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Archive for March, 2012

My friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytials made this recipe a few days ago, and I knew I had to have it. Barb and I have been friends a really long time, and I think she blogs to get my taste buds going, in fact, I’m sure that’s what it is. I was doing a vegetarian week last week and when I saw this soup, I thought, perfect. Plus JT made it, so it was super easy for me! We are not big potato eaters in our house so we substituted the potatoes for Chick Peas, and it made it a bit heartier too. Another winner, Mrs. Barbie, thank you!

Fassolada (Barb’s Greek Bean Soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1-½  cups navy beans, dried
  • 6-½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced (we had some in the fridge, otherwise I might have omitted this too)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chick peas, canned
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-½ cups crushed low sodium tomato sauce (we love the Italian brands, they have an incredibly low sodium rate)
  • 1- ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano (preferably Greek)

Optional Garnish:

  • Greek Yogurt with smoked paprika sprinkled over it.

Directions:

  1. Place the beans in a bowl, cover completely with water, and let them soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add water, carrots, celery, onion, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaf and add tomato sauce, salt and olive oil and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour (until beans are tender). Add the chick peas and heat through.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning, if required.
  6. Serve in bowls with a dollop of Greek Yogurt and smoked paprika.

A hearty and filling soup; a great alternative to meat, but bacon would have gone so well with it...

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The birds get up really early in these parts, even before the sun rises around 4:15am! Has no one told them about daylight savings???? The robins are the noisiest, but I don’t mind; it’s just so nice to have the windows open.

When I made the chick pea béchamel, I got to thinking about thickeners, and I thought if chick peas thickened the cheese sauce so well, would there be another bean that would work better? Navy beans came to mind, plus I could control the sodium (yes, I used canned chick peas! Shame on me!). I made the White Bean Paste and kept it in the fridge all week, using it in this and that (recipe for Quinoa Risotto turned out extremely well) but I had a bit left over and on Saturday I needed an appi for cocktails, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

While torturing myself on the elliptical at the club I watch TV (actually, I listen to my tunes and have the closed captioning on) and most days I can catch Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. While most of his recipes inspire me, I virtually never make them verbatim; on top of that I’m told that there is a secret club who swear one is unable to make any of the recipes in 30 minutes! The other day he was making a Mediterranean dinner with all sorts of things, but what struck me was his presentation of a store bought Baba ghanoush. I’d never seen it presented as such before and I loved it. It was casual and approachable. He simply spread it on a plate and drizzled EVOO on it. Well, I knew I just had to use this technique and soon!

Fast forward to Saturday, we had spent the day downtown doing errands, and were at Yonge/Dundas Square (our Times Square) at 3pm to watch a flash mob promoting What to do Toronto (a relatively new web site highlighting current events in Toronto. The video isn’t up yet, but there are a couple of photos in the link; I’ll post the video when it’s up). The flash mob wasn’t an actual mob…not enough people to count as one, but they did dance in a lively choreographed manner which was entertaining. Sadly, it took place across the street from the Square, which meant JT and I missed the first half, by the time we noticed it was all the way over the other side of the busy street. It was close to 5 when we got home; we were cranky, tired and thirsty (did I mention that cocktails are held at 4pm in our household, drop by anytime, we always have lots!) It was also No Car Saturday, so we ran around using our Metro (I wore my hot pink patent leather stiletto BCBGs, I told you I wear inappropriate footwear, why are you surprised?). I needed an appi for cocktails, pronto. Back to the navy bean paste sitting in the fridge…hmmmm, so I put my Jamie inspiration together with a quick recipe and we were enjoying our cocktails with a lovely appetizer in no time. Cheers!

Not sure why the photo is so hot.

White Bean Hummus

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup navy bean paste
  • 1 tsp tahini (or peanut butter)
  • 2-4 tbsp lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1 small clove garlic finely minced (I use my handy microplane)
  • 2-4 tbsp Chipotle Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Put everything into a small bowl except the olive oil and mix. Since the bean paste is already processed into a smooth paste, you need not mess up your processor for this recipe, just mix well.
  2. Spread on a pretty plate and drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with crackers such as these: Gluten Free Almond Sesame Crackers or my Whole Wheat Flat Breads

Flashback to those hideous readers' digest recipe photos, mine is just missing the inappropriately placed gaudy shower curtain.

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I would have never thought that eating vegetarian would leave me so satisfied. And I don’t have the afternoon snackie feeling either. I’ve done well, down 3lbs this week…but I’ve also been working out like a fiend. 16km each day on my bike on Tuesday and Wednesday, and working out cardio and weights everyday this week (don’t worry, I mix up the muscle groups that I work on!). But I am tired…not quite 25 anymore (who am I kidding, I’m not even 35 anymore!!!).

The foods we have prepared are tasty but I must admit it is a bit of a challenge when you have to find recipes each day to cook (kinda like learning to cook again!). I came up with the Quinoa Mushroom Risotto because I was in the mood for a risotto and I didn’t want the carbs that rice has (and I’m still not eating meat during the week). I also came up with a great idea on how to achieve the creaminess that Arborio rice brings to the table, without adding cream or butter!

Pull up a chair and enjoy.

Gluten Free and Vegetarian Quinoa Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red and white Quinoa uncooked
  • 545 g variety of mushrooms
  • 3 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp roasted garlic purée (see note below)
  • 3 tbsp navy bean paste (see note below)
  • 100 mL water
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a cast iron pan, toast the quinoa until they begin to pop, remove immediately. Cook as per directions on package.
  2. In cast iron dutch oven, give a good squirt of cooking spray and heat. Add the Shallots and cook gently, adding a bit of water if the oil dries up. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
  3. Mix the roasted garlic purée with the navy bean paste, adding enough water to make a thick sauce (like a roux). Pour it into the mushroom mixture and stir well.
  4. Add the cooked Quinoi, thyme and soy sauce to the mushrooms and stir until everything is coated with the garlic bean purée.
  5. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Quinoa is a super food, but you still shouldn't wear a cape if you eat it.

Notes:

Roasted garlic purée

Take a head of garlic and roast with olive oil and sea salt in the oven until soft (I usually do it in a ramekin, not foil). Pop the cloves out into an immersion blender jar and purée until smooth. Add vegetable stock or water to make the consistency you need. I usually roast a bunch and freeze in special ice cub trays — pop out into a zip lock bag and return to freezer (don’t do it in your regular ice cub tray, otherwise your gin and tonic will taste garlic-y!)

Navy bean purée

Cook dried navy beans until soft. Purée with an immersion blender until you have a very smooth paste adding only as much water as the blender needs to continue the purée. Store in a glass container in the fridge and use as needed. I have used this paste as a roux for many things.

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The weather is incredible and promises to be. I’m thinking shorts and T’s! I’ve already started the tanning cream in hopes that my legs don’t look as pasty white as they have been! And I’ve beefed up my workout schedule. JT got my bike in working order so I’ve been biking the 8 km to and from work! Summer…BRING IT!

In an effort to cut back and hopefully lose a couple of pounds, I decided to eat vegetarian for a week. It’s not as much of a challenge as it would have been 20 years ago, there are so many incredible vegetarian products out there, and one that recently surfaced on my radar again are Sheritaki Noodles. They are low carb, low fat and they have a decent amount of protein. I usually buy this brand of Sheritaki Noodles. I have to admit, one needs a good robust sauce over these noodles because even after they are rinsed well, and heated they still have a bit of a fishy smell (the package calls it uniquely distinct). JT won’t eat them. So I have them for lunch during the week.

Lots of garlic and the basil in the pesto really helped mask the fishy flavour so distinct of this product

Sheritaki Noodles with Tofu Pesto

an original recipe by Kitcheninspirations (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • a handful of fresh basil
  • 55 g of firm tofu
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt
  • 1 green onion finely chopped
  • 4 steamed asparagus cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 113g Sharitake Noodles

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a small food processor, add the basil, tofu, minced garlic, lemon juice and salt, process until it is a smooth paste (like pesto).
  2. Warm the sheritaki noodles as per package directions, toss with the pesto and the asparagus and garnish with the green onions. Enjoy.

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It was St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday and we always go over to Andy and Mark’s Irish Pub, The Roy to celebrate. Andy was a production artist who worked where I work. A few years ago, his partner Mark was down-sized and that’s when they started seriously thinking about opening a pub. Mark is of Irish decent and they named The Roy after Mark’s dad who passed away a year or so earlier. The pub is in a cute little up-and-coming area in the east end of Toronto called Leslieville; Andy and Mark have lived there for about 7 years, maybe more. Andy quit working with us shortly after they opened the pub, and it’s been doing very well. They serve house-made, honest pub food. It’s not expensive and it’s good and you can always be sure that you will get a smile and a hug when you visit.

We invited my friend Kim (boss and neighbour) to join us on our patronage to The Roy so she dropped by the house for a cocktail and a bite (I always serve some food with booze) before we headed over. Late last week I was over at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures and noticed a Shrimp Burger she blogged about and I thought it sounded interesting and way, way back, Greg at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide told us about his Mom’s Maryland Crab Cakes…I knew I had to combine the two somehow and make a delicious protein packed appi! Isn’t that what inspiration is all about?

These tasty little morsels were pan fried in a little canola oil

I wanted a protein packed appetizer because we were about to indulge in some drinking..maybe even more than one! And no one wants a HO, at our age! One would think we would know better!

I pan fried some and found the frying did not add to the flavour to any degree, so I baked the rest of them. I made the recipe twice and rolled them around in sesame seeds the second time.

These tasty morsels were baked in the oven

Gluten Free Shrimp Balls

Makes about 12 balls about the size of a melon baller (one bite)

Ingredients:

  • 65 g raw shrimp, cleaned, de-veined and tails removed, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fat free mayo
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 green onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp egg whites (or one whole egg)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp chick pea flour
  • 1/4 cup black and white toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Add all of the ingredients except the chick pea flour and the sesame seeds into a mini food processor and process roughly, you don’t want to make the shrimp into a paste, just smallish pieces.
  3. Pour contents into a small bowl and stir in the chick pea flour, adding enough to allow the mixture to form into a ball (cookie dough consistency).
  4. Roll around in the sesame seeds and place on a cookie sheet about 5 cm apart. Bake for 17 minutes or until they are golden.
  5. Serve hot with traditional shrimp sauce (ketchup and horseradish).

Now I don't mean to be rude, but that is MY martini — hands off!

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As you know my dear friend Angela is hosting a Titanic Anniversary party on April 14; it’s the Centenary Anniversary and she is going all out for 8 of her most fortunate friends. JT and I are very happy to be included and I have embraced her enthusiasm and jumped on the band wagon, as any good friend would do (well, I’m no saint, the reasons are purely selfish, I just LOVE this kind of stuff), thank you Angela for allowing me to share in your excitement and to help with some of the food and the embellishments! I really do LOVE this stuff.

Many of my wonderful, gentle readers have been so generous with supportive comments and enthusiasm for this fun event, we thank you sincerely. My new found friend, Charlie Louie from Australia (I really do wish we were neighbours!) gave me a link to one of her very first posts on her lovely blog, Hotly Spiced that gave us a recipe for Duck Liver Pâté from a book she received as a gift from her son (she made her recipe with chicken livers, YUM). I remembered I had a couple of chicken livers in the freezer, so I thought, why not? Plus I needed a little appi for a friend coming over for drinks on Friday! We’ve had such a mild winter, and it warmed up to close to 20°C so we had to indulge and sit on the back patio for drinks after work. We still needed a sweater, but who cares, it was March 16 for crying out loud. I ain’t complaining!

The photo was taken last fall with the foliage in all its glory! Sadly the herbs have seen better days.

I don’t think Angela is including this recipe in her dinner, but I am totally into the mood, so I wanted to try it anyway (update, Angela has kindly given me the opportunity to make this appetizer as well, so I’m really pumped about it). I have to admit, it sounded a little bland when I first read it, but I wanted to keep it true so I didn’t change it up at all. The flavours were subtle yet it was very tasty. The liver really shined with the dash of rosemary. I used a square form that I was able to push the set paté out onto a plate, Charlie plated her’s in ramekins which also looked beautiful. I had to cut the recipe down because I didn’t have enough chicken livers (plus there were only three of us) but you can click here, for Charlie’s recipe. Note, as is my usual fashion, I cut down the butter and used milk instead of cream. I didn’t feel the taste suffered because of my changes.

Titanic Hors D’œuvres: Chicken Liver Pâté

Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are!

Chicken Liver Pâté on the back deck on March 16. Who would'a thunk it!

Ingredients:

  • 113 g Chicken Livers
  • 25 g melted butter
  • 13 mL milk
  • 1/4 tsp brandy (I actually cheated and added about a tablespoon)
  • 1/4 tsp chopped rosemary
  • crackers

Directions:

  1. Heat 15 g of the butter in a saucepan, add the livers and cook gently for 3-4 minutes. The livers should be cooked on the outside but a little pink on the inside.
  2. When the livers are cooked, place them into a processor and process until smooth.
  3. Add the brandy and rosemary to the saucepan then heat gently, scraping up the residue of the livers.
  4. Add the heated brandy and rosemary to the liver in the processor, together with milk and seasoning. Process until smooth.
  5. Pack the paté into a form (mine was square) and pour the remaining melted butter over the top of the pate to seal, cover and place in the fridge to chill. This should be made in advance so that the flavours have a chance to really pop.

Thanks again, Charlie, I look forward to making this for April 14th (I’ll likely do your proportions at that time!)

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To correct or not to correct? As I read through your lovely and flattering comments, the first thing I do is correct any typos that I notice. Is that OK? I usually ask you to correct mine, if I notice. Auto correct on my iPhone is great, but it can be a drag too, often correcting to words I do not want (it does ‘do’ for ‘so’ often, ARGH!). Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Breakfast on the weekend usually has a bit more pomp and circumstance than the weekdays, mainly because I’m not rushing to get ready for work. I was dying to try an idea I found on Dara’s Generation Y Foodie and Kelly’s Inspired Edibles blog; Dara made a pizza with a white bean paste base instead of a white béchamel that I thought was pure genius and Kelly took an old favourite of Mac and Cheese and pulled the proverbial rug right out from under it and made it healthy using chick peas instead of noodles. And it got me thinking…a bean paste as a thickener…

You will recall that we had a half a tin of chick peas left over from our Moroccan Mussel recipe the other night and the bean paste béchamel was really itching to get out of my head, so I came up with this lovely cheese sauce. You can pour it over crèpes like I did, or you can use it as a base for pizza as Dara did or better yet, pour it over cauliflower or broccoli! The possibilities are endless. Thank you Dara and Kelly for this inspiration.

Gluten Free Cheese Sauce

Serves 2-4

Cheesy Goodness poured all over that Crèpe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chick peas, drained and rinsed (you can use any canned bean for this recipe, but I would stick to the lighter ones, like navy beans, or black eyed peas or white beans)
  • 1/2-1 cup low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup finely grated flavourful cheese like Parmesan and Gruyère or sharp cheddar
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Add the chick peas to your immersion blender container (usually a tall thin cup), add 1/2 cup broth, salt and purée until smooth and about the consistency of crèpe batter adding the stock as required. Remember you will be adding cheese to this so it will thicken up.
  2. Pour contents into a sauce pan and begin heating up slowly. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted. The cheese won’t stick to the beans as well as it would the béchamel, so you will likely have to emulsify again so that it’s not grainy.  Return to the heat and stir. You may need to add a bit more stock at this point, depending on how thick you would like your sauce.
  3. Serve over crèpes or what ever you wish.

 

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