Lemon Paprika Chicken Legs

Firstly I want to really thank everyone for their kind words and notes of encouragement in response to my previous post. Supporting my daughter is exhausting and some nights I feel as though I have run a marathon. It means all the world to me that you all care so much and that gives me strength to continue. I have been a bit ‘all over the place’ in adjusting how and what I cook for my family so I’m not really ready to post anything we’ve eaten lately. Luckily I had this post half written before events transpired and I’m pleased to be able to share it with you. 

I will be the first to admit that I have a little bit of a ‘cheap’ streak inside me. It is very rare that I will buy anything at full price and I will spend ages looking for a deal on a needed item, especially if said item is expensive to begin with. I begin Christmas shopping early in the year so I can find the best gifts for my family and friends at the best prices. This is probably the only reason the only le creuset I own was given to me as a Christmas gift (by hubby who rarely buys ANYTHING on sale!). I would never have bought a le creuset for myself…until now. This purchase was definitely about me being in the right place at the right time and now I couldn’t be happier with my new 6.6 L le creuset roasting pan. Anyone who has a larger family knows that finding a roasting pan with a larger cooking surface is near to impossible.

I had one el cheapo clay with enamel pan that I bought at a grocery store and which cracked on the second time I used it. I managed to get about 10 meals out of it before those cracks had grown enough to nearly split the pan in half. In fact, after I took it out of the oven for the last time, I was very lucky it didn’t split into two, spilling hot oily chorizo and sweet potatoes all over my body. This le creuset pan is cast iron covered with the company’s very durable enamel. It’s not going anywhere and I will never have to worry about this pan splitting into two. So are you all wondering how much of a deal I got on it? It still is difficult for me to say that I spent $200 on ONE pan but at regular price this baby will set you back $400. Half price was just too difficult for me to pass up, especially when it is one of the pans I use most in my kitchen. Now I don’t have to worry that the cheap pans are going to break or contain chemicals that harm my family. One more thing…the clean up on this pan is super easy…just soak it in hot, soapy water and the food comes right off. I guess I’m starting to sound like I’m plugging le creuset (and I wish I was!!) but this is just me raving about a pan that I am totally and utterly in love with.

Here’s a super easy and delicious way to bake loads of flavour into chicken marylands. I like to bake the entire leg with bones and skin because it just tastes better. The meat remains moist and for those of you that like crispy skin, this recipe is perfect for you too. When I saw this recipe in the ricardocuisine.com chicken category, I knew it would be the perfect recipe to christen my new pan.

paprikachickenVery few ingredients are required to make this tasty chicken

paprikachicken1And the technique is very basic

paprikachicken2 But the results are fabulous!

Lemon and Paprika Baked Chicken Legs (from Ricardocuisine.com)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil
  • tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 6 chicken legs
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Pepper

Method

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the chicken. Set aside.
  3. With your fingers, gently lift the skin from the chicken legs without tearing it. Spread the lemon and paprika oil on the chicken flesh and skin. Season with pepper. Places the pieces, side by side, in a baking dish. Add the lemon wedges.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meat falls off the bone. If necessary, finish cooking under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the chicken skin is golden brown.
  5. Serve with the lemon wedges, rice and a vegetable of your choice.

OCD, Ethics, and the Ultimate Paralysis of Fear

6372013, eating ice cream in Paris. Rare to take a photo without one of them pulling a goofy face!

This day I’d like to share with you a little something different. It’s not entirely uplifting but maybe, just maybe there’s a little bit of hope at the end for all of us. You may have noticed my brief hiatus from posting on this blog. It was a natural pause for me because it occurred after our family trip to San Francisco until now.  I always find it difficult to get back into the swing of cooking and blogging after eating out and being served for so long and it’s normal for me to end up with a little bit of depression. This depression is somewhat paralyzing and regularly affects me after holidays but this time there was a bit more to it.

At the same time that we (hubby, kid number 1, and I) came back from San Francisco, kid number two returned from her school trip to Europe. She spoke animatedly about everything she saw, did, and felt.  When she finally went to bed I had a moment to reflect on her.  My daughter, the once healthy, brilliant, artistic teenage girl, had lost yet another ten pounds to her already slim 95 lbs. There was no escaping it anymore, no way to turn away and definitely no more taking chances on her promises of eating more.IMG_4251 (2)Let me tell you a bit about my girl:

  • She’s brilliant. A full International Baccalaureate student with a 95% average. She loves theoretical physics and learning about the world around her.
  • She’s artistic. As a young artist using different mediums she’s always been talented but now she excels. She has recently taken part in her first art showing, sold her first 3 pieces, and has been invited to take part in Market Collective here in Calgary as a ‘youth artist’.
  • She’s loving. This year for my 40th birthday she was able to track down (and make) the Chocolate Carrot Cake recipe that I’ve been trying to get for years. She’s taken over making Mother’s Day reservations from her dad (thank goodness!) and already has one made for Mother’s Day 2015.
  • She’s kind.  She regularly volunteers her time at various events within Calgary and at her school to help those less fortunate.
  • She’s athletic. Yes, it’s true she would laugh at this statement but she is athletic by sheer determination, not talent. She has a brown belt in Karate and is a regular runner.

But I’m worried. Her perfectionist and obsessive personality are taking over all of the things that I love about her.  What started out as ‘eating healthier’ and becoming fit in order to try out for a rugby team has taken over her life. Her restrictive eating is so severe that every meal has become a fight. I can’t help but think back to the days of when she was a toddler. She was never easy to feed, but at least if I waited long enough she would be hungry enough to try what was set out in front of her. Then came the time when she was within the ‘age of reason’. Our rule was always: try a bite, then another. In this way we eventually enjoyed normality at the dinner table…until last summer.

It began as a restriction of all refined carbohydrates and sugar. There was no reason to panic, everyone could use less carbs and sugars in their lives, including our family. I can’t imagine it was easy for her to begin this restriction as she was quite the baker, often baking cookies and not sharing them…

Then there was dairy. It became a fight to get her to drink even one glass of milk a day and even more difficult to have cheese on pizza, casseroles, or pasta (and by this time I am talking whole wheat pasta).

Then there was meat. I have often made meatless meals a weekly event and she has been quite appreciative but now any meal with meat in it becomes devastating.  I believe that her use of media; the daily visitation of vegetarian and vegan food blogs, and propaganda filled anti-meat videos has paired with her obsessive disorder has taken over her sense of preservation.  Her desire to obey her brain has overcome the desire to feed her body.

She insists her restrictive eating obsessions and her views on vegan-ism are two separate things. How can I even possibly begin to believe this is true? While it’s no secret that wholesale animal farming can often go hand in hand with inhumane slaughter, I know, as a farmer’s daughter, that the horrors shown on many agenda driven propaganda videos aren’t always the case. Humans evolved partly because they were smart enough to hunt and eat meat along with gathered seeds, roots, and tubers. Historically our varied diet gave us an advantage and once farming evolved we were able to evolve on a much larger scale. Organized societies, religion, discoveries in science, and art are all around today because farming enabled humans. As our populations grew farming became more intense, eventually leading to unethical practices such as caging, stunning, feedlots, and methods that increase production but cause animals to suffer in their short time on this earth.

Becoming vegan seems to be an ethical choice for many (including my daughter) but meat and animal products will always be served at my table. Animals specifically raised for the food industry would never have existed if it wasn’t for farming practices and they would never survive if suddenly every farmer was to turn them loose. I do believe that we, as consumers, have the responsibility to choose ethically raised proteins. We have the purchasing power to let meat conglomerates know that we won’t stand for inhumane practices. I guess you could say in a way that my daughter, through her illness, has made me aware of these matters.

If my daughter was well and in complete control of her compulsions, I would support her efforts towards a vegan lifestyle. It wouldn’t be easy but with proper menu planning she could get the necessary nutrients, proteins, and carbohydrates needed to live. Right now, we’ve arrived at a stalemate. Fish and shellfish are okay. Chicken is tough, beef is a no-go. I haven’t even tried pork yet. The stress of planning out meals to avoid tears has left me hating something I have once loved so much. Worrying about the damage her current diet and restrictions are doing to her body, her mental state (OCD and anguish over my insistence that she continue eating animals), and that age old question of ‘What to make for dinner’ (where the pressure is now multiplied by a thousand) has left me paralyzed. I am in a constant state of fear that I may lose my daughter and that my obsession with food, as a food blogger, is to blame.

I’m no longer standing by and allowing my daughter to restrict herself to death. Though I know there is a long and difficult path ahead for both of us, my love for her won’t allow me to stand by any longer. Last Friday was a tough, exhausting day of appointments and harsh realities.  I do expect things to get worse before they can get better because the sad reality is that help for this sort of condition only arrives when there is a full on five alarm emergency. Waiting lists and red tape often hinder therapy but my daughter is worth it. And so much more.

In My Kitchen – April 2015

Just an oh-so-quick peep into my kitchen this month. I’m sitting down and having my final cup of tea before we all head off to the airport. My daughter is going on an IB English literary trip to UK and France for 11 days and the rest of us are taking the opportunity to visit San Francisco during the Easter school holidays. Spring is in the air and our temperatures are mostly about zero degrees now, however, there is a nasty chinook wind blowing which is giving me a nasty pressure headache. One of the pleasures of living in Calgary is multiple atmospheric pressure changes due to the ever changing climate in a city near large mountains. I’m not the only one who gets these headaches and I’m very lucky that it only puts me in a horrible mood and not in bed for the day like some fellow sufferers. I’m a bit concerned about taking off with such a gale blowing and I’m hoping for a smooth take off for all of us today.

A local distillery, Eau Claire Distillery has released a special Spring spirit, ‘Spring Equinox’. It’s a lovely beverage featuring prickly pear cactus and other spring flavours. I had hubby stop by our local bottle shop and pick one up for me the very day it was bottled and shipped.

springequinox

I did a bit of experimentation with a new flavour. Tonka bean is similar to vanilla bean, but not exactly. I ground some up and used some in hubby’s 40th Birthday Root Beer cake.
006I went to SAIT Culinary Campus  for the Catelli Western Canadian premier of Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta and brought home lots of swag. I was pleasantly surprised that the texture and flavour of the cooked pasta were pleasing and not like any other ‘alternative’ pastas I’ve tried in the past.
healthyharvestI was asked to take part in featuring Easter recipes from Ricardocuisine. Ricardo is a Canadian Chef/TV food personality with his own show and products. He most recently has launched a great magazine, Ricardo, of which I have already enjoyed reading three issues. This Pickled Egg & Beet Spinach Salad was so delicious!
107
Not really IN my kitchen but in SOMEONE’S kitchen at least…I met some Canadian celebrity chefs this month. Chef Lynn Crawford was at SAIT Culinary Campus to do the Catelli launch. Chef Lynn is hilarious and kept us giggling all night. She owns Ruby Watchco in Toronto, judges periodically on Chopped Canada, and has her own show on Food Network Canada called Pitchin’ IncheflynnThe other celebrity chef I met this month was Chef René Rodriquez, winner of Top Chef Canada’s fourth and final season. His popular Ottawa restaurant Navarra is a reflection of his travels and journeys to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Latin America and Spain. Chef René was at Jerome’s Appliance Gallery as part of the GE Monogram Canada wide Top Chef Canada tour.
johnmereneWhew, it was actually quite a busy month! Thank you so much to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen every month. I do really enjoy this little peek into what is going on in other blogger’s kitchens. Until next month…

 

Root Beer and Tonka Bean Birthday Cake

Every year, not long after my birthday, hubby also turns another year older. This year his 40th birthday landed on a Thursday and on one of the busiest days that I’ve had in a long while. The poor guy almost didn’t have a cake at all, which is a bloody travesty in my books. There isn’t anything I like to do more than bake a cake.  The actual cake that I had planned out in my mind was this Brooklyn Blackout Chocolate Stout Cake (from Ovenly in Brooklyn) that I had spied on David Lebovitz’s Instagram feed and I really wanted so badly to bake it. ovenlycakeAlas, it was never meant to be, the execution of said cake just didn’t play out. I thought I had planned everything out: eggs, check; cream, check; blocks of butter at room temperature, check; stout beer, check. Did you notice any really important ingredient missing from my list? Yep, that would be cocoa. In this house with a superbly stocked pantry I might add, I could not find more than two tablespoons of dark cocoa powder. Such is life when you have cooking teens that like to bake brownies, I guess. I knew that if I made a trip to the store, the travel would greatly cut into my window of time I had set aside for cake baking, that being between 8 am and 12:45 pm on that day. I put my Brooklyn Blackout Cake dreams aside and thought about what other cake I could make that wasn’t chocolate.

For once I didn’t want to do anything citrus related and it had to be a cake that I had the ingredients on hand for. I thought really hard about what hubby would like and came up with…rootbeer! Surely there would be all sorts of recipes on pinterest for rootbeer cakes. I had a look and quickly ruled out the classy {sarcasm} rootbeer ‘poke’ cakes and the ones that used boxed mixes. What was left after that was a lovely looking Root Beer Cake pin from Culinary Alchemy and I had just enough Hires Root Beer left from our recent trip to the Vintage Soda Company in Airdrie. I didn’t have any rootbeer extract on hand but I did have 3 cans of Hires so I set immediately to reducing one of them down to 2 tbsp of syrup. Did I mention that I finally began making this cake at 11:45 am? This left me 1 hour to reduce the rootbeer and get that cake in the oven. I decided to not worry about the recipe asking for cake flour and just went crazy with the sifter. I ground some tonka beans in my spice grinder and threw in about a teaspoon instead of using vanilla. 006

Everything worked out just fine. I got the batter into the pans with nary a second to spare…and maybe a moment too soon as I spied some lumps going into the pans which I quickly fished out. The minute I had the cake out of the oven and cooling on racks, I was out the door and on my way to my hair appointment. I had actually texted hubby in a moment of panic asking, “what would you like more for your birthday? A birthday cake or a beautiful wife?” HA! For the next three hours I tried not to obsess about how I was going to finish the cake because I knew I would be leaving for football as soon as I returned home. Somewhere in that time I was able to book us a table for two at NOtaBLE (which is conveniently located near the football field) and instruct our daughter on how to make vanilla butter cream. She saved the day by finishing the cake for me. rootbeercake3I dropped our son at the football field at the appointed time and met hubby at NOtaBLE for well deserved (and much needed) pre-dinner cocktails. After our delicious meal (he had the prime rib, I had pork tenderloin) we were able to watch the rest of the football jamboree. Our evening ended the way all great birthdays do, with cake! Despite the sorely needed extra mixing time the texture of the cake was gorgeous and we could actually taste the root beer.

Root Beer Birthday Cake with Tonka Bean (adapted from Culinary Alchemy)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 1 1/2 (300g) cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (283g) AP flour (plus more for the pans)
  • 2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground tonka bean
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Hires Root Beer
  • 1 can Hires Root Beer reduced to 2 tbsp
  • 4 large Eggs

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and tonka bean into a medium bowl.
  5. Mix root beer and reduced syrup in a small pitcher.
  6. Add flour mixture and root beer to the butter mixture, alternating between flour and root beer. Begin and ending with adding flour.
  7. Beat until smooth and no lumps remain. Divide evenly between prepared pans.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Be sure to cool completely before frosting the cake.

I’m not sure what recipe my daughter used for the buttercream but any recipe will do. She added some caramel sauce to the buttercream (as per my request) but it was quite sweet…you are best to go with a butter cream that is more ‘buttery’ as opposed to ‘sweet’. rootbeercake2

 

 

 

Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Soon we’ll be leaving for our holiday in San Francisco. I’m so excited but I have so much to do before we leave, including scheduling some blog posts and figuring out what we are actually going to do once we are there. I’ve never been to SF but I know many people who have and they’ve all given me such fabulous tips and ideas.  I know of at least 4 food bloggers that have gone in the last two weeks so I’m looking to their eating experiences for inspiration. I’ve pretty much given up on sorting out reservations by now as many restaurants book up months in advance. I guess hubby is just going to have to learn to wait in line so that we can hopefully snag a ‘walk in’ table at one or two of the hot spots I have my eye on. Once again, it seems as though I have inadvertently booked our hotel within stumbling distance of one of the most popular beer hot spots…we’ll just call it ‘beer radar’ shall we?  In addition to a couple of nice sit down dinners, I’m looking forward to enjoying a sudsy brew or two, eating in Chinatown, slurping some oysters, and fulfilling my carb requirements at some delicious bakeries.

Enough about my trip. It’s pretty obvious I’m procrastinating here…putting off planning and packing and telling you about this great pork tenderloin recipe I found last week on ricardocuisine.com. It’s part of their Easter recipes campaign but really you could enjoy it anytime of the year.tenderloinThe most difficult part of the recipe was all the tears I shed while I was mincing up all those shallots. Even though it was a touch painful, I would never omit them from the recipe. Cooking more with maple syrup is on my ‘to do’ list so I’m really glad this recipe included this great Canadian cooking ingredient.

porktenderloin1Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin (Ricarcocuisine.com)

Ingredients

  • Flour
  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 lb (454 g) each
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) maple syrup

Method

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  2. Prepare tenderloins by removing tendons and silver skins.
  3. Dust the tenderloins with flour. In an ovenproof skillet, brown the meat in the butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the skillet. Set aside.
  4. Add a little butter in the skillet, if necessary, and soften the shallots. Add the mustard and maple syrup and simmer for about 1 minute, until it thickens. Return the pork to the skillet and coat with the sauce.
  5. Bake for 16 to 17 minutes for medium rare doneness.
  6. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

NOTE: I don’t own an oven proof skillet so I browned the tenderloins in my regular skillet, then transferred them into a baking dish. I deglazed the skillet with a splash of white wine to soften all the meaty bits left in the pan. Then I proceeded with step 3.

 

 

René Rodriguez at Jerome’s Top Chef Canada Event

It seems like just yesterday that I visited Jerome’s Appliance Gallery for the annual GE Monogram sponsored Top Chef event with Trevor Bird. I joined the crowd to watch the season two runner up demonstrate his chef skills to a captive audience. Then last year I had the pleasure of watching season three’s third place chef Jonathan Goodyear cook alongside Calgary’s own Nicole Gomez.  Even though I was really excited to be a part of the event again this year, I knew it would be bittersweet because there will be no more seasons of Top Chef Canada. Still, season four winner René Rodriquez really rocked Jerome’s kitchen and fed us well.

Ottawa born, with culinary beginnings in Mexico, Renè Rodriguez grew up with an affinity for Spanish cuisine. He spends time in Spain every year, consistently learning and honing his Spanish culinary skills which he translates into an outstanding menu at Navarra. I’m not kidding…have a look for yourself!  Ottawa is certainly very lucky to benefit from his talent for using bright and warming flavours…food that feeds the soul.

The Top Chef Canada event at Jerome’s began with a quick introduction by our emcee, John Gilchrist. johnreneRené explained each process that went into the creation of our two tapas dishes beginning with the seared duck breast. The prep for the duck breasts had started the night before with removal of the attached sinews and a thorough layer of salt. The duck breasts were then left uncovered to air dry in the cold fridge. This technique draws out some of the moisture and enables the flavour of the duck to become quite concentrated. To sear the breasts, a thin layer of oil is heated in a large frying pan. Once the pan is really hot the breast is placed in it, fat side down and stays there for about 15 minutes, or until it gets a nice crispy layer. The breast is flipped onto it’s other side for just a quick minute and finished in the oven. The duck breasts they used for the demo were from the absolutely huge Pekin variety of ducks from Brome Lake Ducks which are also prized for their foie gras. Once the breasts come out of the oven, they are rested then sliced and placed over a delicious ancho chile/poached quince sauce. To make the sauce René takes the dried ancho chiles and sears them slightly, then reconstitutes them in water. Quinces require cooking to be edible and for the sauce they get poached, slightly pickled and then sautéed in a brown butter. These two ingredients marry beautifully and compliment the duck really well.reneprep The sliced duck was then topped with sun chokes pickled simply with brown sugar and white vinegar. The splash of green is baby sorrel.

duckcollageChef René Rodriguez and Cody Draper lending a hand with the prep, execution, and plating

Our second tapas was a lot simpler in nature but had outstanding flavour. René cut large wedges of Manchego and added a chorizo meatball. One quick garnish of baby cilantro and the dish was done.chorizomeatballWhile this dish was being prepared, John explained that Manchego is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that comes in various stages of ripeness, sort of like Swiss Gouda I guess. They didn’t say but I’m guessing by the texture of the Manchego we were served, it must have been aged for at least 9 months.johnmereneI was thrilled to have been a part of Jerome’s Top Chef event again this year. Excited to add another ‘famous Canadian chef’ photo to my collection, though it’s a bit out of focus. Huge thanks to GE Monogram and Jerome’s Appliance Gallery for putting these great Top Chef events on, to John Gilchrist for being such an entertaining emcee, and to René for taking time away from his family to cook for us in Calgary.

Pickled Egg and Beet Spinach Spring Salad – A Ricardo Recipe Experience

Winter. It’s over! Thank goodness…I’ve been so OVER the root vegetable salads, specifically Roasted Beet Salad. Root vegetable based salads are quite tasty, don’t get me wrong…but after six months of darkness, I’m ready to lighten it up a little! When I was asked to share some Easter recipes from ricardocuisine.com with my readers I was immediately drawn to the Pickled Egg and Beet Spinach Salad recipe. It was as if the dreary winter had suddenly stopped existing, the sun came out and the birds were chirping. Spring is a time for renewal and what better way to change up an old favourite than to add these lovely, bright pickled eggs to the old beet and spinach salad. I love pickled eggs, but I think I will be pickling them with beets from now on. Not only do they look really cute and are dyed the perfect pink, but they taste fabulous too! beetsaladThe recipe is certainly not difficult but you do have to make it a day ahead of time.  This makes it a perfect ‘make ahead’ dish for your Easter feast as it really comes together quickly after the initial pickling process. As you can see from the photo above there is quite a large ring of beet dye around the eggs. I had the eggs and beets pickling for about 28 hours, less time would probably give you a thinner ring of pink.  Flavour-wise the beets were spot on. They weren’t as pickled as the ones you can buy from the store (which are actually too harsh for me) and you can still taste their earthy beet flavour clearly. While making the salad I didn’t follow the vinaigrette recipe to the letter because I didn’t have any white wine vinegar. I substituted a white balsamic reduction and omitted the honey because the reduction was already quite sweet. I also used tarragon infused dijon mustard in place of regular dijon which turned out to really complement the pickling spices that I had used to pickle the beets. 109I only made half of the recipe quantity that was provided online and now I really regret it. I had the whole family gather round as I cut into the eggs for the first time and they all had to have a half before I put the salad together. I was a bit worried there would be none left to photograph!

Pickled Eggs and Beets (ricardocuisine.com)beeteggs

Ingredients

  • 12 small beets
  • 12 peewee or small 
eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) mustard seeds

NOTE: Instead of the celery and mustard seeds, add two teaspoons of pickling spices

Method

  1. In a large pot, cook the beets in water for about 30 minutes or until tender. Cool them in cold water and peel. Transfer to a 2 litres (8 cups) jar.
  2. In a saucepan, place the eggs and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water begins to boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 12 minutes. Place the eggs in very cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the eggs and place them in the jar with the beets.
  3. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spices to a boil. Pour into the jar over the beets and eggs. Let cool and refrigerate for 24 hours. Cut the eggs in half to enjoy the colour contrast.

Now for the salad!

Pickled Egg and Beet Spinach Spring Salad (ricardocuisine.com)

Ingredients

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) honey
  • A hint of garlic, finely chopped (I used one clove if you need a measurement)
  • Salt and pepper

Salad

  • 6 cups (1.5 litres) baby spinach
  • 6 pickled eggs, halved
  • 6 pickled beets, cut into wedges

Method

Vinaigrette

  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad

  1. Divide the spinach among four plates. Garnish with eggs and beets. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Adjust the seasoning.090

Ottolenghi Style Comfort Food – Mejadra

Comfort food. What does this phrase mean to you? For many it means familiar flavours that have survived the special and not so special times in their lives. A familiar flavour that brings you back to another time or place. It sets your soul and mind at ease. Just think about digging into a creamy, cheesy bowl of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese. What kind of feelings does this imagery conjure up? Warmth, love, belonging, peace? I’m obviously speaking from my own experiences here. You may have your own dish that gives you similar feelings or you may just not be as addicted to food as I am.

Wikipedia defines Comfort Food as such:

           “A traditional food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the consumer and

is often characterized by a high carbohydrate level and simple preparation. The nostalgic

     element most comfort food has may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.”

Here in North America classic comfort foods include the aforementioned mac ‘n’ cheese, cookies, poutine, gravy and biscuits, chicken noodle soup, pasta dishes, pie, fried chicken, etc. All dishes that are quite high in carbohydrates and fat. It’s no wonder there’s a higher percentage of obese people in North America. So what about other countries? Do they have their own comfort foods? According to the Wikipedia definition they do. I just listened to a podcast called Eat This Podcast where the host was talking to an Egyptian lady, now living in London, who opened up an Egyptian street food themed restaurant called Koshari Street. Koshari is a popular Egyptian street food that unites the people regardless of class or religion. It’s a comforting mixture of lentils, rice, pasta, and chickpeas with a spicy tomato sauce on top. Not really something that interests my tastes or conjures up ‘comfort food’ but then again, I didn’t grow up in Egypt.

One comfort food from another country that I have recently tried and adored is Mejadra. Mejadra is a ‘one pot’ dish complete with Middle Eastern flavours but what really makes the dish are all the fried onions piled on top of the rice and lentils. It is served both warm and cold, sometimes with cucumber yoghurt or plain sour cream. In Jerusalem, it is a popular picnic dish. The Mejadra recipe that I used came from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi.ottolenghiMejadra (Yotam Ottolenghi; Jerusalem; page 120-121)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups/250 g green or brown lentils (I actually used Beluga lentils in my dish)
  • 4 medium sweet onions (1 1/2 lb/700 g before peeling)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • about 1 cup/250 ml sunflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 cup/200 g basmati rice (I used brown basmati and adjusted the time accordingly)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups/350 ml water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and mix well with your hands. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add one-third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature so the onion doesn’t fry too quickly and burn). Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed. Warning: This step will take quite a while to complete but it is really worth it because the onions make the dish.

Wipe the saucepan in which you fried the onion clean and put in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.Because I used brown basmati, the rice needed a bit more liquid and time to finish

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.

Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

A Night with Chef Lynn Crawford and Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta

It probably seems strange to follow a cheesecake post with one that promises so many healthful benefits but I’m a firm believer that any little bit helps in the grand scheme of things and moderation is key. I’ve been trying, by way of baby steps, to incorporate more healthful decisions in my life. I have just turned 40 and as someone who loves to cook and eat as much as I do I will admit that there are more than a few lifestyle changes needed in my future. So I’ve started with small changes. I begin each day with lemon water. Lemon water is reported to have many health benefits including aiding digestion, reducing inflammation, flushing toxins, etc. At the very least I figure I’m getting more Vitamin C and starting each day hydrated. After my lemon water I move on to my daily latté. I’m careful to keep my caffeine intake low, usually only one cup a day, maybe two at the most. I’ve stopped dumping a teaspoon of sugar in each time. As a family we’ve made the decision to switch to brown basmati rice and have severely limited our pasta consumption to limit our intake of high carbohydrate foods.PastaCollage

I’m not going to lie, we do miss eating pasta dishes but the alternatives we’ve tried so far; whole wheat, rice, and bean based pastas have been a bust in both taste and texture. So much so that when I got invited to try out the new Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains I was really hesitant and skeptical. What if I tried the product and then found that it was like all the other alternative pastas that I had already tried? I’ve learned from previous experience that writing a blog post about a product or gadget that I didn’t like is a very tough thing to do and I’m not going to patronize my readers or put on a show like a trained monkey. Sure, I was treated to an amazing evening with Canadian chef Lynn Crawford…but what I got out of the evening was a new way to feed my family. I’m really excited to have a new and delicious pasta alternative that doesn’t taste or feel like cardboard. Ancient Grains pasta is quite delicious and it comes in three types; Rotini, Spaghetti, and Spaghettini. Right now it is only available in Western Canada but hopefully soon all of Canada will be on board.

In addition to 100% Canadian whole wheat, the Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta contains…drum roll…five Ancient Grains all of which bring their own unique flavours and nutritional benefits:AncientGrains

Quinoa: Dating back to the 13th century South American Inca Empire, quinoa is high in fibre, protein and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron – and low on the glycemic index.

Amaranth: Native to the Americas and prized by Aztec civilization, amaranth is rich in protein, containing all the essential amino acids, key vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron.

Teff:  Originating in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE, this poppy seed-sized grain is high in protein, fibre, calcium, thiamin and iron.

Sorghum: Domesticated in Northeastern Africa more than 5,000 years ago, sorghum – a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and magnesium – is known to support digestive health, help fight cardiovascular disease and help control blood sugar levels.

Millet: Cultivated 4,000 years ago from wild West African grass, this nutty-flavoured grain is known to be heart healthy, containing a high level of protein, magnesium and niacin. Alkalizing to the body, millet is considered one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available.

This pasta stuff is really kind of cool…it’s non GMO, all natural with no preservatives, low in fat, no sodium or trans fats. It contains 75% of your daily recommended whole grain servings AND 32% of your required daily fibre in one 85 gram serving. saladshot2

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing (from Chef Lynn Crawford)

 Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 8 min Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pkg (340 g)              Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains Spaghettini

2 cups (500 ml)            snow peas, thinly sliced diagonally

1 cup (250 ml)               shelled edamame

1                                       small English cucumber

2 cups (500 ml)            napa cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup (250 ml)               red pepper, cut into matchsticks

3                                       green onions, thinly sliced

1                                       ripe avocado, sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml)            cilantro leaves

2 tbsp (30 ml)              black sesame seeds

Ginger-Wasabi Dressing:

1/4 cup (60 ml)            seasoned rice vinegar

3 tbsp (45 ml)              canola oil

2 tbsp (30 ml)              soy sauce

2 tbsp (30 ml)              lemon juice

1 tsp (5 ml)                   lemon zest

2 tsp (10 ml)                brown sugar

2 tsp (10 ml)                sesame oil

1 tsp (5 ml)                  grated fresh ginger

wasabi to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Rinse under cold water until well chilled; transfer to large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a pot of boiling water, cook snow peas and edamame until tender-crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water until well chilled; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, halve the cucumber lengthwise and use the end of a spoon to scoop and discard seeds; cut cucumber into julienne strips.
  4. Ginger-Wasabi Dressing: Whisk together rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Season with wasabi to taste.
  5. Add cucumber, snow peas, edamame, napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions and avocado to noodles; toss with enough dressing to coat.
  6. Garnish with cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.

 Tip: If you have time, you can chill the noodle dish by refrigerating for 1 to 4 hours.

Per serving: 590 calories, 19 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 710 mg sodium,

84 g carbohydrates, 145 g fibre, 13 g sugar, 21 g proteincheflynn

To get the most out of your pasta experience here are 10 Whole Grain Pasta Cooking Tips from Chef Lynn Crawford:

  1.  Watch your cooking time: Pasta should be cooked according to the cook time guide on the package to achieve the ideal al dente texture. For a professional twist, cut one to two minutes off the suggested cooking time, drain and finish off cooking your pasta in the sauce.
  2. Skip the oil: There is no need to add oil to your cooking water. Despite popular belief, this actually takes away from the pasta’s final texture and ability to adhere to the sauce. Skip the oil and embrace the starchiness of your pasta.
  3.  Water your pasta: When cooking pasta, use a large pot. As basic as it sounds, it will make a difference in the outcome of your pasta. You will need one litre of water to about 100 grams of pasta.  Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and help keep the noodles from sticking together.
  4. Think salty sea: Add a generous amount of sea salt to the boiling water to ensure your pasta is well seasoned. You may even want to taste the water before adding your pasta to make sure there is enough salt.
  5. Avoid rinsing: For hot pasta dishes, never rinse the pasta after cooking in order to retain the starch and enable warm sauces to better adhere to the pasta.
  6. Create the perfect pair: Delicate pasta shapes go well with delicate sauces, and heartier, ridged shapes pair well with richer sauces and ragus.  For example, try long thin pasta, such as spaghetti, with a classic marinara sauce. Penne, ziti or rigatoni lend themselves to thicker sauces with more texture, such as a ragu Bolognese.
  7. Embrace the texture: Whole grain pasta has a hearty, firm texture that’s perfect for cold or chilled recipes and marinates well in tangy dressings. The firmness of the noodles also provides a good base for both crunchy and juicy fresh vegetables.
  8. Top it off: With a nutty, rich flavour, whole grain pasta can take on other strong, complex flavours. Ingredients that pair well with whole grain pasta include garlic, chili, anchovies, rich pesto sauces, and bitter or dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard and radicchio.
  9. Take the heat: When preparing hot pasta recipes, keep your serving plates or bowls warm in an oven set to a low temperature until you’re ready to serve. This will ensure that your final dish stays nice and hot.
  10. Crank up the flavour: Whole grain pasta is an easy base on which to build a healthy and delicious meal. Incorporate a lean protein, plenty of fresh vegetables, and seasoning with big flavours in the pasta for an even more nutritious and satisfying dish.

We really had a great night with Chef Lynn Crawford at SAIT Culinary Campus. She kept us on our toes as well as keeping us giggling like teenagers all night long. I would really like to thank Catelli for the fun experience, for feeding us, and for the cool pasta swag. saitcc

Mini Lemon Cheesecakes with Extra Lemon of course…

I come from a long line of people who like to save useful things. Please don’t ever call us ‘packrats’ because everything we save has an intended purpose and we’ll use it…someday. There was a point in time when I would just shake my head at the heaps of wool, cabinets full of material, and all the old antiques hanging around my mother’s house. Sometimes it felt like the walls were closing in on me whenever I would go back for a visit and other times there was barely enough room to turn around. I don’t really know what actually caused her to start cleaning everything out and selling the old antiques (some of which I now ironically feel would be useful to me as blog props) but I can only speculate that it was because I had casually mentioned torching the house when they leave this world instead of going through the work of sorting and finding a new home for each and every ‘treasure’. I know, I’m a horrible daughter.  Anyway, I found these mini glass containers (also conveniently filled with chocolate mousse) at Costco and I knew they would be perfect to make mini cheesecakes in. I guess in this case I’m the collector…cough…hoarder!…cough.lemoncheesecakes4

This post is going to be heavy on the photos because I had one of those rare days when the photo shoot actually worked out. I had my sidekick/artistic director helping out with some of the propping and lighting. I love being mom to such a artistic and talented young lady and I’m tickled that she is in the very process of starting her own blog, just like her momma!lemoncheesecakesI’m guessing you don’t just want to stare at Mini Lemon Cheesecakes all day so here’s the recipe:

Mini Lemon Cheesecakes with Lemon Curd

Ingredients

2 cups graham crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

 

2             8-ounce bars cream cheese

1 cup      sugar

1 cup     sour cream

2             large eggs

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tsp      pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp  kosher salt

2 tsp     lemon zest

 

4 large egg yolks

Zest of ½ lemon

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

6 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Method for Graham Crust: In a bowl mix graham crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Add more butter if the crumbs don’t start to stick together then press into the bottom and sides of the pan or container you are using. You can make a full cheesecake pie or make individual ones like I have done. I pressed enough crumb mixture into the bottom of these glass ramekins to make a solid layer about 1 cm thick. Bake in 400 F oven until golden. The bake time will vary based on the size of your vessel. A regular pie size will take about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Method for Cheesecake layer:
  1. Heat oven to 325° F. In a food processor, process cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth.
  2. Pour into the piecrust and bake until the center is set but still slightly wobbly, 40 to 50 minutes for a regular sized cheesecake pie, about 20 minutes for the individuals.  Let cool, then chill until firm, 4 to 5 hours. Top with lemon zest before serving.

Method For the Lemon Curd:

  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
  2. Over medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, about 7 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, stirring until consistency is smooth.
  5. Transfer mixture to serving container. Let cool. Refrigerate for about an hour or until chilled.

(This recipe makes about 8 oz., enough to top a pie sized cheesecake and four mini cheesecakes)lemoncheesecakes5

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