Monday, January 31, 2011

Spanakopita Wannabes

I love eating phyllo pastry, but I suck at using it.
It's so thin and delicate. I lack the skill to gracefully move it around and keep it in tact. 

So when I'm drowning in spinach and feta (ok, drowning is an over exaggeration) and I need to make some spanakopita, I cheat.

I try not to cheat too often in life. 
Or at least if I do I don't announce to the world. 
But in the realm of food, sometimes cheating just can't be avoided.

Hence, I swapped out the phyllo for pizza dough which techinically means these can't be spanakopita so they're wannabes.

All the flavor without the crispy, crunchy mess.

I got spinach everywhere.

Spanakopita Wannabes
Makes 4

2 eggs
1 pkg (10oz) fresh or frozen spinach, chopped
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp pepper
1 tube (10oz) refrigerated pizza crust or make your own

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl whisk eggs; reserve 1 tbsp of egg and set aside.
2.In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, feta, garlic, pepper and remaining egg.
3. Roll pizza dough into a 12'' square. Cut into 4 3'' squares. Top each square with about 1/3 cup of spinach mixture.
4. Fold each square into a triangle and pinch edges to seal. Cut slits in top and brush with reserved egg.
5. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter

This post should really be called. "How to make your toast taste like a Reeses Peanut Butter cup."
'Cause that's what's happened here.
My breakfast has turned into dessert.

And it's awesome.

In fact, I'm not gonna lie to you, I just broke out a spoon and dug into this stuff.
Yea... it's addictive. 

I should really trade my spoon for an apple slice.
Peanut butter, chocolate and apples... yum.
Or bananas.... peanut butter, chocolate and bananas..... even better. 

I'm not gonna bother trying to convince you how good chocolate peanut butter is, it speaks for itself.
Just make this.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
Makes: about 1 1/2 cups
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: I didn't want this to be too sweet so I didn't add a ton of sugar. Feel free to add more salt or sugar depending on your taste.

1½ cup natural peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened good quality cocoa powder
½ cup powdered sugar (add more of less depending on preference)
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp peanut oil (I just used the extra oil from the peanut butter jar)

1. Add peanut butter, cocoa powder, sugar and salt to a food processor. Blend on low speed until smooth. Slowly add oil through the feed tube with the mixer still running. Blend another minute or so until everything is incorporate. Enjoy on toast or straight from the jar!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vegetable Bouillon

How did it get to be January 26th already?
It's almost time to put my tree back up.

The weather in Revelstoke seems to agree with me. The snow keeps falling by the foot, giving the town a winter-wonderland-christmas-is-almost-here kind of feel.

To be honest, I don't mind one bit.
I find this weather conducive to roasting vegetables and making lovely hearty soups.
And c'mon, who doesn't love a lovely hearty soup?

Before I make all these soups (which I probably won't actually do since my husbands more of a meat and potatoes hold the veggies kinda guy), I'm stocking my freezer with this terrific

Homemade Bouillon

(pretend to be blown away by this announcement.)

Yes, you can make it at home.
In your kitchen.

It blew me away too.

Typically made from dehydrated vegetables, spices, and fat, bouillon is a quick way to make broth. Unfortunately, the stuff you buy in the store is generally laced with a lot of chemical preservatives, too. That's why making your own is so great. You can use any vegetables and herbs that are in season (although I'd stay away from watery ones like tomatoes) to make this flavourful vegetable paste.

Use it to season soups, grains and anything else your heart desires.

Vegetable Bouillon
Makes: approx 3 cups
Barely adapted from: 101 cookbooks, originally from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook

Note: Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to grind down the vegetables in batches to make room for everything. This is pretty salty, you can always omit the salt and add it later to taste. Just remember, the salt acts as a preservative so the bouillon won't keep as long in your fridge.

150g (about 1) leek sliced and washed
200g (about 1 stalk) fennel, chopped
200g (about 3) carrots, sliced and well washed
100g (about 2 stalks) celery
100g (good sized chunk) celery root (celeriac)
30g (about a handful) sun-dried tomatoes
100g(about 3) shallots, quartered
3 garlic cloves
50g (about 1/4 cup) fine grain sea salt
40g (about 1/4 bunch) parsley
60g  (about 1/2 bunch) cilantro

1Place the first four ingredients in your food processor and pulse about twenty times. Add the next four ingredients, and pulse again. Add the salt, pulse some more. Add the parsley and cilantro. You may need to scoop some of the chopped vegetables on top of the herbs, so they get chopped.
2. You should end up with moist, loose paste. If it looks chunky, just keep chopping! Keep 1/4th of it in a jar in the refrigerator for easy access and freeze the remaining 3/4 for use in the next month. Because of all the salt it barely solidifies making it easy to spoon directly from the freezer into the pot before boiling. Start by using 1 teaspoon of bouillon per 1 cup (250 ml), and adjust from there based on personal preference.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Animal Crackers

It's amazing how priorities change once a baby joins the family.

For example, I used to spend my precious shopping time checking out clothing in my size. Now, I dash right by the women's section onward to the baby girl section.

It's the same with recipes. 
I used to bookmark complicated recipes with exotic ingredients.

Now, my recipe selection centers around things that can be made during nap time with what I have in my cupboard and what can easily be chewed with 6 teeth.

Of course, if the recipe is relatively healthy and can be cut into cute little animal shapes, like these crackers, that's just a bonus!

I use the word 'cracker' very loosely as these are more cookie-like. I rolled them out thinly so they'd be crunchy like a cracker but that's about the only similarity.

If you're a big animal cracker eater, don't get too excited about this recipe.

I'm not much of an animal cracker connoisseur so I can't say how close these are to the real deal but
I have a suspicion they're not close at all.

I don't mind though, they're still cute and fun for snack time. I still would rather my baby eat these than boughten animal crackers with their mystery ingredients. 

She, on the other hand, seems content eating dirt out of my planter when I'm not looking. Oh well.

Animal Crackers
Makes: about 80 mini crackers
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Note: I used 1/2 cup spelt flour and 1/2 cup white pastry flour and it worked wonderfully. Walnut or almond meal can easily be made in your food proccessor. Pulse the nuts until they're the texture of sand. Don't go overboard though or you'll end up with almond butter. 

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (see note)
¼ cup walnut or almond meal (see note)
½ cup oatmeal
2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
¼ cup fine-grain natural cane sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt 

1. Use a food processor or blender to grind oats very finely. (Finer than I did). In a small bowl whisk together the flour, ground oats, almond or walnut meal and set aside.
2. In a separate medium bowl, beat the coconut oil and butter with the sugar and salt until smooth. Beat in the egg until well blended.
3. Add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Turn the dough onto the counter-top and knead once or twice and gather into a ball. Cut the dough in half, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. 
5. On a floured work surface roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out animal shapes. Place the cookies about an inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake 7-8 minutes or until cookies just begin to color.

Updated 07/02/11: I tried using kamut flakes in place of the oatmeal and it didn't work! The dough was very dry and crumbly and wouldn't cut into shapes. I may try it again but I will soak the kamut flakes overnight to make them softer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coconut Banana Date Batido

Batidos are a South American frozen milk drink similar to a smoothie. They're great as a quick grab and go breakfast or snack when you can't quite stomach the thickness of a smoothie.

Some leftover coconut milk (from carrot coconut soup) inspired this delicious combo. The banana and coconut make the drink taste tropical and the dates provide some natural sweetness. The flax is a completely optional fiber boost.

Play around with some different flavours for a unique taste. Some ideas I've seen are fig rose, banana ginger, and mango basil.

I've been feeding this to my munchkin for snack time; she seems to really love it.
I know she doesn't look enthused but she's smiling on the inside, I'm sure of it.

Coconut Banana Date Batido
Serves 1
Inspired by Urban Pantry by Amy Pennington

1/2 cup milk (use any type)
1 banana
4 tbsps coconut milk (can substitute shredded coconut)
4 -6 dates, quartered
3 cubes of ice
1 spoonful of flax seed (optional)

1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend at low speed until everything is chopped up. Increase speed and continue to blend until smooth and creamy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chewy Walnut Trail Mix Bars

How are you doing with that new year's resolution to lose 10 pounds?
If you're winning, good for you.
If you're not, don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sure you look great.

I think the best way to stick to a weight goal is to be prepared. If you have an apple tucked away in your bag or desk drawer you'll be less likely to make a quick trip to the vending machine when that late afternoon wall starts to hit.
Of course, an apple is good in theory but it's doesn't amount to much when all you want is a big ol' chocolate bar.

These bars of grainy goodness studded with dark chocolate chips come a lot closer.
Full of nuts, seeds and dried fruits, they're a yummy sweet snack that fills your tummy without sending you on a sugar high (and then crashing to a sugar low).

Change up the nut/seed/fruit combo to whatever suits you best. They're incredibly portable and one of the few recipes I've seen that stick together without peanut butter. (If you want a bar with peanut butter try out vegan power bars.)

Tuck one of these bars in your bag or car to combat the afternoon growlies, they're darn good.

Chewy Walnut Trail Mix Bars
Makes: about 15 bars

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coarsley chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cups sesame seeds
1/2 cup dried apricots or date
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup honey

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in walnuts, cranberries, chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, coconut and sesame seeds. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, process apricots until broken up, about 1 minute. Add butter and continue to process until a paste forms, about another minute. With motor running pour in honey until blended and smooth.
3. Fold honey mixture into oat mixture. Press evenly into a greased 9'' x 13'' pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool completely before cutting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Della's Health Muffin

You might be asking, "Who's Della''?

As far as I can tell, she's an elderly lady who lives (or has died) in Creston, B.C. and has (or had?) a restaurant there.
My extremely amiable mother-in-law met her one day and brought me her cookbook.
It's a charming cookbook with simple, homey recipes.

I know that doesn't really explain who Della is.... but if you must know, you'll have to make up your own colorful story. Maybe something about an old granny who laboured day and night trying to sort out the perfect recipe for a healthy muffin.
Ok, that wasn't a very good story. I'm sure you can make up something much better than that.

Anyhow, I'm not really sure that I would regard any type of muffin as healthy but this is definitely a healthier muffin option. An ample amount of molasses makes it dark, dense and rich in iron, the wholewheat fiber gives it a great fiber boost and the lack of sugar makes it a not too sweet treat. It's also a great way to use up that box of All Bran cereal in your cupboard that you had good intentions of using but now can no longer stomach it's sawdust like qualities.... I may or may not be speaking from experience.


Della's Health Muffins
Yields: 12
Source: Della's Favorite's

1 cup blackstrap molasses (or substitute 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and 1/4 cup regular molasses)
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups millk or yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 cup your choice of seasonal fruit (berries, bananas, rubarb, stone fruit etc..)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups. In a small bowl whisk together molasses, eggs, oil and milk.  In a large bowl mix together all other ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry and gently stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake for 25 - 30 muffins or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Serve with a bit of honey. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip

Have you ever tried a dip with soggy pita in it?
I mean like, when the soggy pita is supposed to be there and hasn't been accidently dropped in by a double dipper?

If you were at our recycle christmas you have.
And if you weren't, well, sucks to be you because Christmas in any and all forms is awesome - but I digress.

This dip I'm telling you about with the soggy pita.
It's weird.
But it's good.

It's like hummus.
Without the chick peas but with a ton of walnuts

Walnuts are a good thing.
They're high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals and healthy fats .
FYI: the fat in walnuts is 72.4% polyunsaturated fat which is known to reduce the levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

See, I told you they were good.

Try something weird and new and delicious.
Try this dip.

Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Dip
Source: Martha Stewart
Serves: 10 - 12

3 red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
1 6-inch pita bread (2 ounces)
1 cup water
1 small garlic clove
3/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus more for garnish (optional)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Roast peppers over a gas burner until blackened all over, turning with tongs as each side is blistered. (Alternatively, place under a broiler.) Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let stand about 15 minutes. Peel, and discard skins, stems, and seeds. Set peppers aside.
2. Toast pita bread until crisp and golden. Break into 2-inch pieces; place in a bowl, and cover with the water. Soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a sieve, and drain well, pressing out excess water. Set aside.
3. Combine garlic and walnut pieces in the bowl of a food processor; process until fine crumbs form, about 10 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, and reserved peppers and pita bread; process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add vinegar, lemon juice, oil, and salt, and season with black pepper. Pulse until combined.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Before serving, bring to room temperature. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with walnuts or paprika, as desired. Serve with pita chips.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chocolate Kahlua Tart

Have you jumped on the Netflix train yet? If you haven't, I have 5 words for you.
Do it. Do it now.

(I promise you, I was not paid to say that.)

I'm lovin' that it's like having a video store in my living room.
''Oh you wanna watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Let me just turn on my T.V. and find it for you. A couple Woody Allen classics? No problem."

Seriously. Awesome.

Of course, movie watching makes me want to curl up on the couch with a big piece of dessert.
And what's more comforting then a cold slice of rich chocolate tart?
 (If you just said a run, you are not my friend.)

The original recipe for this required the toasting and crushing of hazelnuts and the whipping and folding of egg whites, all cumbersome steps that I chose to ignore.
Aside from getting the tart in my mouth faster, reducing those steps makes this tart simple to make and easy to take.
(I just had to say that 'cause it rhymed.... you probably won't want to take this anywhere where sharing is involved.)

The classic combo of coffee, chocolate and booze make this tart super flavourful and satisfying. It's simple, elegant and decadent, perfect for..... well...... anything.

Sift the cocoa and your tart won't be lumpy like mine.

Give it a try (or don't) but do give Netflixs a go.

Chocolate Kahula Tart
Serves 8
Heavily adapted from 2009 Martha Stewart Holiday's Magazine

For the crust:
25 Oreo cookies
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp instant espresso powder

For the chocolate mousse:
1/2 cup kahlua
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg yolks
1 tsp instant espresso powder
pinch of salt
4oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tbsps unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crush cookies in a food processor. Stir in melted butter and espresso until combined. Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 11-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. (Or just a regular pie plate will work.) Bake for 5 minutes, just long enough for the crust to set. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
2. To make the mousse: In a bowl, whisk together Kahlua, cocoa, egg yolks, espresso powder and salt. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Whisk in liqueur mixture. Cook, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Let cool completely.
3.Beat cream until heavy peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture. Spread into cooled tart shell. Chill overnight or at least one hour until set.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Slow Cooked Tex-Mex Chicken and Beans

I recently noticed that I haven't posted many recipes that would be suitable for supper.
It's ironic because I actually do cook a proper supper most nights.

Truthfully, I'd like to just eat a loaf of bread and some cookies, but since that's not really the mature choice (is it?) I'm always on the look out for nutritious, easy to prepare dishes.... like this one. 

It was a really great meal for a busy winter day. It took less than 10 minutes to assemble and the slow cooker did all the work. (Plus, it smelled amazing while it cooked!)
Boneless thighs work best but I had these in the freezer so I just pulled out the bones before serving.

I thought this dish would be stew like but I was pleasantly surprised that it was more like a Mexican style pulled chicken. For next time, I think it would be pretty fantastic served on a crusty kaiser bun. (I think anything served on a hunk of bread would be fantastic.)

Plan ahead and make this on a day you won't have much time for dinner, it won't dissappoint.
P.S. It freezes well, too.

Slowed Cooked Tex-Mex Chicken and Beans
Serves: 4

1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 1/2 cups good salsa
2 tbsps chopped chipotle chiles (I found this a little spicy)
2 tbsps flour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped (core removed)
1/4 cup low fat sour cream to serve
1/4 cup cilantro to serve

1.In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together beans, salsa, chiles, flour, and 1 cup water. Season chicken with salt and pepper; arrange on top of bean mixture. Scatter onion and bell pepper on top of chicken.
2.Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours. (Do not open lid or stir.)
3.Remove chicken from stew; shred into large pieces and return to stew. Serve topped with sour cream and cilantro. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spiced Apricot and Mascarpone Tart

So you've been busy cooking up my recipes.

Oh, you haven't made any of them?
Well this is awkward.

If you didn't just quietly slip out of the room, I have a little somethin' somethin' to show you.
It's the marriage of apricots in spiced rum and homemade mascarpone.

You see, Mr. Apricot was tired of doing the bachelor thing in the back of my fridge so he started dating Ms. Mascarpone. They fell in love, got hitched and found themselves a big 'ol pie shell to settle down in.

Their home became affectionately known as a tart and I served up all that fruity, sweet cheese lovin' for dessert.

Good for me. Bad for them.

Like most marriages, this one had a gliche.
The mascarpone was a bit bland (sorry, Ms.M). Instead of spooning the pieces of apricot over it I think it would've had better flavour with the apricots chopped up and stirred into the mascarpone.

I've gotta keep that in mind for the next time they get together.

Make some love happen in your kitchen with this simple tart.

Spiced Apricot and Mascarpone Tart
Serves: 8

1 9'' tart or pie shell (boughten or homemade)
8oz mascarpone cheese, softened (boughten or homemade)
8oz fruit macerated in liquor, juices reserved (like these apricots)

1. Method #1: Use an off set spatula to evenly spread the mascarpone cheese in the tart shell. Just before serving slice into 8 pieces and spoon fruit over each tart.
2. Method #2: Coarsely chop up the fruit. Beat together softened mascarpone and fruit until combined. Pour into tart shell and spread evenly. Chill up to 1/2 hour but no longer or crust will become soggy. Serve immediately.
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