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This past July, we traveled to Wisconsin to visit friends at their gorgeous lake house; it was bittersweet because they were selling it to move down to Arizona for good. The weather wasn’t great so we only got in one very short boat ride but we enjoyed every last minute. We shall miss visiting this little gem in Wisconsin. But that just means we’ll be visiting Arizona even more!

While we were in Wisconsin, our dear friends introduced us to an incredible product: Rick Bayless’ Fonterra Grill salsa! It was to die for! The layered flavours of grilled vegetables and fresh cilantro created a complex salsa that was totally unexpected, so of course, I had to try to recreate it upon our return. I used our Big Green Egg which is the ultimate charcoal barbecue! It imparts the most incredible smoky flavours but if you have gas or propane, just fire up some wood chips on the side for a similar experience.

Grilled Vegetable and Cilantro Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Yields about 1 Litre of salsa (about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes, seeded (reserve seeds and pulp for tomato jam)
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 4 jalopeño peppers, seeded and veins removed or to taste
  • 2 nora peppers, rehydrated in warm water, skins and seeds removed (yields about 15 mL flesh), optional
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, skin on
  • 2.5 mL smoked sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • Cilantro leaves, good handful or to taste
  • juice of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Remove seeds and pulp from the tomatoes and set cut-side down on a cooling rack lined with parchment paper. Overnight is best, you want to dry out the tomatoes as much as possible.
  2. Roast the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños and onion on an open flame (I used our Big Green Egg) until softened and slightly charred. Wrap the garlic in parchment and then foil and roast over the open flame until soft.
  3. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, peppers and garlic, discard skins. Add roasted veggies and cilantro leaves to a food processor and chop to desired consistency. Add salt and lime juice and pulse to combine.
  4. Add the scraped flesh from the Nora peppers to the processor and pulse a few more times.
  5. Fill sterilized jars with the salsa. If you are not using right away, you will want to process the jars in the typical canning methods. I processed my salsa for 15 minutes.

Tomato Jam

Yields a scant 250 mL (1 cup) tomato jam

Ingredients:

  • 370 g tomato pulp (all the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes that you plan to roast for the above recipe)
  • 100 g shallots, minced finely
  • 10 g garlic, minced finely
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 mL cooking sherry
  • 15 mL white balsamic vinegar
  • 1.25 mL baking soda
  • basil, chiffonade
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the onions and garlic until caramelized, deglaze the pan with cooking sherry. Add the tomato pulp, basil, season with salt and then add the baking soda, being careful because the baking soda will foam up.
  2. Cook for about an hour until most of the water has cooked off. About half-way through the cooking, add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Notes:

  • I used a combination of vine-ripened tomatoes and Roma because that is what looked the best to me.
  • I have mentioned this before, baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the tomato and therefore there is NO NEED TO ADD SUGAR (yes, I yelled that!).
  • You could do whatever you wish with the pulp, I just don’t like throwing away food!
  • Since this post was written, I’ve made two additional batches of this salsa and the last batch was rush so I used the entire tomato instead of seeding it, it made for a wetter salsa so I strained it before canning. The seeds added a bit more texture that wasn’t unpleasant. But, I’d still go the extra mile and seed the tomatoes if I have the time.

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This is not your ordinary pancake. The mung beans add a certain richness and denseness to the pancake. It’s almost like an overmixed North American pancake! Having said that, it still has nice fresh flavour and can be quite addictive. Some recipes have you remove the skins and split the mung beans, I had neither the patience nor the time, so this recipe is a little green/greyer than most. I figured the skins had vitamins or at the very least, fibre. Use whatever veggies make you happy. Next time, I’ll add green onions because the chives had very little flavour.

Korean-Style Mung Bean Pancakes

This recipe makes about 20 appetizer portion pancakes.

To see the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 95 g mung beans, soaked in warm water for at least 2 hours
  • 250 mL water
  • 15 mL miso paste
  • 10 g coconut sugar
  • 65 g rice flour
  • 5 g ginger, grated
  • 45 g coconut, soaked in water then drained
  • 60 g each, frozen peas and corn
  • a handful of pea shoots
  • Chives
  • Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the peas, corn, pea shoots and herbs in the jar of a blender and blend until very smooth.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and spray lightly with oil. Drop 15 to 30 mL batter onto the pan a good distance apart from each other (so you can easily flip them) and top with a sprinkling of the peas and corn, pea shoots and herbs. Cook until golden on one side, then flip and finish cooking for a very short time so that the herbs don’t burn.
  3. Serve warm with dipping sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:

  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 2.5 mL sesame oil
  • pinch of coconut sugar
  • pinch of toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Serve with mung bean pancakes.

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I have been thinking about hacking a spring roll recipe to avoid deep frying and I believe I have found the answer. If you like crispy spring rolls with a flavourful filling and a delicious peanut dipping sauce, then you will like this recipe. JT is all about the deep fried spring roll and I adore fresh rolls (rice paper rolls that are not cooked). It’s easy to accommodate when we go out because we order what we want (and usually have leftovers for another day!) but at home, I prefer not to make two separate dishes so poor JT has to endure the fresh rolls (I also don’t like deep frying). It was the middle of the night when I came up with this idea: to use phyllo pastry as the roll paper! The idea festered in my brain for some time, I even bought the phyllo pastry and had it in the fridge for a week before I carved out some time to make them. To be honest, the first attempt was a bit soggy, the phyllo absorbed all of the liquid from the filling and didn’t crisp up and that’s when I put my thinking cap on and came up with this winner! The first set was made with half a phyllo sheet, this time, I used an entire sheet for one roll. I also brushed each sheet with sesame oil and sprinkled coconut flour over each sheet (coconut flour absorbs liquid quite effectively without much taste). The result was outstanding, JT approved with gusto. I will definitely make these again.

So crispy, you will never guess that they were not deep fried!

Crispy Baked Spring Rolls

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 6 x 20 cm rolls

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g protein, your choice, finely minced
  • 5 mL each, soy sauce and hoisin sauce
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 30 mL sesame oil, divided
  • 45 mL grape seed oil
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 mini cucumber, finely sliced
  • 42 g glass noodles, cooked

Directions:

  1. Heat 15 mL sesame oil in a small frying pan, add the garlic and shallot and cook until softened. Add the protein and cook through. Season with soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Cool completely.
  2. Combine the remaining 15 mL sesame oil and grape seed oil in a small container.
  3. Take one phyllo sheet and brush with combined oils. Sprinkle a small amount of coconut flour on the oiled sheet (I find using a small sieve makes this very easy).
  4. In the centre of one short end, spread some grated carrot, sliced cucumber and glass noodles. Add about 1 tbsp meat mixture and spread. Fold the bottom and top sides into the roll (about 1/3:1/3:1/3) and brush with a little of the oil mixture, sprinkle with coconut flour and begin rolling tightly from the filled end. The first layer of the pastry will crack, but don’t worry, it will be covered with several layers. Repeat until you have 6 finished rolls.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Brush the finished roll with the remaining oil mixture and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, turning occasionally. Serve with peanut dipping sauce, recipe below.

Ingredients for the peanut dipping sauce:

  • 60 mL chunky peanut butter
  • 45 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • dash of honey
  • lime juice

Directions for the peanut dipping sauce:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until well combined. Taste, adding sweetness or salt as needed.

May I offer you a couple of these tasty spring rolls?

Notes:

  • Protein choices: ground beef, pork or chicken. For vegetarian, try crumbled tofu or even tempeh.
  • The pastry thickness is essential to make a crispy spring roll, otherwise, the filling moisture overwhelms the pastry and it becomes soggy.

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I must apologize, my post did not post as I had hoped (perhaps it was because it was scheduled for Wednesday!). Better late than never!

Our summer began with the most perfect temperatures (for me), low 20’s° C (low 70s° F) with low to no humidity. You have to understand, Toronto becomes a sauna in the summertime, high temperatures and humidity and which makes it seem so much hotter and muggier than it actually is. It’s usually so soupy that a shower seems less wet than going outside! As soon as July hit, so did summer temperatures 34° C (93° F) and in rolled the humidity (making 34 seem like 42° C or 107° F). I am a sweater, I sweat thinking about physical effort, it’s really awful, so these hot temps force me to stay inside with the A/C cranked low and a fan blowing on me. It really is a curse.

I came up with this recipe for a lunch during a long-weekend that I was locked inside my house. I wanted something fast, light and easy with ingredients I had at home. Usually, I wouldn’t blog about this type of recipe but JT loved it so much, he literally asked for it again the very next day! This is day two, I didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes so I added a vine-ripened tomato I had at home. I’ve made this salad a few more times! The bulgur adds a lovely texture, not quite chewy but not soft either. The tuna is a nice addition but it’s even tasty without it for a vegan recipe.

Mediterranean Red Bulgur Salad with Tuna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 4-6 servings

To make this vegan, omit the tuna.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g red bulgar
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 can tuna (flaked white albacore in water)
  • 10 cm cucumber, finely diced
  • a handful of parsley, chopped finely
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 12 or so kalamata olives, chopped
  • a handful or so of grape tomatoes, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped artichokes

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 60 mL)
  • same quantity olive oil, or less
  • 10 mL tomato paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tomato paste and salt and mix well.
  2. Add the garlic cloves to the bulgur water with salt. Cook the bulgur according to directions (mine said 500 mL water with 200 g bulgar). If all of the water did not absorb, strain. Discard garlic.
  3. Pour dressing over the strained, hot bulgur. Cool slightly.
  4. Combine everything for the salad and mix well.
  5. Serve immediately in a bowl or spoon into iceberg lettuce leaves.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any tomatoes, use about 125 mL sundried tomatoes in olive oil, strained and chopped.
  • I usually buy chunk albacore tuna because we like it better than flaked but this recipe is better with flaked because it distributes more evenly.
  • If you dress the bulgur when hot, it will absorb the dressing more and evenly.
  • I would have added a little Greek Sheep’s Milk crumbled feta if I had some at home. If you do, omit the salt in the dressing.

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It’s quite funny how the universe works, isn’t it? Case in point, we were down in Arizona in March-April and my dear friend Theresa decided to introduce me to a Moscow Mule, a refreshing alcoholic bevy served in a classic copper mug. I had never had one before. It is made with ginger beer and vodka and lime juice, and it is very tasty and refreshing. Fast forward a couple of months, I’m minding my own business and to my surprise, I receive an unsolicited email from a Canadian company out west who imports and sells their very own, wait for it…Moscow Mule mugs! What a coincidence indeed! We spoke on the telephone and I suggested that I could do a post for them, focussing on a recipe that would be served in said mug. Of course, they sent me a couple of their mugs so I can post pics of the recipe in them. The mugs are beautifully hand-hammered by an artisan group in India, but most importantly, they are lined with nickel lining. Apparently, using mugs without nickel can cause a series of serious health issues (so if you have such mugs, check to make sure they have a non-reactive lining and you are not drinking directly from a copper mug). This blog post talks about the importance of nickel lining.

The Moscow Muled mugs are reasonably priced at $16.60 Canadian ($12.50 US) each and would make great hostess gifts or stocking stuffers during the holidays.

I added a couple of cute tea towels, but another great idea would be a gingerbeer kit, complete with vodka, gingerbeer and limes!

Moscow Mules were invented circa 1941 in LA in a British pub called Cock ‘n’ Bull by their head bartender, Wes Price. The story is quite interesting, so if you wish, you may read about it here.

Take the worry out of the mug, Moscow Muled mugs are made with “100% pure high-grade and food-safe copper with an inner layer of high-grade nickel.”* Plus they look awesome and will keep your bevy cool on hot summer nights! I knew I wanted to make the Authentic Ginger Beer recipe on their website, it’s relatively easy (just a bit of time) and you probably already have all of the ingredients at home. The only thing I did to this tasty recipe is half it (there are only two of us and it still made around 4 litres) and I converted it to weights instead of volumes.

Raise a Moscow Muled mug with this tasty and refreshing drink, Cheers guys.

I was gifted with two Moscow Muled Mugs for this post, the opinions listed are my own.

*moscowmuled.com

I made new zippered covers for the sectional in the background, so happy with the way they turned out.

Moscow Muled Ginger Beer

Makes about 4 L of ginger beer.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients, Step 1 Ginger Bug:

  • 250 mL water
  • 15 g sugar
  • 13 g freshly grated ginger

Directions:

  1. Combine the freshly grated ginger with the sugar and water in a glass jar.
  2. Stir until sugar has entirely dissolved with a non-reactive spoon, like a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
  3. With a clean tea-towel, cover the glass jar and secure it with rubber bands and allow to sit at room temperature for a total of 5 to 7 days.
  4. During these 5-7 days, every day, add another 13 g of freshly grated ginger and 15 g of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cover the glass jar with a towel or cloth, and secure it with rubber bands.
  5. The mixture will form bubbles around 5-7 days and at 7 days, it should smell sharp with a strong yeast aroma.

Ingredients, Step 2 Ginger Beer:

  • 85 g ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3.5 L of filtered water
  • 2 g of sea salt
  • 300 g sugar (white or brown, I used white because I wanted a clear ginger beer)
  • 42 mL lemon juice
  • 250 mL of ginger bug

Directions:

  1. on the 5th or 7th day, combine 2 L of water, ginger, sugar and salt in a large non-reactive pot, bring to a boil then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring periodically to steep the ginger.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water. Allow this liquid to cool completely. Once cool, use a very fine sieve to strain the ginger to make a clear liquid. Pour the ginger bug into the mixture (make sure that it is room temperature, about 23° C or 74° F, as you will kill the ginger bug if it is hot).
  3. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  4. Pour into sterilized bottles, making sure they are only about 2/3 full because this ginger beer will actually ferment and produce carbon dioxide.
  5. Store bottles in a warm, dark place away from light and allow it to ferment for about 10 days. Carefully loosen caps from time to time to relieve the pressure from fermentation (I did this once per day).
  6. Refrigerate the ginger beer when it has reached your preferred level of sweetness. Refrigeration causes the fermentation to stall significantly. The longer the fermentation, the less sweet your ginger beer will be. We fermented our lot for 10 days and it produced a gingery, slightly carbonated beer that wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be.

I know there is no orange in the Moscow Mule recipe, I just wanted a hit of colour.

Notes:

  • I used recycled screw cap wine bottles, properly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Make sure you tighten the screw caps well so the ginger beer can ferment. Also, make sure you release the CO2 every day, by opening the bottles and allowing them to exhale, so the bottles don’t explode.
  • Even after the ginger beer has fermented and is resting in the refrigerator, it contains a lot of effervescence, so be careful. Open bottles over the sink. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • I suspect there is some alcohol in the ginger beer I made, but I don’t know for certain.

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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

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I have had a bum shoulder for the longest time. I’m seeing a chiropractor and she does acupuncture and some massage techniques which have been quite successful but I thought I’d help it along by adding some turmeric to my routine because it is widely known as an anti-inflammatory. We had a couple of days with back to back dishes with turmeric and it seems to have helped. Although it isn’t nearly as cold out as it was in December and early January, it is still winter in these parts and soup is definitely at the top of my list of cravings.

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Soup with Turmeric

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL of soup

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 20 g roasted garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 60 g red lentils
  • 350 mL vegetable stock
  • 200 g tomatoes
  • 10 g turmeric
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 250 mL Coconut Milk

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the coconut milk in the bowl of a small slow cooker and cook (mine only has one temperature) for 4 hours.
  2. Purée to a smooth creamy velvety soup, adding the coconut milk slowly. Press through a fine sieve. Reheat if necessary. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, chili oil or toasted coconut.


It is a smooth and velvety soup.

Notes:

  • Because I blitzed the kaffir lime leaves into the soup, it is imperative to press the soup through a fine sieve to catch the hard bits. It will also result in a velvety smooth, creamy soup.
  • The coconut milk adds a bit of sweetness to the soup, but doesn’t make it sweet.
  • The lentils add creamy texture and protein.

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