Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

taco salad - an alternate take

Pin It Now!

Face it folks. We've all, at one point or another, succumbed to the temptation of the fast food salad.

Oh, ye wilted lettuce, hardened cheddar and greasy non-descript chili.
Alas, ye stale yellow corn chips and questionable sour cream.

Hungry yet?

I am totally playing hookey tonight. I should be in class. But I'm not. I just couldn't do it. And I have a mid-term on Thursday, which I believe is penance enough for one week. At least it should be, when you consider that the student in question also works full time.

Anyway, back to my alternate taco salad. So this isn't your standard Wendy's offering. This is a taco salad that has gone a little hippie, a little native, with a touch of charm school. As in to say, I'm still on a diet (down 7.5 pounds now) and I wanted something that I could enjoy, that would be flavourful, that would look pretty and that I could write about.

So I started having visions of bean cakes. I've read about them.....never really had them before, but I thought...I love beans, I love what's not to love about combining the two. And it turns out it's a great combo, a filling dinner, a bit creative and still good for me. The basic premise of the salad is, you take a base of lettuce, add some grilled veggies, some chopped up avocado, and top with a bean cake or two, some salsa, and some low-fat sour cream. You could add cheese (I didn't, but I suspect hubs will, though he decried my black bean cakes as lumps of dog poop covered in corn meal). Okay....I do understand that black beans are not the most attractive substance when ground up and combined with other lumpy things.....but I think calling them dog poop was a little harsh.

You could easily make any number of alterations to this recipe - change up your type of beans, alter the spices, change the veggies, add corn, etc. It's more of a guideline than anything. IN particular, I grilled sweet potato because it's a superfood, and zucchini because it just kicks ass when you grill it. I loved my dinner, and could happily have eaten a heck of a lot more of it....but alas, the price we pay for beauty.....

Alternative Taco Salad

Black Bean Cakes (makes a lot)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 c. dried bread crumbs
1/4 c. salsa
2 t cumin
1 t hot sauce
1 egg (I"m debating using two next time.....)
3-4 cloves garlic
seasonings (I added about 1 t extra spicy mrs. dash)

Cornmeal coating - 1/2 c. cornmeal, 1 t salt, 1 t extra-spicy mrs. dash or chili powder, 1/2 t oregano

1. In a food processor (or with a potato masher), mash the black beans until pretty much chopped. Doesn't have to be uniformly smooth though.

2. Scrape the black beans into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine.

3. On a plate, combine the cornmeal, salt, seasoning and oregano. Using a spoon or your hands (I vote hands as opposable thumbs evolved for a reason), shape about 3 T of the bean mixture into a small patty. Dip both sides of the patty in the cornmeal mixture.

4. Arrange on a silpat, parchment paper, or really greased baking sheet. Continue with remainder of the bean mix. I ended up with 24 little cakes.

5. To cook, preheat the broiler, and place the rack on the second highest setting. Either brush the cakes with oil, or spray them lightly (spraying will give you less fat, if that's a concern). Broil each side about 5-6 minutes, spraying the second side when you turn the cakes.

They are somewhat fragile, but very tasty.

I also grilled my sweet potato and zucchini on the BBQ. Basically, I sliced the potato in thin slices and brushed it with a grilling mixture, and same for the zucchini. My grilling mixture comprised olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, steak spice (pepper and garlic, mostly), a bit of salt and some maple syrup. You can use whatever you like.

My grilling mix:

Sweet potatoes, primed and ready to go:

Grilled yumminess (the charred bits are all hubs' doing. I'm not allowed near the bbq.)

To make the salad.....simply dress your plate with lettuce, pile on your veggies, perhaps add some chopped avocado and coriander, and then top with the bean cakes. I like it with salsa and sour cream, personally. Very yummy! I ended up eating 3 of the little cakes, but you could definitely eat more.


And a huge wish of good luck to the Sens tomorrow. If they prevail, we shall dine on roasted duck..........

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2007

the fruits of our labours

Pin It Now!

This past Saturday was possibly one of the most beautiful days in the history of my life. The Ottawa climate is a peculiar one, tending to rest at the extremes (i.e., -30C or +35C) with not a lot of time spent at moderate, pleasant, beckoning temperatures.

And yet this Saturday it was 25C, sunny, with a cool breeze. It was perfection. It was a day that was screaming for a bbq. It was also a day where hubs and his dad were hard at work to build us a new gate for our house. As I've oft mentioned, we're busily renovating every surface in our humble little home, and last summer, we painted the exterior and changed the walkway. These were both tremendous improvements that really helped the look of the house. But off to the right was our sad, sorry, saggy and rotten gate.

It was especially classy when the raccoons would push one of the rotten timbers aside (leaving a nice gap), and then knock over our garbage can, and drag all the tastiest morsels on top of our car for a party. Seriously. The little bastards even left beer caps on OUR CAR last time.

Hubs was outside working once, and the across the street neighbour (who's been "blessed" with an oh-so-lovely view of our house) mentioned to him that *if* we repaint the gate, it would look great if it matched the house. Can you say hint? I can say hint. Except there was no way that puppy was getting painted. It actually fell over when they went to dismantle it.

Anyway, so they've built most of a new gate. And what did I do? certainly didn't have anything to do with gate building (something tells me they really didn't need my kind of assistance) was more of the helping variety.

The strawberry daiquiri swilling kind of help. I hung out with my mother- and sister-in-law in our backyard (on our finally debuted patio set) and had girly drinks and snacks. An afternoon well-spent, if you ask me. Of course, occasionally, we had to go and tell the guys what all they were doing wrong, but under our deft supervision, some work was accomplished.


(after snapping the photo, I realized the daiquiri inequity and promptly took a big swig of the big one before carrying the drinks out). :)

I figured there couldn't be a better way to reward our hard-working men than making them bbq their own dinner. It was very tasty (I bought meat from the super-duper-awesome butcher shop downtown where they actually grind the meat in front of you) and was accompanied with roasted asparagus and potato salad. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

MBR's burgers - 4 pounds ground beef, 2 minced onions, 8 cloves garlic, 1/4 c. bbq sauce, 1 T salt-free steak spice, 4 dashes worcestershire sauce, an egg or two if desired. This will make 18 burgers.

Asparagus is easy-peasy - just wash and trim, and then set on a silpat, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for about 8-10 minutes at 375F. Or until desired doneness.


The potato salad was a little more involved, but it was a lot of fun to make and enjoy. Hubs despises this salad, so it was great to have a chance to make it for people who would enjoy it. :)

Potato Salad
(mostly from Better Homes and Gardens)

2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, minced
6 hard-boiled eggs (place eggs in cold water, heat on stove until boiling rapidly, turn off burner and cover. let sit for 15 minutes)
1/2 c. chopped dill pickle
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. fat-free yogourt
1/2 c. ultra-low-fat miracle whip
1 T dijon mustard

1. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil, and boil until just tender (about 20-25 minutes).

2. (If you haven't already cooked your eggs, do so). In a large bowl (one bigger than the salad, so that you will actually be able to STIR it), combined the onion, shallot, yogourt, mustard, miracle whip, dill pickle and celery.


I love dill pickle in my potato salad.

3. Once the potatoes are tender, let them cool a bit. You could peel them, but I find this to be both a waste of time and nutrition. All the good stuff is in the skin and I am just purely lazy. So leave the skin on. Better yet, use red potatoes, so it's kinda trendy.

4. Combine the potatoes with the veggie and dressing mix. Peel 4 of the eggs and chop them roughly. Add in with the potatoes. With the other two eggs, halve them and arrange them kitschily on top, along with a pickle spear or two. Add paprika, if you so desire.

I love the almost-tacky 1950s appeal of this. It almost makes me want to make a jellied salad. Almost.... Not quite.

So tacky. Yet so cute.

Here was our dinner smorgasbord (and yes, we really are eating dinner at 9....the hazards of the slow-moving gate project):

And this was my plate:

Yum. BBQ rocks my world.

Of course, I couldn't leave my in-laws sans dessert treat. I was at the market on Friday afternoon (after my way too kind boss let me go a little early - woohoo!), and I walked by a stand where I was immediately assaulted with the fresh heady perfume of strawberries.

So we had to have strawberries with dessert. I then remembered that I had egg whites in my freezer, and all the other ingredients to make angel food cake (including a pan that my mom left behind last time she came to visit).

I'd never made this kind of cake before, but it's really not that hard. It called for a little more sifting and fussing than I am generally wont to do, but came together pretty easily and was super yummy. I served the cake not with whipped cream (I'm down seven pounds - no way am I eating whipped cream), but with low-fat french vanilla yogourt. It was a great combo and I liked the idea that it was a lot more natural than a non-dairy-scary whipped topping.

Angel Food Cake

1.5 cups egg whites (do yourself a favour and just buy pre-separated whites - faster, easier and cheaper)
1.5 cups sifted powdered sugar (aka icing sugar, and pfft. on the sifting)
1 c sifted cake flour (again, pfft. I only had all-purpose)
1.5 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla
1 c granulated sugar

1. In a massive mixing bowl, allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sift powdered sugar and flour together three times. Set aside. (Clearly, I'm a bad person going straight to _____. I didn't sift).

2. Add cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). (It was at this point that I was fervently wishing for the oft-mentioned stand mixer).

3. Gradually add the granulated sugar, about 2 T at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

I like this's like my batter is giving me the finger. hehe.

4. Sift about one-fourth of the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites (again witht the freaking sifting! I don't have a sifter - I used a mesh sieve to gently pseudo-sift at this point). Fold in gently.
Here's my mixture, in all its kinda sifted glory:

5. Repeat, folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

6. (you might want to flatten it out!). Also, use a knife to "cut" through the batter to remove major air bubbles.

7. Bake on the lowest rack in a 350F oven for 40-45 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert the cake (leave in pan). Cool thoroughly. Loosen sides of cake from pan. Remove cake.

Makes 12 servings, about 161 calories each and no fat.


It's a perfect summer dessert. And a great finish to an almost-summer day. Maybe I'll even put in plants soon.

Thanks for reading!!!!!! :)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

chocolatey thanks

Pin It Now!

Is there a better thanks for a favour than the sweet deliciousness of chocolate?

Last week, hubs and I shot our first being the first one, and us not being absolutely convinced that we were 100% sure about going into the business, we weren't quite ready to invest in a second camera yet. So a friend was so kind as to loan me his camera, lenses, flash etc. so we could have the advantages of two cameras, without the hefty price tag.

SO thankful for this loan. We got some great shots of a fun, creative couple (bride made her own dress - super impressive!) and I got to use a much-coveted 50mm, f/1.8 lens. *drool*

In thanks for this momentous favour, I offered to make some sort of tasty treat, in the form of chocolatey goodness. As always, I was royally short on time, so I went off in search of something quick, using a few good quality ingredients......I eventually came across a tasty-looking chocolate coconut recipe on, and made 6 mini-cakes.

Hubs of course, wanted his own taste of chocolate, so he ended up eating two of them before I could stop him. The things that happen when you turn your back. I didn't realy get a taste of these, so I couldn't tell you if they were good or not, but my friend tells me (and I quote):

"thank you so much for the mini chocolate rum cakes. I have to say, they were sublime. Generally I find that when you're dealing with baked goods that incorporate coconut, most people use too much, which makes it the overpowering flavour and texture. But in this case it was very subtle and added to the overall flavour, rather than dominating everything. A success for sure, as far as I'm concerned, so well done! If that's the end result, you can borrow my camera anytime!"


I guess they were alright. They come together pretty quickly, and I like that the ingredient list is mercifully short, although I did find myself lacking in sweetened coconut. I hoped it would be the same thing if I just tossed a bunch of sugar in with unsweetened coconut before toasting it. It seemed to work out alright, so I guess we can say that it was an adequate substitution.

stolen from and lightly modified

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

100 g fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped (note here: I am LAZY and bashed my chocolate with a meat mallet while it was in the wrapper, which of course embedded tiny little bits of foil into my bashed chocolate, which I promptly spent 20 minutes picking out)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted and cooled (I had unsweetened, so just tossed it with sugar, and toasted in an ungreased skillet)

whipped cream and cherries

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour six 1/2-cup muffin tins.

2. In a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water melt chocolate with butter, whisking until smooth.
70% chocolate and butter

3. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, and add remaining ingredients, whisking until combined well.

4. Divide batter among prepared tins (and you can probably be a lot neater about it than I am) and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
hehe....i suck

5. Cool cakes in pan for about 5 minutes. I find this makes them less fragile and prone to breakage upon removal.
they rose!  woot!

6. Turn cakes out onto a rack and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. Hide them from munchy hubbies.
chocolate coconut rum cakes

7.I topped mine with lightly sweetened whipped cream. It looked pretty, and according to my buddy, were quite tasty.
whipped cream and cherries rock my world

It sure smelled good while it was cooking. AND, in case anyone was wondering, the wedding went super well and I think we will be going into business. Hubs is working on a web site as we speak, and as soon as I wrap my brain around the complexities of small business ownership, I'll let you know where you can find us. If anyone in Ottawa is looking for fun, non-traditional wedding photography, give me a shout.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the loan J! :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

PSA: please wear sunscreen

Pin It Now!

This isn't food related, but I felt compelled to post about it. I don't really know how old any of you are, but I don't think it really matters....

I'm posting because I wanted to raise awareness about melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. Sarah, someone whom I know only virtually, but whom I've been in contact with for several years, is dying of melanoma.

She's a young, beautiful, formerly healthy woman. And she absolutely doesn't deserve this. She's only 28. Cancer is not only the disease of the elderly.

Please read her story here: . The last few updates are from her husband, as she's been too ill to post. time you think a little colour might look good...please rethink that. And slap on some broad spectrum sunscreen (look for something that says UVA/UVB on the label). And reapply it liberally.

Wouldn't you rather give your money to sunscreen companies than to cancer pharmaceuticals?

Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 25 and 29. And there's a lot you can do to prevent it. SO PLEASE STOP TANNING. IT'S RIDICULOUS. Embrace your natural skin colour. It's healthy. Tanning causes wrinkles and premature aging.

I just read a whole bunch of posts by brides, tanning for the big day. And it absolutely makes me SICK. You don't need a tan. You don't need a base tan. If you must have colour, try self-tanners. But with all the nebulous causes of cancer out there, do you really need to add another one?

Thanks. MBR out. And wear your freaking sunscreen.

Monday, May 21, 2007

mango chicken madness

Pin It Now!

Through serendipitous discovery, I’m also submitting this entry into the "Heart of the Matter" round-up for May. This is a new, but great monthly event where a round-up of heart-healthy recipes is gathered. Read more about it on the new blog - This month's is being hosted by Ilva, of Lucullian Delights, a super fab blog you should all check out.

This recipe is great because you’re using so many yummy, healthy things:
- lean chicken (source of protein!)
- low-fat milk adding calcium, but little sat fat (yes, I admit it, coconut milk would be divine here, but it’s great with regular milk….you could add a dash of coconut extract to fill in the gaps, perhaps?)
- mango – fruit kicks ass, vitamins, antioxidants, you name it
- hot peppers – capsicin is good for you and boosts your metabolism
- bell peppers, onion, garlic – a trifecta of delicious yumminess with all kinds of healthy properties (onions and garlic are especially good for the heart)
- whole wheat pasta – more fibre is good for your colon

Though I know my habits vascillate between the angelic and the demonic, it really is a great endeavour to try to eat healthy foods. Healthy can be yummy. It can be SOOOOO yummy.

You know what madness is? It's 50 cent mangoes. That's pure madness in this part of the world. Of course, I had to stock up. And now I have a drawerful of juicy, juicy mangoes to devour and enjoy.

I had a very lazy day today, enjoying my holiday monday and a day to myself (hubs was out visiting his parents, so I took the chance to lounge around in my jammies. Woot!)

This recipe is shamelessly ripped off of Cooking for the Rushed, The Healthy Family. I changed it a little bit, but it's not really my recipe. It's yummy though. Quick to put together, and very tasty.

Chicken in Mango Cream Sauce on Spaghettini
cooking spray
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 red onion
1 green pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping T curry paste (I used vindaloo for spiciness)
2 T flour
1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1/2 c. mango purée (about 1 mango)
1 c. milk
1 T peach jam
1 t crushed red chilies
1 mango, diced
1/3 c. chopped fresh coriander

3/4 lb whole wheat spaghettini

1. Fill a large pot with water. Cover and bring to a boil.

2. Spray a large nonstick fry pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Cut chicken into small pieces and gradually add to pan as you cut. Stir until meat is no longer pink.


3. Slice onion and pepper into thin strips and add into pan as you slice.

4. Add garlic, curry paste and flour to the pan. Stir to coat chicken.

5. Gradually add chicken broth, mango purée and milk, stirring as you add. Add peach jam and crushed chilies.

6. Add pasta to boiling water and set timer for 8 minutes.

7. If you haven't already done so, dice your mango. Add it to the pan, along with the fresh coriander.

chicken in mango cream sauce

8. Rinse cooked pasta in a colander with hot water. Serve topped with fresh mango and coriander. YUM.

This will serve 5 people and it actually good for you. How 'bout that. Thanks for reading - love the comments. :)

it's been a loooooooooooooooooooooong time coming....

Pin It Now!

...but it's well worth the wait! At least I'd like to think it is.

This is my belated Mother's day post.....I'm well aware that Mother's day was well over a week ago, and I do assure you that mom got the best of treatments on the day of, but this is the first chance I've had in a whole week to sit down and write about this.......

To explain the set-up first, you have to remember that I live in Ottawa, while my mom is in Toronto (about a 4-5 hour drive away), so I had to plan some sort of brunch that I could make at my mom's (thankfully, she's not averse to me taking over her kitchen) and that my slightly-picky brothers would actually eat.

So I spent some time conspiring, shopping and planning, and came up with the following menu....

Asparagus Soup with crème fraiche
Savoury apple, onion and cheddar tarts with pancetta
Balsamic-dressed greens
Smoked Paprika Hash Browns
Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée

Everything turned out beautifully, and it was a great day (weekend) spent with mom).

Asparagus Soup
(I doubled this recipe, stolen from

2 lb green asparagus
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cut tips from 12 asparagus
1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish.

Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.

Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.

Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips.

Cooks' note:
• Soup keeps, covered and chilled, 2 days. If making ahead, add last tablespoon butter and lemon juice after reheating.

Makes 4 servings.

Asparagus soup for Mother's Day brunch

The tarts were essentially my own creation, with ideas and such stolen from various different recipes, blogs and web sites.

Savoury Tarts with Apple, Onion and Aged Cheddar with Pancetta
4 large spanish onions, sliced
4 large empire apples, sliced
3 T butter
1 T sugar
8 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
aged cheddar
10 eggs
1 cup whipping cream

3.5 cups flour
2 eggs
2 sticks butter, cubed
ice water

To make the filling:
1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions...when you hear a very gentle hiss, turn the heat down to low. Stir occasionally, and let cook for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples, and cut them into small, thin slices. After the onions have been cooking for 30 minutes, add the apples, and cook for another 30 minutes.
3. Add a bit of sugar and turn the heat up slightly. Now, take another small skillet and brown the pancetta until it is lightly crisped. Drain on paper towels.
4. Once the onion/apple mixture is sufficiently caramelized (and it's going to depend on how much water your apples and onions give out....mine took about 90 minutes!), turn the burner off.

To make the dough:
1. Place the flour in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse gently until the butter is well combined.
2. Drop the eggs down the chute of the food processor, and process for about 30 seconds.
3. Add ice water, 1 T at a time, until you have a workable ball of dough (I found that my dough was workable BEFORE it became a ball. Keep an eye on it. If you add too much water, just add a little flour.

*Depending on your food processor, you may need to halve the recipe and do it in two batches.
This amount of dough is enough for 8 5.5" tarts (I bought the adorable little pans for mom as part of her gift).

4. Divide the dough in half. And then in half again. Take half of this, and roll it out thinly with a rolling pin, on a well-floured surface. It should roll out large enough to fill the 5.5" pan.
5. Press the dough into the pan, and trim.
the dough!
6. Continue for remaining seven tarts (I had four pans, so I just did this in two batches).

To assemble:
1. Cover the bottom of the tart with a bit of pancetta. Grate the aged cheddar over top.
2. Take a small amount of the apple onion mixture, and continue filling the tart.
3. Now, whisk together the whipping cream and eggs and gently, carefully, fill the tart to just below the brim.
4. Continue with remaining tarts.

To bake:
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake tarts for 30 minutes (check for doneness by jiggling the pan).
caramelized onion and apple tarts with pancetta and aged cheddar
2. Tarts can be made a day ahead, and then just reheated. Once they are cool, they will hold their shape and you can remove them from your pans. My second batch were meatless, so I put some parsley on top to tell them apart.
savoury tarts for brunch

These are unbelievably cute for a brunch. Definitely make them ahead, as they are waaaaay too labour intensive for a morning affair. I served them with salad (with my classic balsamic dressing - 1 T balsamic vinegar, fleur de sel, 3 T olive oil, 2 t dijon mustard), and some hash browns (this was just happenstance as there were leftover baked potatoes from the night before - I just cooked them in a bit of olive oil, with spanish onion, and a hefty dose of smoked paprika).

the main course

And of course, to finish off was super yummy vanilla bean crème brulée (which I've both made and blogged about can find the recipe I use on epicurious - I just omit the ginger. It's PERFECT every time, and another make-ahead favourite.

Table-side use of a blow-torch is always a good way to get your man involved in the cooking.....
torches in the kitchen are always a good thing

And of course, everyone loves breaking through the delicate sugar crust, and the flavour of the vanilla bean is unbelievable. Though my brothers think you could get a similar result if you just use jello instant vanilla pudding....I beg to differ. This is the real thing, and it's fantastic.
creme brulee

We had a wonderful morning, spent with a wonderful mother, and full of great memories. Mom was happy to have all us kids tracked down, and I was just happy I could do something nice for my mom, who's done innumerable amazing things for me.
mom and kids!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

oh, the brutality

Pin It Now!

Apologies readers. I have a couple of great posts coming up, but I've been insanely busy....

First, we've been away every weekend.
Second, I now have class two nights a week (because life wasn't crazy enough)
Third, I realized the approaching impending horror of bikini season (the horror would be ME in a bikini) and have since been exercising and starving (okay, not starving entirely, but not my usual 3200 calories per day) so my food has not been terribly exciting of late.

BUT, I have a great post about Mother's day Brunch coming up (hopefully later tonight, after the Sens kick the ass of the Sabres).

And last, recipes like THIS piss me off to no end. FOr those of you who aren't clicking, basically, the recipe involves a box of KD, a box of frozen meatballs, a jar of pasta sauce and a tub of flavoured cream cheese. K, first, if the sodium and wacky chemicals don't kill you....this is NOT cooking. It's being pitched as a family favourite recipe in my new magazine....and if this is the pinnacle of family cooking, it's a sad sad SAD day in this world.

MBR Out. For now. I've got to tend to my wild rice salad (which will also be posted in due time).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

asparagus ceviche

Pin It Now!

Rather than serve a traditional salad for my Cinco de Mayo fiesta, I was poking around online and found a really intriguing recipe for asparagus ceviche at I loved the idea of a cold seafood salad, and asparagus is always a fave so I figured I couldn't go wrong with this one.

It's pretty easy to make (though a lot of chopping) and it makes a ton (at least 8 servings!) so it's made for some yummy leftovers.

I have a beef though....I bought a whole ENTIRE package of tostadas and only used eight. So imagine my surprise this afternoon when I went looking to make myself a nice little tostada-y dinner, and HUBS had eaten ALLLLL THE TOSTADAS. This from the man who's trying to lower his sodium intake.


So for dinner tonight, I had the seafood salad on top of organic tortilla chips, with a little low-fat sour cream. It was super yummy. You should all make this. Mmm...fiesta.

1 pound asparagus spears, chopped
1 pound shrimp, cooked and chopped
1 cup crabmeat, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 lemons, juiced
3 limes, juiced
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt (I suggest using 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic and a light sprinkling of salt)

Tostada shells, if desired
sour cream, optional, for garnish

1. Briefly blanch the asparagus, and then immediately plunge in cold water to stop the cooking process.

2. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients gently until well mixed. Cover and chill for 30 to 45 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving.
shrimp and crab

asparagus seafood ceviche

3. Eat as a salad or serve on a tostada shell. Add your favorite hot sauce for an extra kick. I served this on tostada shells with sour cream. Soooooooooooooo yummy.

mmmm...salad on tostadas

Thanks for reading! :) And this is an awesome match for margaritas.

tiny empanadas

Pin It Now!

Pastry is a pain. There's no doubt about it, making anything involving pastry, filling and stuffing will put me in a generally foul mood.

Not entirely sure why I thought it would be a good idea to include these little guys as part of my cinco de mayo fiesta, but nonetheless on Friday night, I found myself cursing, swearing and generally displeased about the whole situation.

My "love" affair with pastry is long and sordid....starting from the tender age of 10 when I first burnt pie crust, continuing to a rather unfortuante pierogi incident in university, and culminating (on Friday, it would seem), in sorry attempts at tiny little empanadas, filled with a spicy 'chicken-y' filling. These guys actually turned out pretty well, tasted good and looked very cute, but it doesn't lessen the pain and irritation of making pastry, rolling out said pastry, cutting said pastry using a SPIEGELAU crystal wine balloon (this actually quite ticked me off - it was the only glass vessel with a wide enough mouth and thin enough rim to do the trick, so I had to pour my lovely cooking accompaniment into an inferior crystal to be able to properly cut the dough).

Anyway, I'm rambling. These empanadas are very good (from and since I'm clearly NOT martha, I don't know if I recommend making them according to the original recipe. To start with, the original empanadas are TINY. Perhaps it's my ignorant existence, subsisting upon neo-latin Canadian bastardizations of this treat, but I always thought empanadas were a little bigger than this. I ended up getting so annoyed partway through that I only made a dozen of the little ones, and then packed away the rest of the dough and filling for another day.

These do make a lovely appetizer, and if you're patient enough to make them, they would be a great little party snack. They're easy to make and what's better is that they don't look like you made them.

Read on for the recipe...

Spicy "Chicken" Empanadas

1 whole chicken breast (1 pound), skin removed (I used a package of veggie ground "chicken" - has less fat and in this type of dish, it works extremely well). I just didn't boil it for as long.
veggie ground chicken
1/2 white onion, halved
1 dried bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican cinnamon) or regular cinnamon
4 canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, coarsely chopped (I also added a jalapeno)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted and coarsely chopped - couldn't find these so substituted sunflower seeds
Crema pura or sour cream, for serving (optional)

Click HERE for empanada dough recipe.


1. Make filling: Place chicken breast, half the onion, and the bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and poach until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, and discard onion and bay leaf. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred meat from the bone with a fork; set aside.

2. Finely chop remaining onion. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic; sauté until soft and translucent. Stir in cumin and canela; cook 1 minute. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes, chipotle, and reserved cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until liquid has thickened, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper; stir in cilantro and pepitas. Set aside to cool.

3. Make empanadas: Break off a 1 1/2-inch ball of empanada dough. On a clean work surface, roll dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out a round of dough. (Or use an inverted glass as a guide, cutting around it with a sharp paring knife.)
empanada dough

This is what I ended up doing to my poor Spiegelau...
a new use for spiegelau crystal

4. Place 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round. Using a pastry brush, moisten edges of dough with water; fold dough over to seal, pressing gently. Crimp edges with a fork; set aside. Repeat with remaining dough. Gather scraps and reroll. (Only do this once, to avoid toughening the dough.)

tiny empanada

cute little empanadas

5. Brush empanadas with oil and bake at 375F for 15 minutes, turning half-way through. Serve immediately with crema pura or cream on the side, if desired.

yummy little empanadas

Yum! Stay tuned for more fiesta-themed recipes, including seafood-asparagus ceviche, chocolate flan and more! :)

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

shades of mediocrity

Pin It Now!

This really wasn't all that yummy. To be frank, it was kinda bland. And it tasted like it was really good for you.

But the crux is, it really is so obnoxiously good for you that I felt compelled to share. In this lowly little recipe, there are 14 grams of fibre per serving, as well as tons of vitamins, nutrients, minerals, protein, etc.

It's longevity in a bowl, people.

I have to apologize again, as you're in for another lunchtime quickie (feeling used yet?). Evenings have been quite crazy and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment.

So back to lentil soup.....I really did try to save this recipe, but lentils have this irritating tendency to suck the flavour out of a even though it seems as though this is probably overseasoned, it's still on the bland side. Lentils are another one of those superfoods that appear and reappear on all those lists of things we should all eat all the time. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them, personally. Sometimes, they are the best thing ever (like in dal), but other times they are just so mushy and meh. I'm sure the mushiness factor is not vastly improved by my habit of using mostly the red ones (which cook down to mush). I just like how quick they are. And they're pretty.

And I'm a sucka for a pretty lentil.

And in keeping with hubs' low-sodium demands, I used all low-salt ingredients, though I will confess to shaking a little bit on my own serving as it absolutely was crying out for it. But if you're trying to be healthy, you should make this soup.

Because you not eating it makes for a great diet.

And you know what the worst part of this soup is? The deception. I didn't just make up the recipe, I actually went and found it on, where it had many accolades and lauds and all the general credentials that make me think that a recipe won't be crap. And it wasn't quite crap, but when you use low-sodium broth, it sure is verging on it....

See the original recipe on

Reflecting the cuisines of Israel and the surrounding Mediterranean Middle Eastern countries, this meatless stew is seasoned with mint and lemon. Serve it with sesame seed rolls and a tomato and cucumber salad; have pistachio ice cream for dessert.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils, rinsed, picked over
1 pound purple potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 limes
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (you could up this to a whole package!)
1-2 hot peppers
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t cinnamon
1 T red wine vinegar

Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth and lentils; bring to boil.
red lentils
(yep, spilled them)

I used purple potatoes.
purple potatoes....does that make them healthier?

2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes; cook uncovered until potatoes and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Clearly, purple potatoes are cool.
purple and green....

3. Meanwhile, grate peel from limes; squeeze the juice from the limes.
lime zest

4. Chop up the peppers. Either wear gloves or try not to touch the cut parts of the peppers. I keep the pieces on the large side so people who don't like them can pick them out.
hot peppers!

4. Add peel, lime juice, spinach, cumin, cinnamon, vinegar and hot peppers to stew.
in goes the zest!

5. Cover and simmer stew until spinach wilts and is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Mix in mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)
Spoon stew into large soup bowls. Sprinkle feta cheese over, if desired.


As I calculate it, nutritional info for this recipe is (give or take) as follows (if it makes 5 servings, which it does) - 512 calories, 7.5 g fat, 3.3 mg cholesterol, 113 mg sodium, 1518 mg potassium, 89 g carbs, 15 g fibre, 26 g protein, 20% Vitamin A, 120% Vitamin C, 16 % Calcium, 61% Iron, 20% Vitamin E, 55% Thiamin, 24% Riboflavin, 27% Niacin, 58% Folate, 86% Vitamin B-6, 3% Vitamin B-12, 56% Phosphorus, 45% Magnesium and 33% Zinc (all the percentages being of the recommended daily intake for a mid-twenties, medium-sized woman). So that's why you should make it. That's a lot of goodness in one small, bland bowl.

Any suggestions for livening it up? I'm thinking curry powder. And more hot peppers. Thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

Related Posts with Thumbnails