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Kung Pao Veggies

Every year on Valentine’s Day, Hubby cooks me dinner.  And he never settles for something ordinary, either.  The weeks before he searches cookbooks and online recipes until he finds the perfect dishes.  It is his one day a year to shine in the kitchen!

For the past two years he has made dishes created by Chef Michael Smith (he’s a favourite around here!)  Last year he chose an Asian theme and we feasted on Kung Pao chicken and a cabbage salad with citrus dressing.

And oh the King Pao chicken!  Nutty and creamy and spicy and we were tempted to eat all of it in one sitting.  It is a recipe I have made again several times…..with a few changes of course!

Our new favourite is a vegetarian version (because we still like to eat meatless several nights a week), but keeps the wonderful sauce and is one of our favourite ways to eat cabbage! 

Kung Pao Veggies

  • peanut oil
  • 1 dried chilli, crumbled (adjust amount to your taste preferences)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into chunks or strips
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups of chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (optional)

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce (for a completely vegetarian version, try substituting with soy sauce or tamari or Braggs and a dash of worcestershire – it won’t be the same, but it will still be good)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 heaping Tbsp natural peanut butter

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a large mason jar and shake until smooth.

Heat some oil in a wok or large frying pan.  When it’s hot, add the chili and stir.  Then add garlic and ginger and stir again.  Toss in the veggies (except bean sprouts) and continue to stir until the veggies are tender.  Pour in the sauce and stir until thick and bubbly.  (If you want a thicker sauce, simply add cornstarch mixed with water a little at a time until it looks the way you like it.  If things get a little too thick, toss in a little more orange juice.)  Stir in bean sprouts and serve over rice.

Enjoy!

 

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I was lucky enough to enjoy two Christmas dinners this year with all of the trimmings.  One with my husband’s family on Christmas day, and one with all of my family on New Years Day.

In my family, Christmas is the one time of year when there is not a bit of room in the fridge, and the fridge in the basement gets stuffed full too.  Dinner is always a feast, with lots of leftovers (which we like to call “encore presentations.”)

There are a few creative cooks in my family, and we enjoyed many variations on the theme, with lots of creative dishes featuring key ingredients found in various containers in the fridge. 

But there were still sweet potatoes left over.  I thought of making muffins, but we already had sweet potato bannock as well as several other types of bread.  I thought of making some type of fritter with them (maybe with some finely diced apple and cinnamon?), but as I had just made a batch of fritters with the white potatoes, it seemed like something else would be better suited.  (although I kind of like the idea of an apple/sweet potato fritter and might still try it sometime….)  In the end, I went looking for a recipe for Sweet Potato cookies, as with several cookie monsters in the house, our Christmas cookie selection was quickly dwindling.

I found a recipe, made a few changes (of course) and yum!  We had some beautiful, moist, cookies.  I especially enjoyed them warm for the oven, but they kept well in a cookie tin for a few days (and the sweet potato flavour intensified as they aged.)

Sweet Potato Cookies

based on this recipe

  • 1 cup cooked, mashed, sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Turn oven to 375.  Mix potato, milk, butter and egg and beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or cook on a non-stick mat).  Bake for 15 minutes. 

Enjoy!

 

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Inspiration

I am very influenced by the books I read and the movies I watch.  I am not sure whether it is because I have such a wild imagination, or if I just love a good story, but I come out feeling like I know the characters personally (or wish I did.)

For instance, after seeing “You’ve Got Mail” I really wanted to open a bookshop (I know, I know, in the movie the bookstore goes out of business, but it didn’t stop me wanting to have one of my own!)

Reading “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy had me wanting to throw on an elven cloak and head out on an adventure. 

And let’s not begin talking Harry Potter….. 🙂

Today, while working on a crochet project, I sat down and watched Julie & Julia.

You have perhaps already guessed what I feel inspired to do.  Read more about Julia Child, try some recipes from her cookbook, write a blog about it (oh, wait, that’s already been done….)

What it really reminded me of was how much I enjoy cooking and reading cookbooks, and how I really would like to do more of it again.  I never actually finished working my way through my Nana’s recipes, and I also have a shelf full of cookbooks with delicious recipes just waiting to try.

Not so long ago, I used to try to make one new recipe each week.  I did this for a long time, but when life is busy sometimes it is just easier to go with the old standbys.  But I am inspired today to get back in the habit of trying new things.  It probably won’t be Beef Bourguignon, but hopefully it will still have me saying “Bon Appetit!”

Do you ever get inspired by a movie?

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Yummy Yogurt Waffles

The other day I was perusing one of my Christmas books, looking for yet more items to add to my ever-growing to-make list, and I discovered a recipe I just had to try.

I do not know why it is that I love breakfast foods so much, but I do.  I could eat pancakes, waffles, muffins, eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and be a happy girl.  So I couldn’t resist trying another waffle recipe.  And I’m glad I did.  Compared to some other waffle recipes I have made, these were light, not heavy, more like a pancake in texture than a waffle, staying soft and moist even when fully cooked.  With some fresh fruit, a dallop of yogurt and a drizzle of syrup they were perfection!  Here is the recipe:

Yummy Yogurt Waffles (formerly Sour Cream Fruity Waffles)

  • 1 1/4 cups whole white flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used a thick Balkan style)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I think I put in a little more than that and I loved the vanilla smell as they cooked!)

Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix with yogurt, milk, butter and vanilla.  Stir into the dry ingredients.  Bake in a waffle iron until done.  I got six waffles out of this batter in my waffle-maker. 

Enjoy!  They are also good reheated in the toaster!

 

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Zucchini and peaches and blueberries, oh my!  What’s a girl to do?  Make a batch of summer harvest muffins, of course!

Although we lost all but one of our zucchini plants to cucumber beetles this year, we returned from vacation to find this big boy waiting for us:

And with peaches ripening on the counter, and blueberries in abundance, inspiration hit and I made these yummy zucchini muffins with peach pieces throughout and a big blueberry on top. 

Aren’t they pretty?

I used the recipe for “Kitchen Sink Zucchini Muffins” but added 3/4 cup of finely chopped fresh peach instead of the other add-ins, grated a little extra nutmeg into the batter, and then topped each with a plump blueberry before putting them in the oven. 

Would you like a bite? 🙂

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We have had some hot weather here over the last few days.  And on a steamy hot day, what better for cooling and refreshing than a cold glass of water? 

But somehow, water can seem a little ordinary.  But add some cucumber and lemon and a handful of garden-fresh herbs, and you’ve got something a little special, but just as thirst-quenching.  Make it in a glass pitcher, and you’ve got something pretty to grace your picnic table.

Refreshing Cucumber and Lemon Herb-Infused Water

  • a piece of cucumber
  • a lemon
  • a handful of herbs (I like mint or lemonbalm or a combination of the two)

 

Slice the cucumber into rounds and place in the bottom of your pitcher.

Cut the lemon in quarters and gently squeeze to release the juice as you place it on top of the cucumber.

Finally, gently squish the herb leaves in the palm of your hand to release their fragrance and flavour and place in the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher with cold water and ice and let steep for at least an hour before serving.

We often fill our pitcher up with water a second time and leave it in the fridge for the next day with results that are just as refreshing.

Enjoy! 

How are you keeping cool on these hot summer days?

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The gardens are planted, the weeding is done (for now!) and it is time to enjoy the first of the garden’s harvest.  Fresh leaves of all kinds are poking up in my garden, perfect for pairing with radishes, asparagus, strawberries, and other early summer fruits and veggies.  To top it all off, here is a quick and easy yogurt-based salad dressing.

Yogurt & Herb Dressing

  • plain yogurt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • fresh herbs (I love this dressing with mint)

Pour some plain yogurt into a glass jar with a lid.  (You don’t really need to measure, think about the size of the salad you need to dress and then eyeball it.)  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some freshly chopped herbs.  Put the lid on and shake the bottle.  If the dressing is too thick, add a little more lemon juice.  If it’s too thin, add a little more yogurt.   

Toss it with your salad and enjoy!

What’s your favourite way to enjoy the first of the harvest?

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Last week, a co-worker handed me a recipe for “Cranberry Almond Bread.”   She told  me it was “that amazing bread so-and-so’s mom brought into the school last week.”   There almost always seems to be some amazing treat in our school kitchen (which has led many of us to both love and fear going in there) but I must have missed out on the bread because I don’t remember it at all.   On the other hand, the last week of school was a whirlwind.   I packed as much as I could into those last days of school so I’m not too surprised that I missed out on the usual kitchen treats!

A quick glance at the recipe told me it was something I could work with, so I brought it home with me to test out.   I took it out tonight, and after my usual fiddling started to create the bread only to discover that I don’t own any almond extract.  So I threw caution to the wind and let the contents of my fridge be my guide, and as I write this I am now eating a very delectable bread that would probably be unrecognizable to the person who wrote the original recipe, but is excellent and worth sharing anyway.  (It is a rare thing to get a recipe right the first time you make rewrite it, so I am savouring this moment!)

Orange Cranberry Bread

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 cup spelt and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  •  1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. orange marmalade
  • orange zest (optional – I didn’t have any to add, but I think it will give the bread a nice orangey zing.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I used maple sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine egg, honey, orange juice, applesauce, butter, marmalade, and orange zest.

Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened.

Fold in the cranberries.

Spread in a greased loaf pan.  (I always put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of my loaf pans – it makes it very easy to get the loaf out of the pan.)

Sprinkle the almonds and sugar on top.

Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (You can see from the photo that I left mine in just a tad too long…)  Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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As I mentioned on Tuesday, Jeannie from Life on the Clothesline is visiting today to share one of her favourite old-fashioned recipes (with a bonus recipe for chicken strips thrown in too!)  This is the second post in her series on recipes from her Gram’s cookbook (sound familiar?) You can check out the first post on her blog.  Enjoy!

Hi!  I’m Jeannie from over at Life on the Clothesline.  My blog is about old timey things, clotheslines, old recipes, crafts… things that my great grandmother would have done.  
 
Gram was my best friend for most of my childhood (always nice to be the favorite of someone isn’t it?) until she passed when I was 16.  When I was little, we’d go and visit her at her house (my grandmother and her lived together for most of their lives… ) where she would always cook our favorite dinner – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, slaw and tapioca pudding with oreos for dessert.  YUM.  Well, grandma would make the pudding, but gram did the rest.  
Gram always waited to start the slaw until I got there, so that I could help.  We’d stand at her kitchen sink, looking out into the yard and driveway, cutting the cabbage up and then slowly shredding it by hand.  She would give me the white cabbage cores to nibble on, always a special treat, and then later, after the slaw was put together, let me “test” it to make sure that it tasted OK.  It was always fabulous and I loved it as much because it really was yummy and also because she made it just for me.
Recently, my mother gave me an old hand written cookbook that we determined was Gram’s wedding shower cookbook.  On my blog, I have started a series of posts of the recipes from this nearly 100 year old book.  The first post was this week, so if you’re into some funky old timey recipes, please stop by and visit.  
 
Now, on to Gram’s Slaw recipe…
Gram’s Slaw
Layer, ending with cabbage:
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 sliced or chopped onion
6-9 large carrots, shredded
1 c. sugar
 
In a pan, boil:
1 c. sugar
1 c. white vinegar 
1 c. canola oil 
1 t. salt
1 t. celery seed
1 T. dry mustard
 
Pour over the cabbage and let sit in a crock for 24 hours.  Stir after the day is up.
 
OK – so some things that I’ve learned over the years… 
 
The bags of shredded cabbage that are next to the bags of pre-washed salad work well for this – you’ll need at least 2 bags.  However, cabbage (and this recipe in general) is super cheap, and if you can stand it, shred it by hand or use a food processor.  That’s what I used and it was super easy.   To core a cabbage, cut  the cabbage into quarters.  
Then, cut out the center white part.  It tastes good, but is tough and hard to chew…
I also used the processor to shred the carrots.  The carrots were not in the original recipe, but don’t change the taste at all and add some pretty color and nutrition to the slaw.  You can use green or purple cabbage, but purple has more nutritional value, so I always go for that.
Please only use white vinegar, apple cider does not taste good in this.  Also, as it will have to sit in the fridge, canola oil is your best bet – not olive oil, which will congeal in the fridge and while taste OK, not look appetisingat all.

Have your cabbage layered in the bowl before starting the vinegar mix.  You want to pour boiling hot vinegar/oil over the cabbage so that it wilts the cabbage as it cools down.  
 
And, as Gram always had fried chicken, I made up some baked chicken strips to go along with the slaw… My 3 year old loved them…
 
Chicken Strips
Oven at 375.
Take 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs.  Pour in 2 T olive oil and mix well with a fork.  Dip the chicken strips into water, then into the bread crumb mix.  Coat well.  Place on a foil lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until the juices inside run clear.
 
 
Enjoy the slaw and the chicken and please let your kids eat the cabbage cores – they really are yummy!

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I think I have mentioned this before, but I am working really hard this year to actually use all of the produce I dutifully pile into my freezer each fall (instead of squirreling it away for some later date and then frantically try to clean it out before stacking the new stuff in). 

I have done really well this year in that the only thing left in my freezer right now are two bags of zucchini (and I have that solution!) and about eight jars of green tomato mincemeat.

Other than pies and tarts (which I haven’t made any of this year and now it just seems like the wrong season for them) my favourite way to eat mincemeat is in Mincemeat Oatmeal Bars.  Although they are good straight out of the pan, they are also decadent warmed up and served with ice cream or whipped cream.    I also use the mincemeat in yogurt parfaits (hubby likes his drizzled with chocolate sauce) for a different kind of dessert.

But this week, staring at those frozen jars, I realized it’s time for a new recipe.  So I went on a search for mincemeat muffins.  And I hit the jackpot.  These muffins are so good, and so moist, that they are still nice and soft even after being stored for a few days (although it is hard to get them to last that long.)

I based my muffins on this one, but made several changes (of course!)

Marvelous Mincemeat Muffins

  • 2 cups flour (I used whole white flour)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup honey (I’ve also used half honey and half maple sugar – yum!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup orange or apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/3 cup mincemeat (I have also heard you could replace this with orange marmalade!)
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients except for the apple and nuts. 

Stir the wet into the dry ingredients and fold in the apple and nuts until just mixed. 

Spoon into greased tins and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.   Cool on wire racks.

Makes 16 medium-sized muffins. 

Enjoy!

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