Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken, Feta, and Maple Bacon Pizza with Homemade Pesto

This is a Nigel original, because he was the genius behind this delicious pizza.  We used the last of the flatbread that we bought at Costco to make it (I'm telling you, go see if they have these in the bakery section still!)  There were two things that made this pizza over-the-top good, the homemade pesto and the maple bacon.  The pesto is extremely easy to make - you can whip it up in about five minutes - and it is way better than pesto from a jar.

Homemade Pesto

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
5 cloves garlic, halved
40 g fresh basil, stems removed
Olive oil (between 1/2 and 3/4 cup depending on consistency)
Juice from 1/2 lemon

In a food processor, combine parmesan, garlic, and basil until basil is shredded.  Gradually add olive oil and pulse to desired consistency.  Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.

Chicken, Feta, and Maple Bacon Pizza

6 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tablespoon maple
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large chicken breast, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 flatbread pizza crust
2 cups, baby spinach
1 cup feta cheese
3 tablespoons homemade pesto
1 teaspoon olive oil (to brush crust)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  When the skillet is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles away, add chopped bacon and cook until the fat begins to render.  Add maple and ground pepper, and stir to coat bacon.  When the bacon is fully cooked, set it aside on a paper-towel lined plate.

Using the same pan and the leftover grease, cook the chicken until it is lightly browned. Remove chicken from the pan while you assemble the pizza.

To assemble the pizza: brush the edges of the pizza with olive oil and the center with the pesto.  Cover with spinach, cheese, chicken, and bacon. Cook the pizza in the oven for 15-20 minutes on a baking sheet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oreo-Chocolate Chip Bars

Super easy and devilishly delicious. Don't even begin to think that these are healthy in any way.  I made these bars to celebrate a friend's birthday that we missed celebrating since she was away in sunny Mexico on vacation. (She was also one of our lovely hosts for "Make Your Own Sushi" night, more on that later). I was also inspired to make something with chocolate chips by Recipe Girl's Twitter post claiming this week as #chocolatechipweek.  These bars are definitely the ultimate chocolate chip indulgence.

oreo chocolate chip cookie recipe

Oreo-Chocolate Chip Bars

Oreo Crust:
1 package Oreos, divided in half
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare an 8x8 inch metal baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray.

Using a food processor, crush half of the Oreos into crumbs, break the second half into pieces and reserve.  Mix melted butter into the crumbs.  Press the Oreo crumbs into the bottom of the greased pan and set aside.

Cookie dough:
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips (1/2 bag)

In a bowl, mix together butter and sugars, until creamy.  Add egg and egg yolk and vanilla, blend well.

In a bowl, blend together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Gradually add this dry mixture to the wet mix, then stir in the chocolate chips.  Don't be alarmed if the dough is crumbly.

Gently and evenly press the chocolate chip cookie dough onto the Oreo crumb crust.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the middle of the cookie is firm and golden brown.

While the cookie is still warm from the oven, gently press broken Oreo pieces into the crust. Let the cookie almost cool completely, the drizzle vanilla frosting over the top (see recipe below).

Vanilla Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsps (up to1/4 cup) light cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend ingredients together using a mixer, until icing is to the consistency you desire.  Add more cream as necessary.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blood Orange Chicken

If you are reading this, you have most likely seen the lovely new banner for my "original" recipes.  Part of the adventure that is this blog has been my gradual progression from merely "testing" other people's recipes to  attempting to create my own.  Up until now, there have been only a few originals interspersed with the test recipes, but my hope is that you will see even more soon.  The first recipe to get the official "original" stamp is actually one of the best things that I've eaten lately.  It is amazing how being a little adventurous in the kitchen often results in the best and most delicious things.

Last week, N sent me a text message saying he wanted "lemon or orange chicken" for dinner.  I agreed that we should make orange chicken, but only if we used blood oranges because I wanted the chicken to not only taste delicious, but to look cool too.  Everything came together quite easily, though you should make sure that you taste test the sauce as you make it since those measurements are very rough approximations.

Blood Orange Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the sauce:
Juice from 2 blood oranges
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Zest of one blood orange
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (adjust to suit your spiciness preference)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
Garnish: green onions

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.  Rinse the chicken pieces in cold water and shake off the excess water.  Add the chicken pieces to the dry mixture and toss until thoroughly coated.

Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan.  Distribute the chicken pieces evenly in the pan and cook until golden brown on all sides.  Remove the chicken and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.

In a small saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients.  Over medium heat, stirring constantly bring the sauce to a gently boil.  Once the sauce is boiling, turn it down to medium-low an cook for about 10 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir frequently to avoid burning the sauce.

Put the cooked chicken in a pan over medium heat and pour the sauce over the chicken to coat.  Cook for a few minutes, until the chicken is warm again.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cookbook Test: Crunchy French Toast

Sunday brunch is probably one of my favourite meals.  I love brunch food, whether it is a savoury omelet or sweet French toast.  This Crunchy French Toast from Mother's Best Comfort Food from Fine Cooking, is definitely my new favourite brunch food.  It is heavenly delicious, and N claims that it is the best French Toast in the world!  The cornflakes covering the French toast add an addictive crunch.  This is definitely a treat, partly because the health factor of this breakfast is fairly low.  You could make it healthier by switching the heavy cream and half-and-half for lower fat milks (buttermilk, light cream, even skim milk) and adding some berries.

Mother's Crunchy French Toast
From Mother's Best Comfort Food

4 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups cornflakes
1 loaf bread, sliced into inch-thick slices (suggestions: challah or baguette)
unsalted butter (approx. 1 1/2 tablespoon per slice if bread is large, less for baguette)
Confectioners' sugar
Softened butter
Maple syrup

If your pan isn't too big enough to cook all the French toast at the same time, heat the oven to 200F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, half-and-half, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla.

Place the cornflakes in another large bowl and crush with your hands until the pieces are small (but not like breadcrumbs) and somewhat uniform in size.  Place a rimmed baking sheet nearby to hold the prepared bread.

Dip a slice of bread into the cream mixture, immersing both sides.

Dip the slice into the cornflakes on both sides, pressing to adhere the flakes; set aside on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Place a griddle or wide sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes.

Sprinkle the griddle with a few drops of water; they should bounce around before evaporating.  If they sizzle away quickly, the heat is too high.  If they just sit there and slowly steam, the heat is too low.  When the griddle is properly heated, add approximately 1 tablespoon of butter per large piece of French toast (less for small baguette slices) and tilt to coat the pan.

Add the prepared bread in an even layer.  Cook until golden on one side, about 4 minutes.  Lift each piece with a spatula and add more butter if necessary.  Flip the toast to cook the other side, about 4 minutes more.  Repeat with remaining slices of bread.  Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until all French toast is cooked.

Serve with confectioners' sugar, butter, and maple syrup.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chicken with Sundried Tomato and Bacon with Homemade Polenta

Even though it is "spring" here, the weather is still cold enough that I crave warm, comforting food.  This chicken with sundried tomatoes and bacon paired with polenta makes a really nice, cozy meal.  We were both stuffed by the time we finished dinner.  When we were making it, I ended up doubling the amount of chicken broth that I put in, since the sauce cooked down too much as we waited for our polenta.  We also highly recommend adding the olives for a different flavour and texture.

The original author suggested serving the chicken with polenta. This was the first time that I have made polenta, but I wasn't satisfied with any of the recipes that I saw online or in my cookbooks, so I combined a few recipes in order to come up with something that sounded good, at least on paper.  We called the polenta "mush" for a while, but it ended up being quite tasty and worked really well with the chicken dish.

Chicken with Sundried Tomato and Bacon 
From Serious Eats

2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
1 boneless chicken breast or 2 thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into narrow strips
3 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons Nicoise olives (optional)

In saute pan, cook the pancetta or bacon over low heat in a bit of olive oil until the fat begins to render and it is beginning to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind.

Turn the heat to medium-high and, if needed, add some olive oil to the pan to cook the chicken (it depends on how much fat the pancetta or bacon rendered). Cook the chicken pieces until golden all over and just cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a separate plate.

Add the onion and cook until golden, about ten minutes, then stir in the pancetta or bacon, the sun-dried tomatoes, and the garlic. Cook for two minutes, then add the chicken stock and scape up the brown bits in the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to reduce a little, then stir in the chicken and half the basil to the pan. Once heated through, spoon the polenta onto plates and top with the chicken. Top with the remaining basil.

About 45 minutes

1 cup organic cornmeal
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1 clove garlic, grated with a microplane grater
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

In a medium pot, bring cornmeal, water, and chicken broth to a boil stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps.  Stir in garlic, oil, and spices and turn the heat down to low.  Continue to stir the mixture briskly every 10 minutes.  Cook until the mixture is thick enough that when a spatula is pulled across the bottom of the pot the mixture doesn't re-fill the space.   Add the freshly grated parmesan, stir, and serve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Test: Chipotle-Spiced Sweet Potato Chili

YUM!  That sums up this chili perfectly. Seriously, make this for dinner tomorrow.  I saw this chili recipe a few weeks ago on Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen blog, and since I finally found chipotles in adobo sauce, I had the perfect excuse to make it.  As I mentioned before, we love spicy food, so we kicked our chili up a notch by adding a few extra chipotles.  This is also makes a lovely and filling vegetarian dish.  N even said that he didn't miss the meat, so for all you meat-lovers, have no fear!

Chipotle-Spiced Sweet Potato Chili
From In Good Taste via the Tasty Kitchen

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, medium dice
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into ½ inch dice
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 tablespoon chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup dark beer
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed with their juice
2 whole chipotle peppers In adobo sauce, chopped
½ cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red hot sauce (or more, if desired)
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears corn, kernels removed or 1½ cups frozen corn
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups tortilla chips, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan and toss with one tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper as desired and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are just tender.

Heat a deep heavy pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the onions until lightly caramelized. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle powder and cumin and cook for an additional minute or until spices are fragrant. Stir them frequently so they don’t burn at the bottom of the pan.

Deglaze the pan with the beer and scrape up any browned bits (these are called fond and they’re full of flavor) from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Simmer the chili for about 15-20 minutes or until it begins to thicken slightly. Add the corn, beans, sweet potatoes, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl topped with crushed tortilla chips, if desired. (We used blue chips!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cookbook Test: Prosciutto and Provolone Strombolis

Last week, we made a lovely Italian Chopped Salad and to round out the meal, we made these great strombolis from Cooking Light's Superfast Weeknight Dinners.  The version from the cookbook used Gruyère cheese, but we had provolone left over from the salad, so we used that instead.  We also only have a little supermarket nearby and they didn't have French bread dough, so we used the Pillsbury crescent roll dough instead.  It worked well, though I think our strombolis were a little bit sweeter than they would have been with French bread.

Prosciutto and Provolone Strombolis
From Cooking Light's Superfast Weeknight Dinners

1 (11-ounce) can refrigerated French bread dough
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup trimmed arugula or spinach
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley

Pre-heat oven to 425°.

Unroll the dough onto a baking sheet; pat into a 14x11-inch rectangle.  Cut dough into quarters to form 4 rectangles.  Top rectangle with 1/2 ounce prosciutto, 1/4 cup arugula, 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1 tablespoon parsley.  Beginning at short side of each rectangle, roll up the dough, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of rolls).  Arrange rolls 4 inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve warm.

Original: Tomato and Corn Chipotle Salsa

For a long time, whenever a recipe called for "chipotles in adobo sauce," we blatantly ignored the directions and just used chipotle hot sauce.  Apparently we were making a grave mistake and our taste-buds may never forgive us.  Last weekend, we were at this lovely kitchen store and we finally found chipotles in adobo sauce.  Now, I am finding every excuse I can to use them. So far, the chipotles have made two dishes even better than we expected.  When we bought them, the cashier told us to dice some up and put them in scrambled eggs.  He also told us we could find them at the regular grocery store down the street! So, you can expect to see a few more recipes with these bad boys - I'm dying to make the delicious Slow Cooker Pork Tacos again with the real thing.

For our burritos the other night, I made a fantastic salsa with the chipotles.  It was so delicious that I was eating it by itself with a spoon - this salsa is spicy, but extremely tasty.

tomato and corn chipotle salsa

Tomato and Corn Chipotle Salsa

1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup whole corn kernels
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, diced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 clove garlic, smashed and diced
juice of 1/2 lime
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate over night to let the flavours blend. 


Burritos don't really need a recipe, but the burritos we made the other night were just so delicious that I just had to share.  We love spicy food around here, and these burritos turned out to be very spicy, but very yummy.  You can make yours any way you please.

Burrito "Bar"
Brown rice, cooked
Beans, peppers, and corn
Cheddar cheese
Burrito Sauce
Tomato and Corn Chipotle Salsa
Sour Cream

Black Beans
from Canadian Living:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup whole corn kernels
1 - 14.5oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, peppers, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper until softened, about 8 minutes. Add black beans and corn; cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Burrito Sauce
N made this sauce by experimenting with ingredients, the amounts listed and the ingredients themselves are all optional.

1/4 cup sliced pickled hot peppers (banana and jalapeño peppers)
2-3 tablespoons jalapeño juice
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons refried beans
juice from 1/4 lime

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until creamy and smooth. Serve with burritos, tacos, or quesadillas.

For the chicken: 
Cook 2 chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces, on medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Add 2 tablespoons of chili powder or taco seasoning as the chicken cooks.

To assemble burritos:
Lay a flour tortilla on a plate and add whatever ingredients you prefer. Roll one side of the tortilla over the filling, then fold each end in before wrapping the other side of the tortilla over the top.  Place the burrito in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat with the folded edge down in order to seal the edges.  Cook until golden brown on the top and bottom.  Serve with burrito sauce, salsa and/or sour cream.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Test: Mother's Italian Chopped Salad with Dressing

Chopped Salad is my second favourite salad, and another one that I've been eating for as long as I can remember.  We used to go to the Bellevue Square Mall and get a salad very similar to this when I was little, and my mom used to make it all the time at home.  My mom also adds chopped up turkey to her version.  The dressing on this version is homemade, but this salad goes equally well with any type of Italian dressing.

Both the salad and the dressing came from the recipe magazine, "Mother's Best Comfort Food - Great Recipes from Mother's Bistro & Bar" by Lisa Schroeder, Executive Chef/Owner. The restaurant looks fantastic, but is a bit of a trek from Ottawa, located in Portland, Oregon.  Check out their menu or you can purchase a copy of the magazine online here.

Mama's Italian Chopped Salad
From "Mother's Best Comfort Food - Great Recipes from Mother's Bistro & Bar"

1 (9-ounce) head romaine lettuce, sliced crosswise into very thin strips, washed, and dried (about 6 cups)
1 cup drained and rinsed canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 cup pitted whole Niçoise or Kalamata olives or sliced canned black olives (K&K excluded)
1 medium tomato, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ pound (113 grams) provolone cheese, sliced into 1/8-inch thick matchsticks (about 1 cup)
¼ pound Genoa salami, sliced into 1/8-inch thick matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
¼ cup Greek/Italian dressing
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, garbanzo beans, olives, tomatoes, onions, provolone, salami, and basil.

2. Pour half of the dressing over the salad to moisten it. Mix gently, adding more dressing if necessary to make the salad moist but not soaked. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and serve.

Mother's Greek/Italian Dressing
From "Mother's Best Comfort Food - Great Recipes from Mother's Bistro & Bar"

2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons dried oregano
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets (K&K excluded)
⅓ cup red-wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the garlic, oregano, and anchovy fillets in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the vinegar and pulse a few more times.

2. With the motor running, slowly drizzle the oils through the feed tube until they're fully incorporated and the dressing is emulsified. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender, or mix by hand with a whisk. The dressing should be thick.

3. Season with the salt and pepper. (If anchovies are used, they will add a degree of saltiness to the dressing, so you won't need much salt). The dressing will keep covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Family Recipe: Caesar Salad Dressing

My mom's Caesar Salad is, to me at least, better than any that I can get at a restaurant.  There are always enough croutons and the dressing is light, but definitely garlicky.  Sometimes the dressing is a bit finicky, so make sure that you taste it frequently as you add ingredients, particularly the salt, lemon juice, and garlic.  If you top this salad with grilled chicken it makes a full delicious meal. N and I paired the salad with homemade pizza last weekend, and I left half my pizza uneaten in favour of eating more salad. Note: this dressing contains raw egg, so please be careful and don't try to save the dressing.

caesar salad dressing recipe

Caesar Salad
From Kim

1 egg
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Whisk egg in measuring cup; add the olive oil and blend.  Add the remaining ingredients to the oil with the cheese being added last.  Refrigerate until needed; make ahead of time to blend flavours (you may want more garlic).

To make croutons:
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbsp. butter
baguette (day old), cut into cubes

Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat until the butter bubbles slightly. Add the garlic and bread cubes and cook til golden brown on all sides.

To put it all together: Toss two heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped into small, bite size pieces with dressing and croutons. Grate fresh Parmesan cheese on top to serve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Guinness Cupcakes

Saint Patrick's Day was always one of my favourite holidays in university.  Though the days of green beer are long gone now, I'm still looking forward to embracing my Irish-ness for the day*.  These Guinness Cupcakes from Nigella Lawson are a more sophisticated and a little bit less "boozy" way to celebrate.

Guinness Cupcakes
From Nigella Lawson, via Patent & the Pantry

1 cup Guinness
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ tsp baking soda

Cream Cheese Icing
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp. whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

*My great-great grandmother Phoebe was Irish. She used to dress like a man and hang out at the pubs...Here's to Phoebe!

King Cake

Last week, N decided to surprise me and make a King Cake, the traditional Mardi Gras cake.  I had mentioned that I wanted to make it, but when I realized that I'd have to set aside a few hours to let the dough rise, I decided not to make it myself.  But then N secretly got everything ready to make the cake, and we were able to enjoy it in time for Mardi Gras.  The King Cake tradition came the Southern United States from the first French settlers, and has been a part of the Mardi Gras ever since. The cake often has a small trinket or bean inside the cake, and the person who gets the piece with the trinket gets to host the next party. 

This post may be a bit late, and even though tradition says that you aren't supposed to eat King Cake after Mardi Gras, you will want to eat this cake every day of the week.  I took one of the cakes into work (the recipe makes 2 large cakes), and one of my colleagues sent me an email after eating the cake that said "AMAZING!"  That is just one sign of how delicious this cake is.

King Cake
From Jo at

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING (We recommend doubling the filling!)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup melted butter

ICING (from
2 cup plus 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

For the icing, mix all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth. Mix in food dye to make purple, yellow, and green frosting or sprinkle with coloured sugars.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Test: Beet and Green Bean Salad

I love beets - they are so beautiful and tasty. I didn't always love beets though, but that was because beets conjured up images of icky salad bars.  Roasted beets, however, are a different story. This salad from Gail Simmons, of Top Chef fame, is a great showcase for roasted beets. Between the two of us, we devoured almost all of the salad in one sitting.  I might not add honey to the vinaigrette next time though, since the beets are already quite sweet.

Roasted Beet and Green Bean Salad
From Gail Simmons on Kitchen Daily

1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
6 medium red beets, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss beets on a large piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper then place another piece of foil over the top to form a pouch. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until very tender (roast longer if you have large beets). Allow beets to cool then rub off and discard the skins. Cut larger beets in quarters and smaller ones in half.

Blanch green beans in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes then plunge in ice water to shock. Drain and pat dry.

Make the dressing: Combine lemon juice, zest, honey and horseradish. Whisk while you add olive oil to lightly emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Add beets and beans to the vinaigrette. Toss to coat everything evenly then serve showered with fresh grated horseradish.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Test: Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Pasta Casserole

I recently read an article on why recipes fail and I think I may have committed one of those fatal errors while making this Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Casserole seen on the Kitchn.  The casserole sounded so delicious, but it was only mediocre.  We decided to leave out the olive tapenade, and I think that it must have been the key ingredient. Now, I'm not completely throwing this recipe out, but if I make it again I will definitely not leave out any of the ingredients.  

Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Casserole

1 large head Swiss chard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped well-drained canned plum tomatoes
1/2 pound whole wheat shells 
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive tapenade
3 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the Swiss chard, drain very well, and chop it into chunky pieces. It's going to get cooked down, so no need to be too precise here.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until just slightly tender. Stir in the garlic, add the tomatoes, and then add the Swiss chard. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the chard has just wilted. Be careful not to overcook the Swiss chard; it will have the opportunity to bake in the oven as well.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Remove the chard and tomatoes from the heat and stir in the goat cheese, kidney beans, olive tapenade, capers and half the amount of parmesan. Fold in the pasta and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the pasta mixture into a 1 or 2 quart casserole dish and sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top. Bake until heated all the way through, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cookbook Test: Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Frittata

It's only been about two years since I actually started eating eggs, and I'm constantly finding new ways to eat eggs that make me realize that I was really missing out all those years.  We made this frittata for brunch on Sunday while visiting my family, and it was quite a hit.  Not only is making frittata fairly easy, the end result is elegant and tasty.

Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Frittata
From Eggs by Jodi Liano

10 eggs
1 tbsp. cream or milk
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, diced (or about a cup of halved grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups firmly packed, baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 425F. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, 2 tablespoons oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Warm the olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof non-stick frying pan oer medium-low heat.  Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring gently, until the eggs begin to set but do not begin to scramble.  Gently stir in the tomatoes, the 1/2 cup feta, and the spinach.  Cook the eggs, undisturbed, until they begin to set around the edges, 2-3 minutes more.  Transfer the frying pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are set around the edges and just firm in the center, about 5 minutes more. 

Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and hold a platter over the top of the pan. Holding the sides with hot pads, invert the frittata on the platter. If desired, garnish the frittata with extra diced tomatoes, oregano, and feta.  Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Savoury Potato Soufflés

N made a lovely dinner last week for me. It was sort of a breakfast for dinner, but much more sophisticated. He was inspired by Martha Stewart's Savoury Sweet Potato Soufflés. His version is heartier, with crispy potatoes, ham, and onions instead of sweet potato purée. I was surprised that the potatoes and ham stayed suspended throughout the soufflé. Each bite was delicious and we ended up eating all four of the soufflés.

Savoury Potato Soufflés
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoon butter, plus more for baking dishes
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 large red potato, grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ham, chopped 
3/4 cup marbled cheddar cheese
3 large eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter four 3/4-cup ramekins; set aside.

In a non-stick pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add potato, onion, garlic, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook until potato starts to brown and onion softens. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add in two tablespoons of the potato mixture, then stir in flour; cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Gradually whisk in milk; simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the rest of the potato mixture and ham, then egg yolks, one at a time.

In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of whites into cheese mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the rest.

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour mixture into ramekins; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Apricot Oat-Nut Bars

I initially bought apricot jam to make my Great-Grandma's apricot tarts, a Christmas staple in my family. Unfortunately I didn't get to the tarts, so I've had an un-opened jar of apricot jam in my fridge for ages and needed a reason to use it. I kept telling N that I was going to make some type of dessert with the jam, but he wasn't convinced that a non-chocolate based dessert would satisfy his sweet tooth. These bars definitely changed his mind, and they were so tasty that I couldn't stop at one. We won't pretend that they are completely healthy, but I made sure to add some fiber and protein with the flax and nuts.

Apricot Oat-Nut Bars

1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups whole grain flour
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ground flax
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup pecan pieces
500 ml. apricot jam (pick a reduced sugar version)

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the oats, flour, butter (softened), brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and flax in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, blend the mixture until it is well combined. It should resemble coarse crumbs.

Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread the apricot jam over the entire crumb crust.

Take the second half of the crumb mixture and add in the pecans. Top the apricot jam layer with the reserved crumb mix as a topping. Gently press so that the topping sticks together.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350F or until the jam bubbles up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cookbook Test: Tortilla Soup

We are working on keeping March healthy and a bit more frugal than usual. You can expect lots of healthier menu options and budget friendly recipes. This is the first of the March recipes. The Cooking Light version of Tortilla Soup has less sodium and less fat than most versions, but packs a full flavour punch. I love Tortilla Soup and we really enjoyed this version, especially the next day.

Tortilla Soup
From The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 cup frozen or canned whole-kernal corn
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 (14.25 oz.) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.25 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed, reduced-fat, reduced-sodium tomato soup (we used Tomato-Roasted Pepper soup!)
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 2 minutes.  Stir in chicken and next 9 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for up to an hour (at least 25 minutes).

2. Ladle soup into bowls; top with tortilla chips and sour cream.  Squeeze juice from one lime wedge into each bowl of soup before serving, if desired.

(Serving size 1 cup soup, 2 tablespoons chips, and 1 tbsp. sour cream: 179 calories, 3 g fat)
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