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Archive for May, 2012

My best friend’s husband just celebrated a benchmark birthday last weekend. We normally don’t really do anything for the guy’s birthdays; my friend and I are only eleven days apart so we usually go get a pedi together, but because it was a benchmark (and a big one at that!) I wanted to surprise him with a visit and a home made cake.

My friend’s daughter conspired with me (using Facebook messaging) to find a time where JT and I could pop in. They live about an hour from our place in Toronto so I really wanted to make sure they would be home if we dropped in. He apparently loves lemon cake so that is what I made.

The recipe for the cake came from Baking with Julia, a Dorie Greenspan cookbook, but in my searching around the web, I realized that the recipes are never reprinted on the internet, so to respect this tradition, I am not reprinting it either. It’s a loaf cake with a good lemon taste, but I wanted really lemony so I added a 1/2 cup lemon juice, mixed with 3 tbsp sugar when it finished baking as a glaze. My friend Liz (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) made the cake last month. It’s not a typical recipe for this type of cake, but it does come together quite easily and produces a lovely lemony dense cake. I baked it in a square pan and then cut two smaller squares so that it can be layered. I wrapped it in the Marshmallow Frosting from Martha Stewart that I made for the cupcakes at Easter.

Deliciously lemony with a creamy marshmallow frosting

I bought the plate so I could just leave it at my friend’s place


Happy Birthday Mike. May you have many more!

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My friend Sawsan of Chef in Disguise made this bread last week and as soon as I saw it, I knew I HAD to make it. I’m still doing the no carb, sugar, blah, blah, blah diet, but my Mom’s husband was coming down for a visit and I wanted to make a special breakfast of home-made bread for him. The loaves turned out beautifully, light, a good crumb, great texture (just a little chewy, like egg bread) and quite sesame-ish. I followed Sawsan’s recipe and I didn’t half or even quarter it and I am sure glad I didn’t. I LOVED it. And I will make it again. Thank you kindly Sawsan, for the glorious recipe, I likely would have never found on my own. One little round was plenty for dinner for two people.

Gorgeous round loaves

Sesame Bread (from Sawsan, Chef in Disguise)

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I actually found I needed about 4 1/2 cups, but it was rather humid the day I made it)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (this was increased from 1/4 tsp because it just wasn’t enough 2016/03/15)

For the topping:

  • 1 egg white beaten (I had the same concern as Sawsan, and I didn’t want it to taste eggy, so I just used the white)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • sesame seeds (about a cup)

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and 3/4 cup water, stir gently and allow to bubble up and foam (if it doesn’t you need to discard it and start over with new yeast).
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt ,powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Rub the eggs into the flour with your finger tips and switch to a dough hook to incorporate completely.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes untill you get a smooth slightly sticky dough (you may or may not need to add more water depending on the type of flour you use).
  4. Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out each part into a rectangle thin rectangle Sawsan has excellent photos showing what your bread should look like.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 500°F.
  7. Begin by rolling the dough tightly on the long end, bring the two ends together and pinch to seal. Pinch the seam along the edge as well so it doesn’t unravel. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash and then entirely cover in sesame seeds (I used black and white ones). Complete the remaining dough the same way. Allow to rest about 20 minutes.
  8. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 400°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden.
  9. Serve with fresh preserves and unsalted butter. JT even used the wedges to sop up the gravy from the Bœuff Bourguignon he made for dinner on Saturday night.

They turned out to be about 20 cm in diametre. We sliced them in triangles like cheese.

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Last Friday, as a treat to achieving my weight loss goal (10lbs) we tried a ‘new’ restaurant Bar Centrale in the city recommended by our neighbour Tom — it’s part of the Terroni Restaurant Group (Tom is the one who gave us his father’s wonderful olive oil from Greece). Tom is an architect and his company designs all of the Terroni Restaurants (I believe they have one in LA, California too).

Bar Centrale (pronounced Chent-rah-lay) is in what we would call mid-town, sitting on Young Street. Mid-town is an affluent area with modest homes starting around the million dollars to the absolutely ridiculous. Fortunately (or perhaps by design) Bar Centrale has a green P parking lot within a minute walk to its doors, otherwise it would have been a nightmare to find parking.

We had reservations for 8 and arrived about 10 minutes early and the restaurant was absolutely packed but they had our table ready. It’s a large place and occupies 3 stories in an older renovated building. It’s got a Lower East Side industrial décor with exposed piping in the ceilings. Their walls are decorated with their signature pantry staples, some house made and some imported from Italy. Terroni has always been true to their roots from a food perspective, so much so that they will actually refuse to allow you to order something as an extra if they don’t feel it’s authentic to that dish (my friend Kim’s ex-husband loves anchovies and always likes them on his pizza, any pizza, but when he tried to order anchovies on the side at Terroni on Queen West, they told him he couldn’t have them because it’s not authentic to the particular pizza he ordered!).

Our table is an adorable little table for two directly beside a window on a side street, it’s open and a wonderful breeze floats in (we had an amazing 24°C day). The table is small enough that we can hear each other over the noise of the restaurant. And it’s noisy or shall I say, lively! There are still a lot of families dining, but the kids are held at the tables and not running around the place like wild animals. We are greeted by our waitress within a reasonable amount of time and we order our cocktails; I had a Campari Spritz which is 1.5oz Campari, 1.5oz Prosecco & splash of soda and JT had an Il Sorpasso which is 1.5oz Aperal, 1oz Bourbon, fresh Lemon juice, Honey & Sprakling Lemonade. My cocktail is quite bitter on first taste, but then mellows and I find it tasty but not sweet which makes it easy to sip and not guzzel! JT’s cocktail has a bit too much sweetness for my taste. We order out appetizers but wait to order our mains. I had the grilled calamari which was presented typically and rustically with a mix of greens; perfectly cooked, the calamari was tender and dressed just right, it had an absolutely perfect char which really brought out the smoky flavour. I will go back specifically for this course! JT had a chick pea cake with mixed greens. We had high hopes for the chick pea cake but sadly it was bland and really needed some kind of sauce or aioli.

For our main course we shared the cheese and cured meat platter which was just the right amount of food. The platter itself was a lovely slab of wood sliced from the trunk of an olive(?) tree; Tom mentioned that they were custom made. They served an aged Parmesan and a softer mild cheese that I wasn’t familiar with but was very tasty. The platter also came with a small ramekin of honey which was incredibly tasty when drizzled on the cheese. The cured meats were prosciutto and salami. There was bread and focaccia which I declined.
The dinner was a nice pace, about an hour and a half.

Overall rating of Bar Centrale (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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Spring is my favourite time of year. It’s a time of rebirth and renewal. It’s a time to shed the heavy coats and gloves and socks and boots and dawn lighter, airier garments. It’s a time to enjoy the greenery and the burst of colour the garden has to offer.

The beautiful crab apple tree in full bloom. She is just so happy we got rid of that towering shady elm!

We live in the city, and so our lot is not huge, but it’s a decent size for some interesting landscaping. Last fall, as many of you already know, we hard-scaped the back yard and removed all the grass. It never really grew well anyway. Our big huge Elm made sure of that. We also had a smaller elm removed from in front of the kitchen window. We knew the crab apple would be very happy because we did.

The Azalea in full bloom.

My friend Norma has beautiful Azaleas in her rural garden. She is even lucky enough to get deer from time to time! Our back yard faces east, so we really only get the morning sun. It’s still a little cool to sit outside, but I’m hoping that by next weekend we will be able to.

The hostas and ferns are shooting up like crazy beside my little ‘thinker’

I’m finding that the garden takes turns on allowing a different variety to flourish each year; the periwinkle is flowering so much this year, more than I can recall in the past. The violets are not doing as well. Perhaps next year it will be their time again. Or the Lily of the Valley.

A surprise in the back 40!

And so, I’ll leave you with a little surprise down by the back shed: our very own Trillium. The Trillium is Ontario’s official flower and it is illegal to pick them, or even uproot them; you can get fined if you are caught. They supposedly flower every seven years! We noticed this little gem about 5 years ago, when it flowered last (OK, so maybe Trilliums weren’t good at math). We don’t know how it got here, but we sure feel lucky that it is here! And flowering so beautifully. See you Miss Trillium, hopefully in another 5 years!

20120507-221858.jpg

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This weeknight meal started out to be a navy bean curry, but I went a little overboard on the spices and it ended up with the flavouring of our holiday in Morocco. If you please you could add some raisins, currents or even dates. Perhaps a nut or two for some crunch. All in all a very flavourful recipe that I hope you will enjoy.

Moroccan Inspired Navy Beans with Mushrooms

Serves 1 (just multiply by the number you need). I eyeballed this recipe, so if you decide to make it, make sure you alter it to your own taste! The only important bits are to soak the beans and cook them all the way through, the rest is really up to you!

The beans were cooked in the ‘curry’ until creamy

Ingredients:

  • 75 g dried Navy Beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic finely minced (I like my microplane for this)
  • 1/4 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water, liquid reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cremini and white mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp Meat Masala
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger (I used the powdered Moroccan ginger)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Water, as much as the beans will absorb
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp green onions
  • Hot pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Non-stick spray

I like to add pepper flakes for a bit of heat

Directions:

  1. Lightly spray a pressure cooker with non-stick spray and heat. Add onions. Cook the onions until they are brown, you’ll have to watch this as the spray doesn’t really give you enough fat so you’ll need to add very little bits of the stock. We don’t want to steam the onions, we want to BROWN them.
  2. Add 1-2 minced cloves of garlic and ALL of the dry spices and cook until you can smell the wonderful aroma (you are cooking the bitterness out of them). Add the drained beans and cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add the white vinegar and mix well. Add the remaining stock and about 2 cups of water. Close the lid and put the timer on for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, check to see if the beans have absorbed all of the water (how fast they absorb will depend on how dry they were…and how long you soaked them. Cooking the beans can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour). Keep adding water, or the reserved mushroom liquid until the beans are soft.
  4. In the meantime, heat a skillet and spray lightly with the non stick spray. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked (even the rehydrated ones). About half way through the cooking, add the remaining minced garlic. Set aside.
  5. When the beans are fully cooked, add the mushrooms, chopped celery and tomatoes and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with the cilantro, green onions and hot pepper flakes.
  7. Enjoy.

This photo shows just a small portion, 75 g of dry beans is actually quite a lot of food

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Firstly, I would like to add a disclaimer that Kristy from Eat, Play, Love Our Family Food Adventures is not paying me to blog about her recipes (unless she wants to, of course ;-)). It’s just that there are some recipes that click for me, and her choices are often those kinds of recipes. Recently she and the kids made a Piri Piri Shrimp, in a post called Heating Things Up that really caught my interest for a few reasons: garlic and lemon juice, heat and shrimp! Of course, JT and I are still on the low carb, sugar, fat diet for another day or so I’ve had to modify the recipe (not that it wasn’t unhealthy to begin with, it just did not fit the chemical profile we are restricted to). So Kristy, I hope you don’t mind, but I did change it up a touch, hopefully not altering the recipe’s taste. Thanks again for a another flavourful dinner (and incredible lunch the next day!).

Roasting the hot peppers doesn’t really take ALL the heat out of them.

Piri Piri Shrimp My Way

Serves 3 (dinner and 1 lunch, each 100 g protein)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Serrano chiles
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low sodium vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock as it is slightly sweeter than chicken stock, because I replaced the wine vinegar with white vinegar)
  • hand full of roughly chopped parsley
  • hand full of roughly chopped cilantro
  • 300 g (10.5 oz) uncooked, deveined, and peeled shrimp
  • lemon wedges (oops, I forgot)

I forgot the lemon wedges.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven on high broil. Cut the chile peppers in half (don’t bother removing the seeds and stems, they come off easily after roasting). Place the chiles on a lightly sprayed (with fat free cooking spray) baking sheet and roast until blackened, Kristy says about 10 minutes (I didn’t time it).
  2. Trim the stems and remove the seeds (the seeds are the really hot bits)
  3. In your immersion blender container, combine the chiles, garlic, paprika, lemon juice, vinegar, vegetable stock, parsley and cilantro and purée the ingredients until smooth.
  4. Pour 1/4 of the marinade over the shrimp, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours (see note).
  5. Heat a large cast iron grill pan on the BBQ (had to involve JT in the cooking, you know how it is). Spray lightly with fat free cooking spray and when hot enough, cook shrimp until done (pink both sides).
  6. Serve over greens with a few sweet red peppers drizzled with a bit more of the sauce (but reserve the remainder of the sauce because I have a GREAT IDEA for it for Saturday!)

Notes:

  • Citrus can cook seafood quite easily (ceviche is based on this) so if you do leave the shrimp marinading for more than a few hours, check it to see if it’s cooking (starting to turn pink). Otherwise you may end up with rubbery shrimp.
  • The Piri Piri sauce was INCREDIBLE — perfect for my taste, JT said it was OK, but perhaps he was just uninspired because the shrimp was served on greens (I live on greens so it was second nature to me) next time, I’ll serve his on Quinoa or Whole Wheat Couscous.
  • Roasting the peppers did not minimize the heat, so beware. I adore it and JT found it tolerable, but it could be too hot for some.
  • You may wish to add a teaspoon of agave nectar (or some red pepper coulis) to help subdue the heat, I did for JTs dressing but not for mine.
  • The sauce is definitely better the next day so you may wish to make it up in advance and let it sit. I used this sauce in a dish I prepared last Saturday for Cinco de Mayo.

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Many people think that eating healthfully means eating without flavour or excitement (remember the cottage cheese diets?), but I am here to declare that they are WRONG! It’s particularly important for low fat recipes to be seasoned properly, and I’m not talking salt, but a variety of flavour builders. When you eat low calorie, fat free food, you NEED to be satisfied, otherwise, you will likely snack and cheat. It’s plain and simple, make sure ALL your senses are satisfied and you will be happy.

My friend Norma over at Garden to Wok has been making recipes that have tempted me for a while and I found one a couple of weeks ago that really spiked my curiosity: Egg Foo Yung. Now Norma is a Chinese Culinary Expert and she teaches hands on cooking classes at Pearl River Patch in New York State so I am by no means trying to one up her. JT and I are doing a very concerted effort for three weeks to eat virtually carb free, fat free and sugar-free (a low glycemic diet), so I have modified Norma’s recipe to suite our dietetic needs at this time, it may not be for everyone, but it worked for our taste buds and diet chemestry. So, I hope you don’t mind, Norma, here is my version of your wonderful Egg Foo Yung. Please check out Norma’s blog to see her gorgeous and tasty looking recipe and pictures. This dish satisfied every one of my senses; my sense of smell was being teased as I prepared the dish, my sense of sight was excited at the site of the dish and my sense of taste was bowled over at the first bite. And then I was full.

Note about my ingredients. I made this twice and the second time I used what I had on hand instead of the basics Norma suggested in her recipe. The first set of photos sucked, hence their obvious absence, these are the photos from the second set.

Canadian Egg Foo Yung (for a low glycemic index diet)

The egg and vegetable pancake sits in a delicious stock, that eats like a soup.
It's a perfect light meal.

Serves 1 (recipe can easily be multiplied to the number of people to serve). You will need egg rings for this dish (I used mini spring form pan rings without the bottoms).

Ingredients:

  • 50g raw shrimp (I used 3 from a packet that listed 21-30 per pound)
  • 4.5 tbsp egg beaters egg whites
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated, divided
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, grated, divided
  • 1 scallion or green onion finely sliced, divided
  • 1 tsp Kikkoman Low Sodium Soy Sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock (I use Pacific)
  • 15g Chinese mushrooms sliced thinly (use the dried variety and reserved the hydrating liquid)
  • 1/2 cup mushroom hydrating liquid
  • 50g of fresh baby spinach
  • Parsley and scallions for garnish
  • non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, cut into quarter bits and set aside.
  2. Pour the chicken stock, the strained mushroom hydrating liquid, 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, and half of the finely sliced scallions or green onions into a sauce pan and begin to heat slowly (the aim is to infuse the broth with the flavours added, not to boil the heck out of it).
  3. Pour the egg whites into a small bowl and whisk with the soy sauce and ginger, set aside.
  4. Pre-heat the pan WITHOUT the egg rings and lightly sauté the spinach until entirely wilted. Remove from pan and add the shrimp and cook through. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat the pan WITH the egg ring, lightly spray both with non-stick spray.
  6. Combine the wilted spinach, shrimp, Chinese mushrooms with the green onions and add to the egg ring and distribute evenly. Heat through (this will help the egg cook).
  7. Pour the egg whites over the vegetables and adjust so that it all sits evenly in the ring. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes (you will need to put a lid over the ring so that the top of the egg sets nicely so you can flip it and get that gorgeous golden colour that Norma talks about.
  8. When the egg has set, carefully remove the ring and with a large spatula, flip. You will want both sides golden and cooked all the way through.
  9. To plate, carefully remove the egg pancake (you may need to slide your knife around the edge to loosen) and pace in a rimmed soup bowl (I like my Asian style bowls for this type of presentation). Carefully ladle the hot broth around the egg, so that it doesn’t cover it. You can either strain the broth so the garlic, ginger and the scallions don’t end up in the presentation (which is what I did for the photo) or you can leave in and enjoy with your egg and broth (which is what I did when I served it to JT and I). Garnish with parsley and a sliver of the green onion (or chives if you have on hand). I also added a few chili pepper flakes on mine for heat!

As FYI: I omitted the ginger wine, egg yolks, oil, salt and corn starch and substituted the chicken broth with low sodium, the soy sauce with low sodium to make my version low glycemic. The vegetables, as mentioned previously are just what I had on hand, you could add whatever you choose as Norma indicated in her recipe.

Thank you, Norma, this is indeed a very flavourful dish even with my alterations.

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