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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Foodie BlogRoll

Well I am officially on the Foodie BlogRoll, a website developed by Jenn a Freelance Food & Travel Writer, Creative Cook and Food Critic - sweet job! Thanks to Jenn, or should I say the Left Over Queen, this site has created an ever expanding international online community for foodies. This site allows you to get inspired by others' creations, to find interesting recipes, while at the same time promote your own site.

If you are a foodie, or aspire to be one check out The Left Over Queens great website and join the foodblogroll, which can be linked from her website, or at

Join the community and get inspired!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I always love making hummus as it is so easy and can always play around with different twists that rarely go wrong, although some are certainly better than others. I often eat it for lunch or serve it as an appetizer with pita and vegetables. This particular hummus is likely the best I have made. It is silky, boasts garlic and red pepper flavor and well is simply delicious.

190z chickpeas or garbanzo beans
3 large pieces of roasted red pepper (jar) or 1 whole roasted red pepper (roasted yourself
2 cloves garlic
3 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 T tahini paste (optional
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor blend together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Once well belnded add the olive oil in a stream while food processor on. Blend until silky smooth. Adjust flavoring to your desire (more roasted red pepper etc...).

You need to let the hummus cool in the fridge for a couple hours in order to really get the full taste.

Makes about 2 cups.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

My morning began with an easter egg hunt, followed by a beautiful morning walk by the canal to test out my new camera. I tried playing with all the features, making sure it has want I am looking for and that I am able to use them with ease.

I will not be posting any recipes today, as I will be busy cooking for Easter Sunday as well as some random items for the week. I will likely be making some red pepper hummus, a pot roast with root vegetables, followed by a banana cheesecake (decorated with yummy mini easter eggs).

The rest of the day will be to test out that camera again and again, relax by reading, playing some cards and if I actually do anything productive it will be to start my taxes - yuck! But I think I have enough things to do today, that I will be able to procrastinate on that errand for another week or so.

Enjoy your Easter Sunday!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spinach Pesto Penne with Chicken

In a follow up to my spinach & walnut pesto recipe here is the pasta I created using the pesto. Although I managed to stay away from a tomato based sauce, I could not avoid using tomatoes in the dish altogether and hence used them as a vegetable. In fact they are probably what made this dish so delicious - roasted cherry tomatoes combined with melted goat cheese and spinach pesto.

3/4 to 1 lbs chicken breast, cooked
1/2 cup (or more) spinach pesto
50g soft goat cheese
1 1/2 to 2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup sliced mushrooms (white or shitake)
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lbs cooked whole wheat penne

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts. Heat oil in skillet and cook chicken over med heat. When done cut into 1" chunks and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place cut cherry tomatoes sliced side up on a non stick baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, place 2 cups dry pasta into water and cover with lid. Remove from burner and let sit for 10 min. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of pasta water (might need to thin out pesto sauce).

In a large pot cook mushrooms over med heat until caramelized, add the chicken, tomatoes, and pasta. Season with 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.

In a small pot mix the goat cheese with the spinach pesto until forms a creamy texture. Add to the pasta mixture, stirring until coated. Add a bit of pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed and add more pesto as needed. Heat over burner for a few minutes and serve.

Serves: 4

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spinach & Walnut Pesto

With my husband's and my active lifestyle we are always looking for meals packed full of energy. Currently we are both training for races in May. Between doing 1 hour weight training on lunch and variety of runs after work (speed, hills, long runs), by the time we get home we are ready to gnaw our arms off in hungry. But rather than rapidly scarfing down a meal, we usually take that time to unwind by preparing a nice meal. Well we have the occassional melt down where we hit the pub instead, for a delicious Apricot beer and lamb wrap...mmmm gotta love the Manx.

With such an active lifestyle finding meals that will replenish our energy is a must. Pasta is just the meal for that and has hence become part of our weekly menu - offering complex carbs, protein and depending on the vegetables a great source of vitamins & nutritents. However, I must admit when it comes to pasta recipes we tend to stick to the same type of tomato based dishes with slight variations. As I was getting tired of the same old thing, I decided to be adventureous and create a new pasta dish (spinach pesto penne with chicken).
I am not one for cream sauces and find olive oil bases boring. Therefore I decided to try a pesto sauce. As I did not have basil, I used the baby spinach in my fridge and combined it with the following ingredients to make a really nice pesto that can be used on pasta, chicken, pizzas & grilled veggie sandwiches. I like pesto, but find that it can be overpowering. Using spinach rather than basil makes for a less pungent pesto (optional: add some basil leaves about 1 cup for that spicy aroma and flavor basil pestos offer).

4 cups of baby spinach, washed
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
a bit of lemon rind
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water
Optional: add 1 cup basil leaves.

In a food processor combine spinach, walnuts, garlic & cheese and process until roughly chopped. Then slowly poor olive oil combined with lemon rind and lemon juice into processor while blending. Then add water the same way until the paste is smooth and thick. Remove from processor and store in fridge or freezer.

For a creamier pesto can combine with 60g of goat cheese or 50g of cream cheese. This makes for a nice spread on crackers or baguette. I used goat cheese with this pesto as the base for my pasta dish which will be posted soon.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Nutrition Facts:

Spinach contains is a source of iron (60g contains about 1.9mg), however the absorption of iron is improved greatly by combining it with citrus (Vitamin C), as it is a nonheme absorption enhancer. It also contains calcium, vitamin A, C, E, K, Magnesium, folate and antioxidants.
Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, with about 90% of a persons daily value. They are known to have health benefits for cardiovascular disease, asthma, rhematoid arthritis, inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. Furthermore, they contain antioxidants that help the immune system and hold anti-cancer fighting properties.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Irish Soda Bread

This bread is very rustic and wholesome. It compliments a fresh pot of Irish Stew or any hearty soup. Most authentic irish soda breads are made with whole wheat flour and contain raisins, however you can change it up to add nuts and spices or go the herb route adding flavours of dill, tarragon, rosemary and thyme. Keeping with tradition, this bread is made with whole wheat flour, raisins and caraway seeds. This was my first time making bread without using a bread machine, and was rather pleased with the results. It also toasted well the next day for morning raisin bread.

1 cup mixed raisins or currants (or all raisins), plumped
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T organic honey
1 tsp salt
1 T caraway seeds
6 T cold, unsalted butter, diced
1 1/4 cups (add more if needed) buttermilk
1/4 cup Bran and about 4-5 T of oatmeal for dusting the outside (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Double up two baking sheets and line top one with parchment paper.

Prepare raisins by plumping in very hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, dry well and set aside.

Whisk together all dry ingredients. Cut butter into dry ingredients by hand.

Add buttermilk and honey and mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto floured work surface and gently knead 8 times or so, to firm up dough.

Let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into a 8 inch round. Place on baking sheet. Score loaf with a knife (1/2 inch deep cuts) to make a cross. Dust with white flour, bran, or oatmeal flakes. Bake 35-45 minutes until well-browned.

Cool on a rack for about 10 mins.

Serves 8-10.

This was entered in the BreadBakingDay Event presented by Wild Yeast Blog.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Stew & St. Patrick's Day

You cannot celebrate St. Paddy's Day without a traditional irish stew, accompanied by traditional irish soda bread, a pint of guiness, and some good ol' irish tunes. While in Ireland I indulged in copious amounts of pints of guiness and traditional Irish Stews. This recipe is from a women living in Killarney, Ireland, making it as close to authentic as I could make, being that I am a non Irish Canadian. But as they say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

This weekend I stayed slope side at Jay Peak, VT, enjoying a wicked weekend of skiing. After a long day of skiing there is nothing more enjoyable and relaxing than putting your feet up by a fire, opening a local beer (i.e. Jay Peak, The Hibernator) and filling up on a warm comfort food (i.e. brie topped with sundried tomatoes, walnuts, asiago cheese and parsley - compliments of my sister). Made with guiness, barley and lamb, this hearty stew is sure to fill your tummy and give you energy for another day on the mountain. And storm troopers need their energy (had to be there!).

3 pounds lamb shoulder or stewing beef, cubed
1/2 cup flour
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large carrots, unpeeled and sliced
2 large parsnips, unpeeled and sliced
6 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" slices
2 large yellow onions, cut into large dice
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bunch fresh parsley
8 cups lamb or beef stock, or as needed
12 ounces Guinness stout
1 cup pearl barley (optional)
1/2 T corn starch
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For a real Irish country touch, include the barley. Cook it for 20 minutes in 3 cups of lamb or beef stock. Will be added later to the stew.

Season the meat with salt and brown the meat in a little oil.

Remove and reserve the meat juice in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle meat with a little flour, shaking off excess. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the pan and sauté. Add the Guinness and deglaze, scraping up any caramelized meat juices.

Add the potatoes, return the meat to the pot (and the barley if you're using it) and the thyme and rosemary.

Add enough stock to barely cover, cook over medium heat until just boiling, then reduce heat to very low and simmer 2 - 3 hours, until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Check seasonings, add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat. Stir in the cornstarch (mixed into 4 teaspoons water) and stir. Cook over low heat for a few more minutes to thicken.
I serve with homemade whole wheat irish soda bread and more Guinness.

Serves: 6-8

Note: Deglazing is simply adding liquid to a pan in which you just sauteed some kind of meat, like chicken cutlets, in oil or butter. The deglazing liquid can be wine, stock, almost any liquid, even water. The idea is to loosen up any bits of meat that have stuck to the pan and incorporate them into the liquid because they have lots of flavor. The resulting liquid could eventually be the broth in a stew or a braised dish like lamb shanks. Sometimes the pieces of meat have been dusted in flour before being sauteed. Then, when you deglaze the pan with some white wine or chicken stock, the flour combines with the liquid and the cooking fat in the pan to form a quick sauce.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hearty Chocolate Chip Bran Cookies

I love these hearty chocolate chip cookies. A recipe I obtained from my mother, a baker extraordinaire. They are soft and chewy in the middle with a crunchy texture from the nuts and bran.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cups walnuts or pecan pieces
1 1/2 cup bran cereal (flakes)
1 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats

In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening, both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and then blend into the cream mixture. Stir in chips, raisins, nuts, cereal and oats.

Drop from small spoon onto greased baking sheets about 2" apart. I like to flatten them down at bit for a flatter cookie, but that is optional.

Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

Makes about 6 dozen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vegetable Frittata

Eggs are a delicious source of low fat, low calorie protein, containing about 70 cal per large egg. They are a good source of vitamin B12 and folate contianing about 30% and 15% respectively of a persons RDI (recommended daily intake). As they contain less than 1.5g of saturated fat (bad fat) per egg with 4g of monounsaturated (good fat) they are not the cholesterol creepers once thought to be.

Althought typically thought of as a breakfast or brunch, I often enjoy eggs as a dinner (scrambled, omelete, quiche or frittata).

This colorful vegetable frittata is a simple, quick and healthy meal to make. Frittata's are so versatile that you can add any vegetable and any type of cheese you desire.

9 organic eggs
1 tsp salt
dash of ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
2 T 1% milk
1 T parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheese (old cheddar, gruyere, swiss, goat, brie are some options)
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 cup baby spinach
1 tomato, diced
1/2 small zuchinni, sliced
1/4 red onion, roughly chopped
3/4 cup white mushrooms, quartered

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, milk parmesan, shredded cheese and set aside.

In a 10 inch non stick saute pan (with lid), heat the olive oil over med heat and cook onions and garlic for 1 mins. Then add all the vegetables, except the tomatoes. Cook for 5 min and then add the tomatoes for about 1 mins. Stirring.

Pour the egg mixture over the sauteed vegetables and stir the mixture around until all the vegetables are covered. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the eggs are likely not set yet and will need to place in oven.

Transfer the pan to a preheated 400F oven with cover on for about 6 mins. Once egg is set, remove the lid sprinkle with cheese (shredded) and broil with lid off for 3 minutes until brown on top.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly and serve in wedges. Goes well with a side of baby spinach salad.

Serves 6-8

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spicy Hummus

I love hummus, as there are many different ways to make it with different beans, roasted red peppers, or jalapenos to name a few options. I often enjoy it in a wrap or pita as a lunch, or as a dip with flatbread before a meal. This particular hummus is a simple spicy hummus that uses red pepper flakes as oppose to jalapenos.

1 (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T tahini sesame paste (optional)
a few drizzles extra-virgin olive oil
warm water (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 clove garlic
2 limes, juiced or 1 large lemon, juiced
ground pepper
Pita breads, grilled and cut into wedges for dipping

Combine beans, tahini, oil, red pepper flakes, cumin, coriander, garlic, pepper and lime juice in food processor bowl and grind into a smooth paste. Add water a little at a time until you get the smooth consistency and thickness you desire. More water means less thick and smoother.

Transfer to a small dish and serve with warm pita wedges.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thai Curry Salmon

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this dish, so I used the one from the LCBO website, where the recipe is from. I served this with coconut infused jasmine rice and green beans.
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated lime rind
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 salmon fillets with skin on (3 lb total)
Mix the ingredients together. Place fish skin side down on a greased baking sheet. Spread marinade over salmon fillets and let marinade in the fridge for 30 mins. Heat the oven to 400F and bake the fish for 12-18 min (dependin on the thinckness) - fish should be opaque and flaky to the touch.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Coconut Rice

Coconut infused rice is a delicious compliment to many asian style dishes. Try it with thai salmon.

1 cup jasmine rice
1 cup water
1 cup low fat coconut milk
1 T butter

Add all four ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed most of the moister.