Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"Egg" Nog - Vegan Style Taste-Off

I have been lightening up my intake of meat and meat related products the last couple months. No, I am not going completely meat free - a girl's got to have her bacon once in a while - but I am feeling fabulous thanks to the lifestyle change.

I have a festive weak spot for eggnog and I thought it would be fun to create a a vegan version. Luckily, I am not the first person to think of this, so all the recipe development has been done. I just had to try a couple recipes to see which is my favourite.

Recipe 1 is from a website called Choosing Raw

I made my own almond milk for this recipe, and doubled the alcohol. Also, I reduced the agave syrup by half because I don't like things too sweet.

Five Minute High Raw, Vegan Eggnog

Recipe 2 is from Post Punk Kitchen

Again, I made my own almond milk.

Matrioshka Eggnog


Recipe 1 was a lighter texture and I really loved the flavour. My husband said it wasn't quite creamy enough for his tastes, but that it was delicious "for a vegan drink". I liked it because it wasn't as creamy as full fat eggnog.

Recipe 2 was the best replication of eggnog texture-wise. It was also Rob's favourite. I did enjoy it, but it was a one-drink kind of beverage (too rich for more than one.) I'll probably keep this recipe and may tweak a little here or there for personal taste.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Acorn Squash stuffed with Saag Paneer and Quinoa

I recently stuffed acorn squash with mushrooms and quinoa and I wanted something similar but different for dinner. I also had a truckload of greens to work through and a hankering for curry.
 These make a great one dish meal, but not a great picture...

Saag Paneer meet Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa. Now go forth and multiply....

 Acorn Squash stuffed with Saag Paneer and Quinoa 

 2 small acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scooped out
1 onion, minced
2 chili peppers, chopped
1 tsp garlic pureed
1 tsp ginger, pureed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 bunches greens (I used rapini), finely chopped
3/4 cup quinoa
3 cups water
1/2 lb paneer. cut into small cubes (tofu would work okay, but wouldn't be the same)
turmeric and salt for dusting.

 Preheat oven to 350F
 Place squash cut side down on a bake sheet and roast until almost tender.

 Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in cooking fat of your choice (I used a little grapeseed oil - ghee would be more authentic). Soft and sweet is the desired result. Add spices and greens stems, cook for a minute or two, then stir in tomato paste, finely chopped greens and quinoa. Make sure everything is well combine, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil turn down the heat and let it simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 Meanwhile, dust the cubed paneer with a little turmeric and salt and sear in a hot pan with a little oil to firm a crisp golden brown crust.
 Once stuffing is finished cooking, check seasoning and fold in paneer cubes. Spoon into cooked squash halves and bake, covered with foil for 15 minutes. Uncover, pop back in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve.

I had a little yogurt on the side to help cool the spiciness down and it was perfect.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cookies

This is my favourite cookie recipe. I change up the filling all the time, but the bare bones remain essentially unchanged.
The original inspiration for this recipe comes from Anna Olson's Sugar. I first posted the original version of this recipe in 2005 - link here.
As you can see, it has changed a little since then.

 Just a note: there is so much good stuff in these cookies, they will *just* hold together as you scoop. Don't worry, once they are baked, they are fine. And, yes, I really do use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Chocolate Chip Cranberry Walnut Cookies
Servings 24
 3/4 cup unsalted butter -- softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1.Preheat oven to 350 F (175C).
2.Cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
3.Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
4.Stir in chocolate chunks, walnuts and dried cranberries.
5. Scoop tablespoons of batter for each cookie(I actually use a portion scoop)onto a baking sheet, lightly press down and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. These really don't spread very much.
6.Let cool slightly and enjoy.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Kale with Peanuts, Coconut and Cilantro

What I know about Indian food would fit on the head of a pin. I know I love the flavours but when it comes to classic dishes I am at a loss.
Kale is one of my favorite greens and as a bonus, it's insanely good for you. Kale is loaded with fiber, calcium, iron and Vitamin C to name just a few of its magical properties.

This dish was inspired by peanut coconut chutney recipes that I found. My guest and my husband deemed it delicious. It was served with a Spicy Eggplant Curry, rice, roti and raita.

Kale with Peanuts, Coconut and Cilantro
Serves 6-8
1 cup toasted peanuts
1 cup young coconut*
1 bunch cilantro
1 green chili
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
6 cups chopped kale leaves

Purée peanuts, coconut, cilantro, salt and chili until smooth. Add water as needed.
Steam kale leaves until just cooked- I use a large non stick wok with a little splash of water and a lid. Once the kale is cooked, stir in the peanut sauce and any water needed to reach a good saucy consistency. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
* I found young coconut in the freezer at a local grocery store but I have successfully substituted regular coconut soaked in hot water for 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ridiculous Chocolate Tart

My husband has an insane sweet tooth and is always pestering me to make him dessert.I finally relented last week - I figured we needed some chocolate solace after losing Aggie. I turned o one of the few cookbooks I have cooked more than 50% of the recipes. The cookbook is called Fresh and I was given it as a gift years ago by my old bosses. It was my cookbook before I went to culinary school and tackled many of the (simple) recipes in it while exploring new flavours and cooking techniques.

 This chocolate tart is so easy it almost feels illegal, but it is important to use really good chocolate for this - as the main ingredient, it will be all that you taste. As I was writing this, I Googled to see if the recipe is posted anywhere. It is.... on my blog. How embarrassing.... Oh well, five years later, it is still damn good.
 PS. Miss you Trevor!

Berry Chocolate Tart

4 teaspoons jam
1 prebaked chocolate tart case -- recipe follows
160 grams unsalted butter
200 grams dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spoon the jam into the base of the tart case and put it in the oven for 2 minutes. Remove the tart case and brush the jam over the base until it is glazed all over.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan over low heat. Beat the yolks, eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Pour the melted chocolate and Grand Marnier into the eggs and continue to beat for a minute.

Pour the chocolate filling into the tart case and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Allow to sit for at least two hours before serving.

Chocolate Tart Case

160 grams unsalted butter
185 grams all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz to form a paste.If the pastry doesn't ball add a dash of cold water (i used an eighth of a cup.). Cover in plastic wrap and chill for half an hour.

Roll the pastry out as thin as possible and use it to line a ten inch tart shell. Chill until ready to use.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Cover the pastry with parchment paper weighted down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the base is dry.
recipe from Fresh, by Michele Cranston

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Goodbye Aggie

Aggie has been a constant presence on this blog over the years. Last Thursday, we unexpectedly had to say goodbye to our girl. I still cry thinking about it - purely for selfish reasons... I miss her so much. I wake up in the morning and realise she isn't crying for her breakfast. I come home from work and she isn't waiting by the door. I open the cheese and she doesn't come running. hoping for bits. You don't realise how much they are a presence in your life till they are gone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Peppers stuffed with quinoa, black beans and kale

A friend of mine shared this recipe recently. The original is from Vegetarian Times. I adapted a few things and my 14-month old nephew went crazy for the filling. I am always looking for new and interesting ways to use quinoa, and I will be making this one again! Someone also suggested stuffing portobello mushrooms - I would be happy to eat it as is.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Serves 8
This dish freezes well for future meals. Quinoa provides whole-grain goodness and a serving of protein.
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped (½ cup)
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 2 bunches of kale, stripped from stems and finely chopped
  • 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 3 large carrots, grated (1 ½ cups)
  • 4 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in kale, sauté 2 minutes. Add drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and the reserved tomato juice plus enough water to equal 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour a small amount of liquid in bottom of baking dish.
4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with cheese as desired. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saag Paneer

Ok, this is Saag Paneer only in the literal sense: saag (greens) and paneer (cheese) in one dish.
I was on Commercial Drive this morning and came home with greens, tomatoes, chili peppers and some premade roti paratha. I sat myself down and proceeded to research potential dishes. I was inspired by this post on Quick Indian Cooking, and educated (and inspired) by this post on Monsoon Spice. I decided I wasn't ready to try the authentic version of these recipes - I was missing ingredients here and there, so I jumped into concocting in my kitchen. I didn't think I would puree the greens, the thought made me a little queasy, but I did and the result was delicious.

Linda's (Not Quite) Saag Paneer

1 onion, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 chili peppers, chopped
1 tsp garlic pureed
1 tsp ginger, pureed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp round coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
2 bunches kale, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lb paneer (tofu would work okay, but wouldn't be the same)
turmeric and salt for dusting.

Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in cooking fat of your choice (I used a little grapeseed oil - ghee would be more authentic). Soft and sweet is the desired result. Add spices and peppers, cook for  a minute or two, then stir in tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, wash and  remove the stems from the kale. Finely chop it, then stir in to the simmering pot. Continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, longer if you want a creamier result -  I like a little texture to my veggies. Pulse in food processor with mint and cilantro. Return to pot.
I cut the paneer in thin triangles, dusted it with a little salt and turmeric and then quickly seared it both sides. Once the paneer is seared, pop it into the greens curry and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Adjust consistency as desired (I needed to add a little water to mine).

Serve with paratha or rice or whatever you like! My non-vegetarian husband actually loved this dish.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Roasted New Potato Salad

The sun is shining, and although the temperatures are cool, I am in full summer mode. So when trying to decide on a side for dinner tonight, potato salad popped into my brain. This potato salad can be served warm or cold and has a generous amount of vegetables in it. I usually wing it on the amounts but I was diligent today and weighed everything as I went.

Roasted New Potato Salad

500g nugget potatoes, cut bite-sized
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
90g green beans, blanched
70g pitted kalamata olives, rough chopped
30 ml apple cider vinegar
60ml olive oil
15ml dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss potatoes in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 - 30 minutes.
Chop your herbs - I used parsley, oregano and chives from my garden. Combine all. May be served warm or chilled.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The best zucchini I ever ate...

Granted, I have always nurtured a strong dislike for zucchini, so saying this recipe is "the best zucchini I ever ate" smacks of damning with faint praise. I promise you, this is REALLY good. I found the recipe on Epicurious, so in keeping with tradition, an *Epicurious Review is necessary....

"This recipe is really tasty. I added pine nuts and remove the green onion from the recipe. Also, I made my own ricotta recipe. And didn't use any of the measurements in the recipe."

In all seriousness, no recipe is required here. Slice zucchini super thin with a mandolin (I prefer the cheap Japanese Benriner).  Lay out the zucchini slices. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper. Finely chiffonade some basil and sprinkle over top. I then popped it in the fridge and let it marinate for an hour. Finish with Pine nuts and ricotta scattered evenly over the top.

I do have a recipe for the ricotta. It is the one my coworker, a fabulous Greek lady, gave me.

Fresh Ricotta

1l milk
1 tbsp vinegar

Gently bring milk to a boil. Stir in vinegar, simmer for a couple minutes, then remove from heat. Strain through a cheesecloth.

Best served fresh out of the strainer!

 *An Epicurious Review is one that reviews the recipe, but has so many modifications that the original recipe is lost. Millions of examples of this can be found on

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Risky Business

Caesar salad. Oh so simple, not something one would generally consider dangerous... I guess it depends how much raw eggs scare you!
Personally, I have no fear, but if you are immune compromised, I totally get not wanting to take the chance.
According to the Great Wikipedia's file on eggs, there really isn't much grounds for the fear of raw eggs.

It showed that of the 69 billion eggs produced annually, only 2.3 million are contaminated with Salmonella—equivalent to just one in every 30,000 eggs—thus showing Salmonella infection is quite rarely induced by eggs.
What can I say, I like to gamble. This is my take on a classic

Caesar Salad

1 egg yolk
1/2 garlic clove
2 anchovies
1 tsp dijon
juice of one lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese
1 head romaine lettuce
Croutons (as many as you like)

I carefully separate the yolk from the white by hand in order to minimise contact with the shell (potential Salmonella contamination source). In a large bowl, I whisk the yolk, lemon juice, dijon, minced garlic and minced anchovy. Then I gradually whisk in the olive oil until I reach desired consistency. Add romaine, Parmesan and croutons. Eat. Rob goes mental for this salad and quite often insists I make it several days in a row.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Edible Canada

I have been wanting to check out Edible Canada since they opened and the opportunity presented itself when my mom was in town. We brought my nephew and grabbed a table on the patio. My mom ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with maple bacon, brie and apple. I ordered duck confit hash with wild mushrooms and poached eggs. We both had a cocktail with tea and Okanagan Spirits Eau de Vie.
While the food was tasty, the service detracted from our experience. It took a very long time to place our order, our server lost our order and had to return to our table ten minutes later to ask us what it was again. The bacon was missing from my mom's sandwich so she had to send it back. I don't know if it was an off day or just the way it is there...
On a side note, food nerd alert
That is my mom in the background, Duck Hash in the foreground.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Growing Chefs

One of the things I look forward to every year is Growing Chefs. If you follow the link, you can read all about it - it is one of the things I do that I am really proud of. Today, my team had our class planting herb seeds and planning experiments to go along with that. Next time they will be learning about pickling and preserving.
Participating in Growing Chefs has helped me to uncover a new passion - teaching children about food....
My wonderful team

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New potatoes with thyme and black pepper

In the vein of "simple is good", here is one of my favorite ways to eat nugget potatoes.
Toss hot cooked potatoes with olive oil or butter, salt, cracked black pepper, and fresh thyme.
I served the potatoes with steamed broccoli and chicken with chimichurri.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flat Iron Steak

I love flat iron steak. It is a cut we use frequently at work and I enjoy the combination of flavour and tenderness that it offers. Apparently it is also known as Top Blade.
I picked a couple up for dinner tonight and decided I wanted to do a chimichurri with it. A quick google revealed that I am not inventing the wheel. In fact, just days ago, Kalyn posted an updated recipe for it.
Flat iron Steak with Chimichurri - Kalyn's Kitchen

My chimichurri recipe is without a doubt not authentic, but It  IS delicious.

1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
olive oil
white wine vinegar
1/2 red onion
citric acid (optional)

I pulse the parsley and cilantro in the food processor with some olive oil, about 1/2 cup of vinegar, salt. sambal, chopped garlic and a pinch of citric acid. I use the citric because I like my chimichurri to stay green, but it is totally unnecessary. Adjust seasoning and oil and vinegar amounts to your taste. Stir in minced red onion. Serve over steak.
Here are a few other chimichurri recipes that look great (and more authentic than mine).

Chimichurri - E-Curry
Beet Crudo with Chimichurri

The steak I seared in a cast iron pan, 3 minutes per side, then rested for 6 minutes before slicing

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Arbutus Coffee

When I cook for the retired priests at Pandosy Place I usually head over to Arbutus Coffee for lunch. They have great coffee, but the main draw for me is the quiche. Today's special was tomato and feta, but it has always been different each time I was there. I love that the crust appears to be homemade, that the quiche is soft and creamy and that it is seriously see dish. Nothing fancy, just a great Sunday lunch.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chocolate Cake Insanity

Yes, that is a picture of FIVE chocolate cakes - I had a request from a friend to make them, so I went for it. What a nut. I baked for five hours last night. And frosted for two today. The recipe is excellent - specially requested - it is the Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition 's Chocolate Decadence Cake. The frosting is my own chocolate sour cream frosting.
Chocolate Decadence Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

5 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
Confectioners sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Transfer to a mixing bowl and start whisking. Add sour cream. It will look seized - DO NOT panic. Start adding confectioners sugar a cup at a time until desired texture is reached. Cover cake while as soon as frosting is made - it sets up.

Side note - my kitchen looks like a chocolate bomb exploded.....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

For Crystal

"For some moments in life there are no words." (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) )

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sometimes Simple Is Best

I'll admit to a certain amount of culinary fatigue. A couple years ago, I was excited to cook dinner every day. Now I'm excited to cook dinner once a week if I am lucky. I am not sure where the culinary mojo went, but I have learned to embrace the simple. Just because it is an easy meal doesn't mean it has to suck...

Roast chicken breast is one of those things I have perfected. No recipe, its easy to change up the flavours depending on your mood. I preheat the oven to 375F. Then I season my chicken breast well, adding my desired flavour profile. Tonight it was rosemary and garlic. A good sear for colour on the presentation side, I flip it over and slip it into the oven. I have found that they generally take 20 minutes. Of course, it all depends on the size of the breast and which way the wind is blowing from that day, so if you can't tell just by touching it whether it is done, use a thermometer. Do not over cook it. I usually take it to roughly 156F, then I rest it covered with foil for 10 minutes or so.
While it is resting, I through together a quick pan sauce. About a tablespoon of flour goes into the pan that I seared and roasted the chicken in and I cook it up in the pan juices. Splash in some white wine or beer, some chicken stock, simmer adjusting consistency as needed. Season. The sauce comes together in the time it takes to roast the chicken breast.
Tonight I served it with a simple sauteed kale seasoned with aleppo pepper and new potatoes.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Curried Halibut Cheeks

Halibut season is in full swing right now in Vancouver with beautiful fresh halibut to be found everywhere! I picked up some halibut cheeks and decided to try my hand at a fish curry...For some reason, the word Kerala was stuck in my head - must have been a subconscious thing. So I Googled Keralan Fish Curry. A million variations popped up. I had no idea which was authentic so I did a little reading up on Kerala itself. Kerala is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for its beaches, mountain ranges and wildlife sanctuaries - it is a huge tourist destination. Also, for over 2000 years, Kerala has been visited by seafarers of all ethnicities, resulting in a cuisine that is a combination of local dishes and foreign dishes adapted to Kerala tastes.

I ended up adapting a curry recipe that I found to my own needs. I have a feeling authenticity does not figure into this, but it did taste bloody good!

Curried Halibut cheeks

1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
1-6 chilies, finely chopped ( I had one, so that is what I used)
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate - (fish curries in Kerala commonly use black tamarind as a souring agent - I used what I had on hand)
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 or 4 tablespoon oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp Ground coriander
2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp fenugreek
Salt and pepper -- to taste
1 lb Halibut cheeks

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and sauté until they start to pop. Add the dry spices quickly and stir just until they are absorbed by the oil. Do not allow the spices to burn. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies and sweat until soft and sweet - take your time!
Mix the tamarind concentrate with the water.
Add the tamarind water, season with salt and pepper and simmer another 30 to 40 minutes to meld the flavors and reduce the liquid a little. Stir in the coconut milk. simmer 15 minutes.
Here is where I really went off the books. I used a hand blender to blitz the sauce a little, then I passed it through a sieve. I was left with this beautiful smooth gravy.
Stir in the fish and simmer slowly another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve!

I served mine with chili and cumin spiced kale stems, saffron rice and roti. Unfortunately, I was so hungry i didn't get a good photo, here's a rough one instead!