Sunday, February 28, 2010

Banana Nut Muffins

The only time I ever buy bananas at the grocery store is when I'm craving banana bread, unfortunately that also means I have to wait to fulfill my craving until the bananas are perfectly ripe and brown. Thankfully, the recipe that follows made the wait worth it! This recipe is from the cookbook "Bite Me" by the sisters Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat.  The cookbook is full of funny pictures, entertaining quotes about food, and yummy recipes. For these banana nut muffins, I used their recipe for Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread. I substituted pecans for chocolate chips (blasphemy if you ask me, but for some reason my family objected the last time I made chocolate chip banana bread!). I also added cinnamon! This is also a tiny bit lighter than normal, since half of the butter is replaced with light sour cream.

Banana Nut Muffins

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Using an electric mixer, cream together sugar and butter on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addtion. Add mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until blended, about 30 seconds. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pecans just until moistened and the flour has disappeared. Scoop batter into lined muffin tins.

3) Bake 23-25 minutes, until lightly browned and until the muffin springs back when gently pressed on top. Cool 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Yield: 24 muffins

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Cake

Since we didn't make any Christmas cookies at the Hunter household this year, I knew we had some extra cocoa powder sitting in the pantry... so I decided to try out this Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe from Serious Eats! Although the author of the original post claims this recipe to be "healthy," I am a little skeptical given the amount of cocoa powder, sugar, and flour in the recipe! It is however egg-less and oil-less.  Therefore this cake can be considered Vegan.  The cake turned out to be very dense, very chocolate-y and not as spicy as I expected. It was good, but not my favorite chocolate cake. I did like that it was not overly sweet, but I might add a bit more spice to it the next time I make it!

Mexican Chocolate Cake 

- serves 10 -

Adapted from Real Simple.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup cold water
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 or 3 tablespoons water
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together first seven ingredients (flour through salt). Make two small wells in the mixture. In one, pour in the vinegar. In the other, pour in the vanilla extract. Pour cold water over everything. Stir until moistened and a only a little lumpy.
3. Pour batter into an 8-inch round cake pan. Bake for 30 or 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully pry out and finish cooling on a wire rack.
4. While cake is baking, whisk together 2/3 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in small bowl. Add water. Stir to make a thick glaze. When cake is completely cooled, drizzle over cake.

Roasted Eggplant Soup

I'm somewhat cheating on this recipe, because I've actually had this soup before at my Aunt Carol and Uncle Cass's house. The recipe is from the Junior League of Seattle's "Simply Classic," a cookbook from which I've never had a bad dish. The Roasted Eggplant Soup is definitely no exception and even eggplant skeptics would probably love this soup. It's a little bit spicy, with fairly complex flavors AND I even put the onions in the soup! (There is a picture to prove this!) In addition to being delicious, the dish is pretty inexpensive ($14 for 6 servings, so about $2.35 per serving), it's fairly simple to make, and it can be made Vegan with vegetable instead of chicken stock.

Here is the recipe:
Roasted Eggplant Soup
Serves 6

2 Medium Eggplants
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
4 Medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Cups onion, chopped
8 Cups chicken stock
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 Cup fresh basil leaves or 1/4 cup dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
(I also added a dash of red pepper flakes)

Preheat broiler.
- Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and place on oiled baking sheets, skin side up. Rub skin with 1 tablespoon oil and place under broiler. Broil until skins are charred and blistered, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

- Peel eggplant and cut into chunks (if eggplant is cooked enough, it should be very easy to peel). Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add eggplant, garlic, and onion.  Sauté until vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes.

- Place chicken stock in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add sautéed vegetables, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper.  Simmer about 15 minutes. Puree soup in batches in food processor or blender (I used one of those immersion hand-held blenders... seriously magical!).
- Return soup to pot and simmer genly until heated through. Serve immediately.

roasted eggplant soup recipe

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guinness-Marinated Steak Sandwiches

As soon as I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, I knew that I had to try it! Three things I love combined into one dish: steak, beer, Boursin cheese... what could go wrong with this. As you'll notice with just about every recipe I try, I've eliminated the onions from my version of the dish. In addition, since my mom and dad's apartment complex does not believe in grilling in -10 C weather and since I don't have an indoor grill, the steak has been broiled. I also used mini-french baguettes instead of Ciabatta.

The sandwich turned out actually better than I even expected. Each bite brought new flavors, the combination of the arugula and boursin was delicious and I was surprised but how flavorful the meat was from the Guinness marinade.  While not the most healthy dinner, flank steak is a nice lean meat.

In addition to the sandwiches, I made broccoli rabe with a little olive oil and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Guinness-Marinated Steak Sandwich
Adapted from Taming the Flame by Elizabeth Karmel (via Serious Eats)

2 lbs flank steak
1 pint of Guinness beer
2 large red onions, cut into 1/2 inch rounds and skewered through the middle
1 5.2-ounce container Boursin cheese, frozen
4 Ciabatta rolls
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Pat the steak dry with paper towels and place in a shallow, nonreactive container. Place onion slices on top of the steak and pour in the Guinness. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Remove the steak and onions from the marinade and brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat indoor grill over high heat until very hot. place steak and onions on the grill and Cook until the steak and onions have browned nicely, about 6 to 8 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned and the meat is done to your liking, about another 5-6 minutes for medium rare. Remove from the grill, shave a thin layer of Boursin on the top of the steak and onions and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Brush bread slices lightly with oil and place on the grill until nicely toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spread a layer of Boursin on both sides of the bread. Slice the steak into long 1/4 inch slices against the grain. Place a handful of arugula on the bottom piece of bread, then top with steak and onions and serve.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Game Day Menu Results

The Super Bowl is an excellent excuse to try out new recipes, especially for "treats" that you wouldn't normally eat on a daily basis. Even though I don't care about the outcome of the Super Bowl (this year, Colts vs. Saints), I do enjoy the opportunity to have friends and family visit with lots of good food and good beer! The three new recipes that I picked for today's menu follow:

Spinach Artichoke Dip from Cooking Lite via Serious Eats. The recipe for Spinach Artichoke Dip is much lower in fat and calories than any other version AND drumroll.... it's also DELICIOUS! It turned out really well, very creamy with lots of flavor.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

- makes about 10 servings of about 1/2 cup each -
Adapted from Cooking Light.
10-ounce bag fresh spinach
6 ounces (3/4 block) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
6 ounces (3/4 block) fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed (not minced)
6 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Tear spinach into bite-size pieces, removing any thick stems. Rinse in a colander, leaving a little water on the leaves. In a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, sauté the spinach over medium heat until wilted. Drain in the colander, pushing a little of the extra water out.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheeses with a potato masher. Add sour cream and mash more. Add spinach, mozzarella, artichokes, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the parmesan. Stir everything until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top. Bake 30 minutes, or until parmesan is melted dip is all bubbly. Remove from oven and give it a minute or two to cool down. Serve with baked tortilla chips to applause.

Caramel-Pretzel Brownies from Serious Eat's Cakespy. I saw this recipe and I couldn't wait for the Super Bowl to have an excuse to make them!  My version has milk chocolate and caramel Ghirardelli bars because I couldn't find dark chocolate ones here in Canada. I also cheated, oops, and used a mix instead of making the brownies, but I used Ghirardelli's mix, which is pretty stellar by itself.

Sweet and Salty Super Bowl Brownies

- makes about 16 squares -
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.
2 squares unsweetened chocolate (2 ounces)
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 caramel chocolate candy bar (I used a 3.5 ounce Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Bar with Caramel), coarsely chopped (Note: the pieces will be a bit gooey and messy)
1 snack sized bag of pretzels (about 1 ounce), crushed into small pieces
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Either grease or line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl; leave to the side.
3. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat until melted; stir frequently to avoid scorching.
4. Remove from heat; beat in sugar and eggs.
5. Add in the flour and baking powder mixture, blending well.
6. Mix in the nuts and chocolate caramel bar.
7. Add in the pretzel pieces last, mixing only until they are incorporated.
8. Spread the mixture into the pan.
9. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until top has a dull crust and a slight imprint remains when touched lightly. Cool slightly and cut into squares.
10. (Optional) Because of the chocolate and caramel in the brownies, these are rich enough so that they don't really need frosting; however, if desired, decorate with white writing icing with little football shapes or to say the name of your favorite team.

Baked Buffalo Wings from Serious Eats. The author of the original post tested out several different methods of baking wings in an attempt to replicate traditional deep fried Buffalo Wings.  Buffalo is very protective of the traditions involved with their wings, so I'm not sure if mine can really be called "Buffalo Wings."  From the recipe given, I chose to marinate my wings first. This should give them Buffalo flavor all the way through.  I forgot to toss the wings in oil... and I forgot to coat the pan with oil. It didn't matter though, the wings were crispy and full of flavor. They got a little bit soggy after sitting on the plate soaked in the sauce, but that just made them more delicious!

For the wings:
5 pounds chicken wings
4 tablespoons neutral oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups flour (optional)
For the sauce:
1 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce (preferably Frank's brand)*
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
6 ribs celery, cut into 4-inch long sticks
Blue Cheese Dip
* Using a relatively mild Louisiana hot sauce is an important part of the process. If the hot sauce is quite hot (like, say, Tabasco) the Buffalo sauce will be far too spicy by the time you use the right amount to get the consistency you want. Starting with a sauce like Frank's, which is what they use in Buffalo, allows you to then add cayenne until it's as spicy as you like.
1. Prepare the wings:The wings are traditionally cut into three pieces. Using a heavy knife, cut through the joints in the wings to separate then into three pieces. A sharp knife should slide through the joint easily; there is no need to cut through any bone. It's easiest to see the joints with the underside of the wings facing up.
2. The tips of the wing, which contain little to no meat, can be discarded or saved for the stock pot. Rinse the wings and pat them dry, then toss in a bowl with the oil and a good pinch each of salt and pepper.
3. The sauce: Melt the butter over low heat in a sauce pan and add the remaining sauce ingredients, whisking well to combine. Keep the heat low and only as long as necessary to melt the butter: you don't want the butter to separate. Taste for spiciness, and add cayenne if desired.
4. To Marinate or Flour? Depending on your method, the next step is to either toss the wings with a quarter of the sauce and refrigerate for an hour, or toss them in a bowl with the flour. The former method will infuse the wings with flavor, while the latter will create a crisp exterior that will eventually soak up lots of sauce. It's up to you.
5. Bake: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet with a neutral oil such as canola, using a paper towel or brush to ensure it coats all of the surface. Arrange the wing pieces skin-side-up. They should be snug, but not too crowded. Keep in mind they will shrink as they cook.
6. Cook undisturbed for 30 minutes until golden brown, and until the wings release easily from the baking sheet. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pieces over and return to the oven to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp.
7. When the wing are finished cooking, pour the Buffalo sauce into a shallow bowl (you'll probably have to do this in batches) and add a few wings at a time. Turn them in the sauce until well-coated, then transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining wings.
8. Get a jug of blue cheese or make your own! Serve with celery sticks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Game Day Menu

Tomorrow, I'll be testing out the following three recipes as part of our Super Bowl Sunday line-up:

Cooking Light Spinach Artichoke Dip

Baked Buffalo Wings

Caramel Pretzel Brownies

Recipes, notes, and pictures to come tomorrow!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pan Seared Halibut with Garlic-Ginger-Coconut Sauce

This is a slight adaptation from a recipe from Live to Eat that my Aunt Kelly posted to her Facebook last week. For our version, we skipped the garlic chives (we couldn't find them at the market), the original recipe said you could substitute garlic and green onions, but we decided to skip the green onions.  We also used halibut filet instead of halibut steaks, so make sure to remove any skin first.

Here is the recipe as posted on Live to Eat:

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • I large halibut steak ~ 1lb (halibut filets will work too, just adjust the cooking time accordingly)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic chives sliced finger length
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • dried red chili flakes to taste
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • juice from 1 lemon


In a small sauce pan heat the oil and sauté the garlic chives till they start to wilt. Add the ginger,lemon zest, salt and chili flakes and sauté for a few seconds. Now add the soy sauce and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Keep aside.
Clean and season the halibut with salt and pepper on both sides.
In a large frying pan, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully place the halibut in the oil. Cook for 4-6 minutes each side, turning once.
Transfer the halibut to the plate. Cut into half and serve hot with the sauce spooned over with a salad on the side.

Kels' Verdict: The halibut was delicious, very light, a little spicy, bright flavors. I think the sauce needed a little bit less lemon juice (I used a large lemon) and maybe a bit more coconut milk. Definitely worth making again! 

Kim's Verdict: This recipe is a keeper; it was a very quick and easy one and the taste was delicious.  I agree that it was tangy with lemon flavor and a medium lemon is all that is need. Overall, it is a good alternative to grilling halibut on the BBQ and it offers the freshness of summer in the winter!  Also it is low in calorie count as the light coconut milk is only 40 calories for a 1/4 of a cup.

Fraser Cafe

Fraser Cafe
In January, my mom and I went to the Fraser Cafe in Ottawa. I had read a review of Fraser Cafe in the in-flight magazine on Porter Air. The restaurant is run by the Fraser brothers, who are also chefs. They have a seasonally influenced menu, with 5 appetizers and 5 entrées each season. The most interesting thing about Fraser Cafe is the "Chef's Special".  There is a "Chef's Special" listed for both entrées and appetizers. When we quizzed the bartender (we sat at the bar to watch the hockey game), he told us that the "Chef's Special" could be anything and that a table of 6 could receive 6 different dishes. The restaurant has a lot of regular customers, so in order to keep things interesting, the chefs go to the market every day and pick out whatever is fresh. You won't get something that is already on the menu and you can say for example, "I don't like shellfish, mushrooms, etc."

My mom and I both ordered the Chef's Special. She had homemade pasta with lobster in a white wine/butter sauce with tomatoes, red peppers, and artichokes.  I had pork tenderloin with white bean puree, pickled beets, and grilled endive. Both dishes were delicious. The chef came over to talk to us about our food and admitted to my mom that she could freely season her lobster as he had forgotten to salt and pepper the lobster.

Fraser Cafe will definitely be one of my regular places to eat in Ottawa. It has a great ambiance and delicious food. I plan to order the Chef's Special again, the surprise is always guaranteed to be a good one!


This is a recipe that I made for Christmas Day pre-present opening brunch. They are fairly easy to make and everyone loved them. Usually Gougères are smaller and often are eaten with Champagne, so we had ours with Mimosas, yum! I can't say these are exactly healthy, but with 6 eggs, they have plenty of protein. Expect the inside of the Gougères to be somewhat moist. This recipe came from Serious Eats, one of my favorite blogs. The link will take you to the recipe, but here it is for simplicity sake:

Giant Gougères

-makes 8-10 4-inch gougères-
Adapted from Tartine
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (4 ounces), plus a little extra for topping (I went by weight, and 4 ounces made way more than 3/4 cup for me)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. (I used one half sheet pan and one quarter sheet pan because I could not fit all 8 pastries on the half sheet pan.)
2. Combine the milk, butter, and salt in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. (Do not use whole milk, or the gougères will collapse. If you have only whole milk, use half milk and half water.) Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass and pulls away from the side of the pan and some of the moisture has evaporated. This will take about 3 minutes.
3. Transfer the paste to a heatproof mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 5 of the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next. (If using a stand mixer, mix on medium; if working by hand, use a wooden spoon.) When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Use a rubber spatula to mix in the cheese, pepper, and thyme.
4. Make the egg wash: whisk the remaining egg together with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Use a large spoon to form 3-inch rounds about 1 inch high on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with grated cheese. Baked until they have puffed, are light for their size, and are golden brown, 35-45 minutes.
5. When they come out of the oven, poke a small hole in the side of each pastry to allow steam to escape (this should prevent them from collapsing). If splitting and filling, allow the gougères to cool to room temperature first. Otherwise, serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
6. You can use this recipe to make classically small gougères, too: just use a spoon to drop the dough into 1-inch mounds spaced 1 1/2 inches apart and bake for about 25 minutes. Small gougères need not be slit when they come out of the oven to avoid collapsing.

Lunchbox Laboratory

The Lunchbox Laboratory
7302 15th Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107

Before we left on our cross-country journey, my mom (Kim) and I (Kels) went to the Lunchbox Laboratory in the Ballard in Seattle. I had heard fantastic things about Lunchbox Labs from various blogs (A Hamburger Today), Sunset magazine, and my cousin Crystal. Hamburgers are probably one of my favorite types of food, so given the hype surrounding Lunchbox Labs, I was anxious to try it! I have to say that it did not disappoint at all, the burgers were delicious, the sweet potato fries crispy, and my Nutella shake was out of this world. 

My burger: Build your Own with Super Beef mixture (grassfed Ribeye/Sirloin/Prime Rib) with Colby Jack Cheese, Maple Bacon, Ketchup, Mustard, Lettuce, Tomato, and Pickle


My Mom's burger: Mushroom Lover 

 Nutella Milk Shake:

Lunchbox Laboratory has a huge variety of toppings, sauces, and meats (Lamb, Dork- Duck and Pork, Veggie, and Beef). It is well worth a visit!


Good food is a passion of mine. For almost 2 years, I've had a Google Document with recipes that I've found on food blogs and websites that I want to try. So far, I've only tried ONE of the recipes! So... through this blog, I am hoping that I can try out new recipes and share the results (photos!!) with my friends and family. For now, I'll be testing recipes I find elsewhere... cookbooks, blogs, etc. Eventually, I hope that I'll be able to try out my own recipes! In addition, because I truly love food, I'll post reviews of fantastic restaurants that I've been to and share interesting posts about food.

As indicated by the name, my mom Kim will also be involved in the "test kitchen" and until I move to Ottawa, we will test out the recipes together. We are also hoping that some of our friends and family members will also guest post any new recipes they try out! (I'll post the rules on this later).

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