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Sunday, July 19, 2009

writing about eating clean...

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...while I swill my vino.

fresh and fast

Perhaps a little ironic? Ah well.

Anyway, my latest obsession is Clean Eating magazine. I freaking love it. The recipes are simple, fresh, delicious and healthy. And no, in case you're wondering, they didn't send me free shit to say this (I do get swag, but I plunked down my own $7 (!!!!) to get a copy). I do love it though. After years of reading about fads, trends and movements in food, this just strikes me as SO common sense and relatively sustainable.

Eat things that you can pronounce. Make them yourself. Don't eat too much saturated fat. And don't drink like a fish. I'm doing okay, except for the last one. Ooops. Anyway, love this magazine. There are any number of great foodie publications out there, but this one is actually showcasing a lifestyle that I aspire to embrace. Sadly, I'm a little too lazy and a little too self-indulgent to do so, but hey, I'll definitely make the odd meal inspired by it. The only thing is that I find there are sometimes extra (and unnecessary) steps in recipes, but they are easily streamlined and simplified.

I actually planned this week's entire meal plan around a few recipes in this magazine, so I thought I would share a couple today. This is stuff that you can feel proud to present to anyone, and actually not feel like a tool for eating. It's good, plain and simple. :)

Grilled Chicken in Melon Bowls
pretty and healthy.  kickass.
To me, this is the ultimate 'ladies who lunch' fare. It looks pretty, it's super easy to make and it's surprisingly quite delicious. You can make it a couple of days in advance even, but I do recommend only adding the cashews at the last minute (I added them when I made the salad and they were a little soft and soggy the next day...not inedible, but they could have been better). I made a few modifications from the original recipe, but I liked how mine came out.

2 large canteloupes, washed, scrubbed, cut in half and seeded
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup green beans, chopped
2 oz unsalted, roasted ashews
1 cup orange juice
juice of 1 lime
3 oz fresh blueberries
1 cup greek-style yogourt

1. Scoop out each melon half (the original recipe called for a melon baller, but I just used a spoon). Set aside melon pieces. Drain remaining liquid from melon and keep in reserve. Set aside melon halves and keep chilled until ready for use.
melons before they were balled, hehe

2. Cook chicken (the original recipe had me pre-cut and then sauté the chicken, but I've discovered that the speediest way to get cooked chicken breast is to just use my indoor grill [like a george foreman one] -it's quick, easy and almost no added fat). Cook the chicken however you like, just make sure it's cooked the whole way through. Chop it up. Cool.
fastest way to cook chicken

3. Combine orange juice, lime juice and yogourt in a large bowl. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add chicken, beans, melon, cashews and blueberries and toss.
mise en place

4. Divide mixture evenly among the four cateloupe bowls. Enjoy. YUM. Lil Z heartily approved, though I did pick out the cashews before she had her share.
fresh and fast

The next meal we had was this uber simple, but surprisingly tasty stir-fry. Stir-fry is one of those foods that can definitely be a wolf in sheep's clothing....sure, it may seem healthy, but if you fry it in lots of fat, drown it in sugary, sodium-laden sauce and then devour it over white's really actually not all the healthy. This one is so insanely simple, I must confess to being a little sceptical as to its tastiness potential, but it was really good. I did increase the sauce amounts by a bit, but overall, it's great as is. Super healthy, quick to put together (cooks in 10 minutes once you've done all the prep!) and very tasty. YUM.

Sweet Potato Beef Stir-Fry
yummy dinner stir fry
1 lb steak, sliced into thin strips (I used top sirloin, but flank would be good, as long as you sliced it thin enough)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 T unsweetened apple butter [I didn't have it, so I nipped a little pinch of Z's apple/apricot puree - good substitute, I think!]
baby's not just for babies
2T low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 t red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 inch slice fresh ginger, grated/crushed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup green beans
1 medium onion, thinly sliced

mise en place

1. In a large bowl, mix beef with sesame oil, apple butter, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic and ginger. Set aside.
meat in marinade

2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Add sweet potato, cook for 5-7 minutes, until soft but still firm. Drain.
parboiling sweet potatoes

3. Preheat a large skillet over high heat (my "high" heat on my stupid POS stove was a simmer at best. UGH). Once hot, add beef mixture and onion, tossing quickly until done, about 3 minutes.
i hate my effing stove

4. Add sweet potatoes and beans, cook 2-3 more minutes, then serve.

my dinner

Easy peasy. That's it. Lil Z was also a fan of this one, as was's not the best thing I've ever made, but considering how healthy it is, I would make it again. It's surprisingly tasty and flavourful, and the marinated beef was most certainly the highlight. :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

pork on my fork

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this was my dinner

so yet again I come back amid a myriad of excuses, take-out meals and processed food. Ugh. Anyway, I actually cooked something for Canada Day, so I thought I'd snap a few pics and share it.

We don't often eat a lot of pork...never really been my favourite meat, but for some reason it just seemed like having the 'other white meat' with a nice red rub would be a fitting way to celebrate Canada's 142nd.

Because I'm way too lazy to haul lil Z, hubs and myself downtown to stand in the rain and watch the fireworks. I'm also not crazy. Something tells me that an almost-11-month-old (eGAD when did that happen!!!!!!!!!!!!) in a huge crowd with loud explosive fireworks would not end well. while I left the antics to folks both younger and much less lame than myself, I had my own kind of fun creating some yummy food in the kitchen. :) Dinner started with a simple fresh salad - romaine, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, blackberries and feta, with a homemade creamy poppyseed dressing (eat your heart out dressing is WAAAAAAAAAAY better).

Main course was a boneless pork rib roast with a smoked-paprika and cumin rub, topped with a red wine raisin vinaigrette, accompanied with potatoes au gratin (think: scalloped potatoes all grown up and aged to golden delicious perfection), and balsamic glazed asparagus. YUM.

To finish off the meal, yes, it would have been utterly and appropriately seasonal to do a reprise of my strawberry cream tart, but there's this other recipe that I've been dying to share with you, so I made it. It's so good. Think: caramel. pecan. apricots. pastry. almost an entire pound of butter.

Yeah. It's that good.

Creamy Poppyseed Dressing
yummy salad
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 t salt (preferably sea salt)
2 T dijon mustard
6T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 T poppyseeds
2-3 T honey (to taste)
3 T whipping cream (35% fat! very important or it will curdle)

1. Dissolve the salt in the vinegar.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together.

3. Taste. If it's a bit thin, you can add a combo of honey, whipping cream and a bit of mustard. It's not an exact science and definitely subject to personal preference. At any rate, if you're a fan of purchased poppyseed dressing, you'll LOVE this stuff. Pretty quick and easy and every ingredient is pronounceable. Gotta love that. This was utterly fabulous on our salad - romaine, red onion, cucumber, red pepper, feta and blackberries. The sharp tang on the onion, with the salty creaminess of the feta and the sweet juicy blackberries was wonderful. I'd initially been looking for strawberries, but man....the blackberries rocked my world.


Pork Roast with Smoked-Paprika Rub and Red-Wine Raisin Vinaigrette
stolen and slightly modified from

For roast:
1/4 cup (1 oz) bittersweet smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling (I used coarse sea salt)
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 (5- to 6-lb) center-cut bone-in pork loin rib roast (I couldn't find a bone-in roast...I actually ended with a boneless pork rib roast and a centre cut boneless roast)

For vinaigrette:
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Roast pork:
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500°F.
2. Stir together paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Rub mixture all over pork. (Press lightly so rub adheres; you will have some leftover rub.) It's a hands on experience.
getting into things

You really will have to get your fingers a little dirty...
hands-on experience
3. Put pork on a metal rack in a roasting pan, rib side down.
4. Roast pork 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until a meat thermometer inserted diagonally into center registers 160°F, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes more. (DNM NOTE: the rub that didn't adhere actually started to SMOKE like crazy during the 10 minutes at 500F. I ended up having to add a skiff of water to the bottom of the pan because I was worried that YET AGAIN I would set off my stupid smoke detectors and wake up a napping lil Z).
See the stuff underneath? Yeah...lots of smoke.
smoked paprika rubbed pork roasts

Let pork stand, loosely covered with foil, 20 to 25 minutes before carving.
smoked-paprika rubbed pork rib roast

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
1. Soak raisins in wine in a medium bowl, covered, 30 minutes. Add vinegar, red onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined. (DNM note: This dressing did not combine at all. Not even remotely. Five minutes of vigourous whisking resulted only in tired arms, splashed olive oil everywhere and an utterly separated dressing. I think next time I might just make a pan sauce with some of the drippings. The vinaigrette was tasty...but not really a showstopper. And the lack of emulsification was very disappointing. Meh.

Slice pork and serve with vinaigrette. I LOVED the rub on this roast. Normally, smoked paprika is something that's so permeating in a dish that I'm not sure if I really like it or not. As a rub, it's great, because you have some nice smokiness on the outside, but nothing too overwhelming.

smoked paprika

Since I ended up having two roasts and only four people, I actually only served the rib roast. The centrecut roast, I sliced REALLY thinly and plan on using it for sandwiches for the rest of the week. In fact, I had one tonight, with some leftover salad. It was awesome. Lightly smoky pork, crunchy veggies, jalapeno havarti, honey mustard and multigrain bread. YUM.

Potato Gratin
potato gratin
6 potatoes, sliced thinly (you could peel 'em if you want...but I'm too lazy)
1 onion, chopped (I used a vidalia as it's sweeter)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1.5 cups whipping cream
garlic powder (I know...heinous...I was feeling lazy)

1. Spray a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray.

2. Spread a thin layer of potatoes over the bottom of the dish (use two potatoes). Sprinkle with a handful of onion. Add a thin layer of parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese (I actually just use my microplane to grate right over).

3. Pour about 1/2 cup of whipping cream over the layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Repeat 2 more times.

4. Bake at 350F, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours (until potatoes are done and nice and golden brown). This isn't an especially saucy gratin, but it's deliciously rich and cheesy. Lil Z gave it two thumbs up, squinched her nose at me, and squealed with glee. You will too, hehe. Though perhaps minus the nose squinching.

Balsamic Glazed Asparagus
glazed asparagus
1.5 lb asparagus spears
2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T balsamic vinegar
fleur de sel
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Trim ends off asparagus.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Mix it together well with your hands.

3. Bake for 12-15 minutes (depending on thickness of your asparagus - mine were pretty thin). Enjoy. It's yummy.

this was my dinner. And lil Z's too. This kid is awesome and will eat anything I make. So far.

And now, for the pièce de résistance...this tart kicks complete ass. Everyone loves it. In fact, pretty much everyone I've served it to has mentioned that it's the best tart they've ever eaten. People even dream of this tart. It's soooooooooooo good. Make it. Make it now. And what's fantastic about it (at least for this Canuck) is that it requires no seasonal ingredients. So even way up here, we can have this tart any time we want.

Caramel Apricot Pecan Tart
caramel pecan apricot tart
This is the third time I've made this tart and I've adjusted the proportions of the recipe a bit - more caramel, less topping. Also, I use dark brown sugar, whereas the initial recipe calls for golden brown/light brown sugar. I like the deeper flavour, but if light brown is all you have, I'm sure it would still be delicious. One aspect of this recipe that's pretty friendly to the home cook is that there's no actual caramelizing going no picky burnt sugar to work with. The brown sugar provides the caramel flavour here.

Pecan Crust:
1/3 c pecans
1/3 c granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 t vanilla extrack
1 egg white
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt

3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 c (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 t salt (I recommend fleur de sel as its coarseness results in the most wonderful little salty tangs on top of the caramel filling)

3/4 c (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
1.5 c dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 c honey
2 c pecans, coarsely chopped
1/3 c heavy cream (35%)
1 1/3 c dried apricots, coarsely chopped

To make the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 325F, centre rack. Toast the pecans (ALL of the pecans for the entire recipe!!!!!!) for about 8-10 minutes. Cool the nuts completely (don't skip this step or the pecans will melt the butter in your crust!)

2. Combine the toasted pecans and sugar in a food processor and grind as finely as possible. Add the butter and vanilla and process until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed.
grinding pecans and vanilla sugar

3. Add the egg whit eand process until well combined. Add the flour and salt and pulse until the mixture comes together into a ball.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead briefly, then form the dough into a flat disk. Wrap the disk in plastic film and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll. (DNM note: I suck at pastry. I really do. My pastry stuck to the counter. So this is what mine looked like. This is what it's looked like every time I've tried. No worried though...I just use my fingers and flatten it out and it seems to work just fine. Next time, I may just spare myself the hassle.)
f*&ING pastry

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. With a floured rolling pin, roll the chilled pastry into an 11-inch round on a floured board (ya...ya...ya....ugh). Transfer the pastry to a 10-inch tart pan (this is the type of pan with a removable bottom and a fluted edge). Press the pastry firimly into the bottom and sides of the pan, patching any tears (you saw my pastry....the entire thing was a patch!). Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, leaving the oven on. This crust smells's like the most delicious pecan shortbread cookie.

To make the topping:
1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, butter and salt in a small bowl. Use your fingertips to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a crumbly dough. Set aside.
fleur de sel for streusel topping

To make the filling:
1. Heat and stir the butter, brown sugar and honey in a heavy medium saucepan, until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. Boil for 1 minute.
caramel is yummy

2. Remove the pan from heat and add the chopped pecans and cream. BE CAREFUL - it will sputter and steam. Wait a few seconds for the steam to subside and then stir together.

3. Sprinkle the chopped apricots over the bottom of the baked crust. Pour the filling over the apricots and bake the tart for 10 minutes. I highly recommend placing your tart pan on a foil-lined pizza pan. The caramel has a tendency to boil and bubble a bit and it would make one heck of a big mess in your oven....
uncooked tart

4. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the top, then return the tart to the oven until the surface is bubbling - about 20 minutes more.

5. Cool on a rack and ENJOY. It's soooooooooooooooo good. Lil Z, sadly, cannot comment about the pecans for her just yet....
caramel pecan apricot tart

Enjoy! And if you only take one thing away from this post, it's that you should make the tart. Thanks for reading.

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