the dressing.Preheat the grill. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2" pieces, cut the tomatoes in half, cut asparagus diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the couscous and toast until lightly golden brown. Cover the couscous with the hot stock and let sit until stock aborbed then fluff with fork. Place in a large serving bowl, add the grilled vegetables and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Vanilla Bean Cafe

The Vanilla Bean Cafe was created as a means for me to post a compilation of both my own creative recipes and my favorite recipes inspired by others.

Inspired by the local markets, fair-trade stores, as well as trendy neighborhood cafes & restaurants, my passion for gourmet food & wine is quickly developing into an obsession. An obsession I love to share with good company.

As a health enthusiast most of my cooking consists of fresh foods, that boast flavor and offer essential vitamins & nutrients. In recent years, for health and environmental purposes, I have been trying to switch to more organic, fair trade and animal friendly foods. I hope to educate myself and others more about these issues through these blogs.

For those who share a passion for food and the environment , I hope you will find comfort in some of these recipes.

Saturday, August 4, 2007