Monday, 11 February 2013

Mixed Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce

Yesterday was Chinese New Year and living right in the heart of Canada's oldest Chinatown we had front row seats to all the celebrations. Lion dancers, dragon dancers, fan dancers, fire crackers, red envelops of money and steamed buns. It was a great day of seeing our community in all it's ethnic beauty.
I'm going to share a not so Asian recipe with you today, but with perhaps a slight Asian feel. We have all had I'm sure, Satay sauce on noodles, but this is a lighter version on a mixed vegetable base. After steamed buns for lunch this light supper was perfect.

Mixed Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce
adapted from Australian Women's Weekly Vegie Food Cookbook

4 medium carrots, cut into batons
1 medium potato, coarsely chopped
200g cauliflower, cut into florets
100g snow peas, trimmed and halved
1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into batons
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped iceburg lettuce
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander

Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup (70g) toasted unsalted peanuts
2 cloves garlic, quartered
4 green onions, chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup (180ml) water
140ml can light coconut milk

Steam carrot, potato, cauliflower and peas, separately, until just tender; drain. Rinse under cold water; drain.
Meanwhile, make peanut sauce. Grind nuts, either in mortar and pestle or using a food processor, until finely crushed. Being careful not to over grind and end up with nut butter. Transfer nuts to a small bowl. Crush garlic and green onion into a paste, again using either mortar and pestle or a food processor. Cook garlic mixture in medium lightly oiled frying pan, stirring, 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 3 minutes. Add nuts; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
Place carrots, cauliflower and peas in large bowl with cucumber, lettuce, sprouts and coriander; toss gently. Serve salad drizzled with peanut sauce.

You may well end up with extra sauce, so make sure you have some noodles for lunch later in the week, if you can resist the urge to eat the sauce straight from the bowl!
Gong Hei Fat Choi everybody.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Pull Apart Coffee Cake

Um...where's my piece of cake?

 I received a complaint this week and it went something like this.

Dear Wife

Would it kill you to use sugar and butter in your baking recipes once in a while. I mean come on, it's a cookie for goodness sake, what part of sweet treat don't you understand?


Admittedly, he was some what more subtle in his message, but although the mouth was trying to wrap the complaint in a compliment, the eyes were saying the above. Truth be told, my baking mojo has been a bit off lately with cookies and cakes coming out tasting more like something produced by your local kindergartner during sand play. So although I will never make following a recipe whose only goal is to see me forever wearing elasticated pants while navigating the streets in my motorized arm chair, a permanent thing, I did go ahead and bake this cake to it's full sugar and butter potential. A reset of sorts. This cake is basically a giant doughnut, no, lot's of mini doughnuts stuck together. Heck who cares, it tastes like doughnuts, but without the deep fat frying. It is wonderful. As we sat around the table, ummmming with pleasure, Tim (fully embracing his opportunity to be smug) turned to me and said, 'You see, everything's better with sugar and butter'. Damn it, I hate it when he's right.

 Pull Apart Coffee Cake adapted from

1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter OR margarine
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour ( I needed less than a cup, so add slowly)

Sugar Blend:
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (super finely chopped!)

1/2 cup butter OR margarine, melted
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Let rest 5 minutes. 
Heat milk and butter until warm (100° to 110°F). Combine yeast, milk mixture, whole wheat flour, sugar and salt in a large mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Gradually add enough all-purpose flour until soft dough forms.
 Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 4 to 6 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place about 1-1/2 hours, until doubled.
Generously grease a fluted tube pan. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form 24 small balls of dough from each half.

 Mix together sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Dip balls in melted butter and roll in sugar and nut mixture; place in pan. Combine leftover butter and sugar mixture and pour over dough.
Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled. Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Immediately invert pan onto plate and allow to rest 1 minute before removing pan. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I know, a ridiculous amount of sugar and butter, but being a good wife means throwing the husband a bone every now and then, this time it just happened to taste like doughnuts. 

Due to technical difficulties (we ate it all!) I am unable to show you a picture of our cake. Here however is the cake in all it's sugary glory courtesy of 

Amazingly, two of those nuggets of joy are only 170 calories and 6g of fat. Not great, but as sugary treats go, not terrible either.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A burning desire for cassoulet!

Okay confession time. I have this ......I think error is the best term to use. I have an inbuilt programming error that is so stupid and extreme it is amazing to me that I haven't been able to fix it. Here it is. I consistently burn my hand when baking casseroles. I do the same thing every time. I use oven gloves to remove the pot from the oven. Then remove the gloves and lift the 500F lid with my bare hands. EVERY SINGLE TIME! I have so many burn scars on my hands it's ridiculous. Last night it took a split second for my brain to register the burning sensation. I had that split second to wonder where the sizzling sound was coming from only to realize it was my hand becoming one with the pot. Most people keep ice in the fridge for their G&T, we keep it for casserole day!

Luckily, this casserole, or cassoulet as this particular dish is named, was so delicious I soon forgot the pain;)
Go ahead and use canned beans if you want, I happen to have dried in my pantry but use whatever is on hand at the time.

Vegetable Cassoulet adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Vegie Food Cookbook
serves 4

1/2 cup (100g) dried borlotti beans
1/2 cup (100g) dried canellini beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 shallots (100g), halved
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 medium carrots (240g), chopped coarsely
200g mushrooms, halved
1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
2 medium zucchini (240g), chopped coarsely
1 1/2 cups (375ml) vegetable stock
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (80g), chopped finely
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 ciabatta (220g) diced into 2cm pieces
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place beans in medium bowl, cover with water; stand overnight, drain. Rinse under cold water; drain. Place beans in medium saucepan of boiling water; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until beans are just tender.
Preheat oven to moderate 350F (180C).
Heat oil in large flameproof casserole dish; cook shallot, garlic, carrot and mushroom, stirring, until vegetables are just tender. Add wine; bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half. Add zucchini, stock, sauce, thyme and drained beans; return to a boil. Remove from heat; transfer to oven. Cook, covered, 50 minutes.
Meanwhile make bread topping.
Heat oil in large frying pan; cook onion, stirring, until soft. Add zest, garlic, thyme and bread; cook, stirring, about 10 minutes or until bread browns lightly. Stir in parsley.
Sprinkle cassoulet with bread topping; cook, uncovered, in oven about 10 minutes or until bread topping is browned.

Any country bread would work here, I used a white Italian loaf, but a light whole wheat whole grain would also be a great topping.
Don't forget your oven gloves!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

And we're back!

I know, slightly late and worse, no Merry Christmas and Happy New Year I'll be back on such and such a date before I disappeared from the web. Lack of planning on my part and then copious amounts of chocolate eating during the holidays addled the brain a bit, or something like that anyway.
But here we are again and I have been spending a lot of time with my head buried  in cookbooks so let's get started. So we're all on a diet, okay well some of us are on a diet, well truthfully the diet started and ended on January 1st, but we are making more health conscious choices, right? Good, then you are going to love this salad. It's fun to make, pretty to look at has only a few ingredients and tastes great, plus it's super good for you too.

Patricia Wells' Green Lentil Salad on Zucchini Noodles adapted from Food52
 serves 4

1 large zucchini
1 lb french lentils
1 medium onion, halved and stuck with two cloves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse lentils and put in a pot with the onion, bay leaf and garlic. Cover with cold water by one inch. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 -25 minutes until lentil are done. All the water should have been absorbed, if not drain then discard onion, bay leaf and garlic. Whisk olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Pour two thirds of the dressing over the lentils and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash, top and tail the zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into long strands similar to linguini or fettuccine. Pile the zucchini 'noodles' in a serving dish and toss in the remaining dressing. Place the lentils on top of the zucchini 'noodles' and serve immediately.

This makes a lot of lentil salad and although we could have eaten it all, I held back some of the lentils and had it for lunch the next day with some butternut squash I pan cooked in some butter and olive oil. Yum!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Broccolette, Black Bean and Coconut with Israeli Couscous

We have furniture, just. After a long wait our sofa finally arrived today so our beds are no longer the sole place for us to park it. Had some heart palpitations when the movers arrived at the building and insisted there was no way it was going to fit in the elevator. They measured and calculated, then measured and calculated some more in the stairwell. Nope, there was no way it was going up to our apartment. I was close to tears at this point as the return policy was not favourable and let's just say this particular sofa is what you might call an investment piece. Anyway they brought it in and what do you know, it fit just fine! So now I have a sleek sexy Italian beauty to snuggle with every evening! Well, daytime too if today is anything to go by, just couldn't pull myself away. Hence today's recipe. This is a combination of what I had in the pantry and fridge (sound familiar) because someone didn't go to the grocery store ( blame the Italian). I must say, it turned out not bad at all.


Broccolette, Black Bean and Coconut with Israeli Couscous
serves 4

1 bunch broccolette
1 small or 1/2 medium/large fennel, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 can black beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 can coconut milk, well shaken
1 tsp caraway seeds
salt and pepper

Israeli Couscous
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups water

Make the couscous. Bring the water to a boil and add couscous. Simmer gently until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Israeli couscous is actually a pasta, so cook it as you would pasta. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large pan and over a low heat gently cook the fennel, onion and garlic, until soft, 5-7 minutes. Trim the broccolette, removing any tough outer layer from the stems. Chop the stems and add to the fennel mixture, keeping the flower heads back. Cook for a further 5 minutes. 
Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the fennel mixture with the broccolette flowers and gently heat through, 3 minutes. Pour over the coconut milk and heat for another 5 minutes until hot.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle in the caraway seeds.
Serve over the Israeli couscous.

 The rather pathetic alternative tree is up by the way.  Rather ingeniously and because we are cheap, we fashioned a base for our branch from a laundry hamper. Had a panic moment when we couldn't find Christmas lights for sale anywhere, but we eventually found one beaten up box of rather blueish looking lights after a desperate search around town.  It is quite possibly the weirdest Christmas tree ever!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Alternative Christmas Tree and Lazy Moussaka

 It's only been a week for us as downtown residents but it may be that's all it takes for me to establish myself as the local nut. Let me explain. There are some rules to condo living it seems, one such rule dictates the installment and removal of Christmas trees. Not one needle can be dropped on communal territory and no trees may be discarded either in the garbage room or left outside the property for pick up. So what are we to do? Well, we could of course wrap the tree well so as to catch all wayward needles and investigate where we might take our tree once the twelfth night is upon us. However, that seems like too much work for us folks. Last year, we took a vacation right after Christmas and decided to go the alternative tree route. Having a house back then, it was easy to haul in a large piece of ply, slap on a coat of blackboard paint and chalk on a simple tree outline, staple gun on the lights and voila. With no one home to vacuum the needles and haul the tree out on pick up day, our alternative tree was perfect. This year I had it in my mind that a branch in a pot would be our alternative. Today, I headed out to the local park to scavenge around for a fallen twig or two. (Here comes the local nut status part.) I didn't find a twig or a stick, I found half a tree! Okay, maybe not half a tree, at least that's not how it started out, but let me tell you, once I left the park and hit the streets and the closer it got to rush hour, the bigger I swear that branch got. What was a 10 minute walk to the park felt like a 10 hour walk home.When a young boy asked his dad what the heck that lady was doing with that stick, I knew things were not looking good for my rep here in town. As I wrestled twisted trunk and long unruly branches between pedestrians, around corners, across streets and ultimately through the apartment front door, wrapping a real tree and driving to a recycling depot didn't seem like too much work after all. I have yet to get the branch up to our apartment, it's hiding out in the back of our enormous truck (seems we don't do things small around here!) Tomorrow I shall enlist the help of Tim and Elliot, more as lookout patrol members, don't need the neighbours thinking I'm nut's too.

As you can imagine, all of today's shenanigans left me quite spent of energy, that's it, so what is a girl to do but take a short cut in the kitchen. Lazy Moussaka was born. It is basically sort of Moussaka ingredients, kind of put together in, well, the laziest way possible. Enjoy.


Lazy Moussaka

enough bolognese sauce for 4, use your favourite recipe
1 aubergine, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
olive oil
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 package goat cheese

Turn on your broiler. Place the aubergine slices on a baking sheet and drizzle on some olive oil. Evenly sprinkle on the black pepper and cumin. Place under the broiler and cook until starting to brown slightly. Turn the broiler off and leave the aubergine in the hot oven to continue cooking slightly.
Prepare your bolognese sauce or reheat if you happen to have some lying around(?).
To serve, place one aubergine slice on your plate, top with some sauce and sprinkle on some of the goat cheese. Repeat with two or three more slices of aubergine, layering with the sauce and goat cheese.
Top with some fresh oregano and cracked black pepper.

How lazy was that, I didn't even give you a sauce recipe! Tell you what here's a link to a good one, that's the best I can do tonight, tree wrangling is exhausting work.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Baked Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers and Spinach

I can't believe we've been in our condo for a week already. We are slowly exploring our new neighbourhood and discovering exciting shops and interesting people everyday. We've had drinks, twice, with the lovely Eve from the floor below who I believe will have us pickled in no time. Thank goodness she only lives here on the weekends! Truth is, I'm a lightweight and it doesn't take much more than one gin and tonic to get me giggling at nothing. I managed to drag myself back up the stairs to our floor where my two hungry boys were waiting for dinner. I needed something fast and simple that didn't require any knife skills!

Having a jar of roasted red peppers to use up, I hit up Google for a tasty recipe and the above colourful delight graced our table in no time. It was quick, simple and delicious. The recipe called for basil leaves but having only spinach in the fridge I used them instead.


Baked Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers and Spinach
adapted from inspired taste

serves 4

4 chicken breast, cut into smaller pieces
1 jar roasted red peppers, cut into smaller pieces if whole, reserve liquid
2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and stems removes
1/2 cup orange juice
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
Arrange chicken pieces, roasted red peppers and spinach in your baking dish, starting with spinach, then chicken then peppers repeating until the dish is full.
Pour over the reserved liquid from the jar of red peppers and the 1/2 cup orange juice. Top with black pepper.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Serve with mashed potatoes to soak up all the cooking liquid.

This is such a simple, quick and easy supper dish. The basil would give it a whole other flavour and I look forward to trying it that way, however the red peppers are strong enough to flavour the dish on their own and it didn't lack for the substitution.