February 23, 2008

green

fresh herbs;  cilantro and parsley

I've been buying fresh herbs the last couple of months. I really want to know how to use them in food.

I used to leave out the fresh herbs when it was listed in a recipe. But, now I'm trying to include them and I find it adds a freshness to the dish. It complements the recipes and I will try not to leave them out, if I can.

My hubby, the "gardener" in our family, will be starting a herb garden for me. I'm pretty excited about that. He's excited to do the gardening and I'm excited to have the produce! Now there will be no excuse in not using herbs in my food!
...

(Just a Note: I'll be without internet for the next week and a half. Catch up with you all in short while! Later!)

February 21, 2008

red curry with sweet red peppers, snap peas, pumpkin and mushrooms

red curry with sweet red peppers, snap peas, pumpkin and mushrooms

Sometimes, you are taught great lessons when you are cooking.

This recipe fired me up for several hours afterward and I now preach words of wisdom to everyone I come in contact with. The lesson is simple but too often ignored:

Put on gloves when dealing with HOT CHILIES!

For the love of god, please put on some gloves! I was left with burning fingers for hours and hours afterward. I couldn't sleep and nothing I could do would take the firing pain away.

I figured I could outsmart the chilies, that I would make sure not to touch the inside of the peppers or it's seeds. Let me tell you, those peppers take no mercy. I have learned my lesson.

After working hard to make the red curry paste and almost crying from the pain, I was slapped with another blow to the ego. I went down the ethnic aisle of my supermarket and lo and behold, a BIG 400 gram tub of red curry paste mocking me. And the price... $1.88.

And we've used it in a recipe already and it's really tasty too.

I shall never ever again attempt to make red curry paste (since I can buy it for cheap). But, I have much respect for those hot chili peppers, for it has punished me and I will never forget the mind-numbing throbbing pains.

Nature is cruel. But oh so delicious.

red curry with sweet red peppers, snap peas, pumpkin and mushrooms

...

red curry with sweet red peppers, snap peas, pumkin and mushrooms
serves 4-6

1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp red curry paste (see below)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 red sweet pepper, cut into long thin strips

1/2 small pumpkin, peeled, sliced and cut into strips
4 ounces of snap peas
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
sprinkle of honey-roasted peanuts and chopped cilantro

Spoon out 1/3 of the coconut milk into medium saucepan and bring to gentle boil. Stir until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in curry paste and cook for 3 more minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, vegetable stock, sugar, soy sauce and salt, stir well. Bring to active boil, reduce heat. Add pumpkin and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add red pepper, snap peas, mushrooms and stir gently for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Serve over rice and sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

red curry paste:

makes 1 cup

10 fresh red finger length chilies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10 black peppercorns
3 stalks lemon grass
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup shallots
2 tbsp chopped carlic (8-12 cloves)
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp minced lime peel
1 tsp salt

Using gloves, stem and discard most of the seeds of the chilies. Cut into small pieces. Put into processor or blender.

Toast coriander and cumin seeds for 2 minutes. Grind the seeds with the black pepper.

Prepare lemongrass, discarding any root section below bulb base and top portion, leaving about 6 inches of stalk. Chop and add to blender/processor.

Toss the rest of the ingredients into blender/processor and grind until you reach a smooth puree. Add water if too thick.

Store in airtight jar for 1 month in refrigerator. Caution: very HOT.

Recipes adapted from: Red Curry Paste and Red Curry with Red Sweet Peppers, Snow Peas and Tofu. Real Vegetarian Thai.


February 19, 2008

chocolate banana muffins

chocolate banana muffins

I really should make muffins more. I just never think of it. I'd probably make a loaf instead of muffins. I think it's because when I make muffins, I tend to over bake them and they turn out dry, which isn't very fun to eat... no matter how much butter you slather on them!

Muffins are great for a quick breakfast or a snack in the middle of the day. Especially these ones since they contain about 4 g of fiber per muffin. I also find that I'll buy a big batch of banana's and by the end of the week, they are brown and I staring at them wondering how I should use them up.

So, here's a good recipe but don't overbake them like I do :)

...

chocolate banana muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 egg
1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) vanilla
1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL ) mashed ripe banana, about 2 medium-size bananas

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) natural bran
1/4 cup (50 mL) cocoa powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt

1/4 cup (50 mL) chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Grease 12 muffin cups or use paper liners. In a bowl, whisk egg with oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in sugar until dissolved, then banana.

In a large bowl, using a fork, stir flours with bran, cocoa, baking powder and soda, salt and nuts, if using. Make a well in centre of dry ingredients. Pour banana mixture into well and stir just until blended. Do not overmix. Stir in chocolate chips, if using. Spoon mixture into muffin cups. Bake in centre of 425F (220C) oven until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean, about 14 minutes.

Recipe from: chocolate-banana breakfast muffins, Chatelaine website

February 17, 2008

white

new plates to use in food photos ;)

For Valentine's, the hubby bought me the above plates to use for my food photography! Fancy shmancy :)

I bought a few bowls a while back but he bought me these to use when I take pictures. I have some neutral beige plates that we use for eating off of but this should make my food pop against the gleaming white!

In addition to getting the above plates for Valentine's Day, I woke up to THIS for breakfast...

valentine crepes

mmmmmmm.... crepes filled with rosehip jam, drizzled with nutella sauce and a side scoop of strawberry vanilla ice cream. It doesn't matter what plate you put that on, it looks and tastes de-lish!

My hubby is the crepe maker in the house, if you remember and he makes them quite frequently. Lucky me :)

I have the crepe recipe reposted after the jump...

...

crepes

3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter*
1 1/2 cups milk

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and melted butter and stir until smooth. Add the milk and mix well.

Heat a nonstick pan, melt 1 tsp butter over moderate heat. Pour in 2 or 3 tablespoons of batter. Cook the crepe until it is golden brown on the bottom; then flip it, using a spatula. Remove when golden brown on both sides. Continue until all the batter is used up.

*we use margarine most of the time and it turns out just as well, shhhh, don't tell wolfgang :)

wolfgang puck recipe

February 14, 2008

valentine pizza

valentine's pizza-fd0000

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I thought I'd do my part for Valentine's and I made heart-shaped pizzas for the fam. The kidlets enjoyed their ham and pineapple with red peppers pizza (though my youngest picked off his red peppers while exclaiming "yucky" with a scrunched up nose!).

valentine's pizza

The hubby and I enjoyed mushrooms, red peppers, tomatoes and green onions on pesto sauce pizza. Delicious. (I made the pesto a few days ago, I'll post that on a different day.


A heart for your Valentine


I'm submitting this blogpost to A Heart for your Valentine event. Lots of fun and yummy entries in the roundup.

Now, I'm off to search for some chocolate!

...

pizza crust
makes one 12 inch pizza pie

1 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 envelope instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tbsp oil
2/3 cup warm water

Stir first 4 ingredients together. Add oil and warm water. Stir well. Knead 30-40 times onto floured surface or use a food processor/mixer.

Roll and stretch into 12 inch pizza pan.

Bake 400F for 15-18 minutes. Cuts into 8 wedges.

Adapted Recipe from: Pizza Deluxe, Company's Coming Cooking for Two.

February 12, 2008

ham and feta strata

ham and feta strata

Do you ever buy those fancy artisan breads or baguettes at bakeries or grocery stores, bring it home, enjoy a couple of delicious slices, put it back into that cheap, shitty paper bag it came in, excited to eat more tomorrow and then before you realize it, it's the next day and it's become rock hard and your pissed, waving your fists in the air, promising that you won't buy it again unless you can eat it before it dries out so not to waste your money...

gasp

Uh huh, you're nodding YES! Well, worry no more my friends. I have your solution.

A strata!

Yes, I buy those breads and they do become rock hard within a day (what the heck is with those stupid paper bags and why can't I remember to put it into a plastic bag instad, to prevent it from drying). So, now I just toss it in the freezer and when I have enough frozen, dried-out bread, I thaw it, slice it and make a strata. Voila... no more waste.

This ia yummy recipe. Great for brunches when you have people over but make sure you half the below recipe if it's only two of you... because then you will be eating strata ALL WEEK LONG. Then you'll have a dried out leftover strata :) And, sorry, I don't have a solution for that one.

...

ham and feta strata

1 large baguette or small loaf, dried out or toasted, sliced (I had two different types of bread I used in the above picture)
2 onions, chopped
300 g of ham of your choice, chopped up
400 g feta, diced up

4 eggs
4 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Layer the bread into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle with onions, ham and feta.

In a bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, salt and pepper. Stir. Pour over bread mixture.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until liquid is gone.

Adapted from: Ham, Fontina and Spinach Strata, The Best of Bridge Presents A Year of the Best.

February 9, 2008

red

tomatoes on the vine

I bought a fixed 50 mm canon lens a while back and that's what I'm using to take the shot above. It's a great lens and it give great portrait pictures too.

I've been reading up on different lenses for my camera. Well, actually, I've narrowed it down quite considerably since I want a faster and all purpose lens. The current lens I have now is an older sigma model but it was free (a photographer friend passed it down to me) . It doesn't produce the detail and sharpness I want, however, the problem with a new lens is the cost. We're talking major coinage.

Photography, sadly, is an expensive hobby. Maybe I can live off of Mac' and Cheese so to save for a new lens! Gosh, wouldn't that be a fun food blog, huh? Mac' and Cheese bake, Mac' and Cheese stirfry, Mac' and Cheese soup.

Hmmmm, I don't think it will jive with the family or blog readers.

Oh yeah, this week is the week of red... Valentine's is coming up. Do any of you do anything special? I'm not really into the whole commerical buy me overpriced flowers or pay for an overpriced dinner but I do expect something. Whether it be a card or some chocolates. A hug and "Happy Valentine's Day Honey" doesn't cut it. I want a little more effort.

And, it's not one-sided. Last year, me and the kids made Daddy cupcakes and homemade Valentine's cards. It will probably be more of the same this year too... or maybe Mac' and Cheese souffles! Yeahhhh, that's the ticket ;-)

February 7, 2008

udon noodles with eggs, broccoli, and dark sweet soy sauce

udon noodles with eggs, broccoli, and dark sweet soy sauce

My children seemed to miraculously like eating broccoli over the past year. I don't really know how this happened but I figure it's best not to question it.

And the husband, he loves his stirfry. I remember when we were first married and the agreement was that he had to cook one dinner a week, he'd make stirfry all.the.time. I'm sure he had some masterplan to get out of cooking because he pretty much made the same stirfry every.single.week. Here I am, so excited for my one night per week off of cooking and then to end up eating the same thing every time. I tell you, I couldn't stand it anymore and I've been cooking dinners almost exclusively ever since then. Smart guy, my husband.

But, I'm not horribly crushed because I do like to cook but now when I want my one time per week off of cooking, we go out and he buys me dinner :) Smart gal, yup, that's right.

...

udon noodles with eggs, broccoli, and dark sweet soy sauce
serves 4

2 tbsp dark sweet soy sauce OR (2 Tbsp dark soy sauce and 2 Tbsp brown sugar)
2 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic (4-6 cloves)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 cups broccoli florets, bite-sized
1 pound of udon noodles
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine first 5 ingredients. Set aside.

In a wok or deep skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp oil and garlic and saute for one minute. Add mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for 2 more minutes. Scoop out and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp of oil and add noodles until heated through. Push noodles to the side and add eggs. Swirl and cook for 30 seconds. Mix the noodles and eggs together and cook until eggs scrambled.

Stir in soy sauce mixture. Add broccoli and mushrooms mixture and mist together for 1 minute. Serve.

Adapted from: Rice Noodles with Eggs, Broccoli, and Dark Sweet Soy Sauce. Real Vegetarian Thai.

February 5, 2008

sweet & sour pork

sweet & sour pork

I love the sweet and sour pork you buy at the mall food court that is so yummy tasting and well, let's face it, bad for you. It's like crack, especially since they let you fill this gigantic plate for chump change.

Several years ago, we had visitors from Europe and we ate at the mall for lunch one afternoon. They were totally shocked by how much food you can get for the price. MSG, gooey noodles, fried doughy covered meat, saucy dishes, you name it. They polished off their styrofoam plates and then complained about their bellies for the rest of the day. You think that they would have had their fill but they insisted on going back to the food court one more time before they had to take their long flight home. Crack, I tell you, crack.

Though the title says sweet and sour pork, it's not like the stuff you can buy at the mall. Sorry, it's a "healthier" version. And it's pretty tasty though the meat isn't fried and covered with dough. I've also used this recipe with tofu instead of pork too and it works out well.

...

sweet & sour pork
serves 4

1.5 pounds (almost 700 grams) pork tenderloin or roast, cut into small cubes

1 tbsp soy sauce
3/4 cup pineapple juice, drained from below
3 tbsp tomato sauce (or ketchup - tee hee)
2 tbsp white vinegar
1-2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

1-2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
1-2 garlic cloves,minced
1/4 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1 red pepper, diced
8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained(use above)
1-2 chopped green onions

Add salt and pepper to the pork and panfry it in a hot pan until browned and cooked through. Set aside.

Combine next 5 ingredients. Set aside. Mix 1 tbsp water into cornstarch and set aside.

Saute garlic, ginger and red peppers in peanut or sesame oil for a couple of minutes. Add sauce mixture, bring to a boil and add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Stir in pork and pineapple. Remove from heat, serve over rice and sprinkle with green onions.

February 2, 2008

the color orange

army of (mandarin) oranges

I have come to realize this past year that I have a thing for the color orange. I had no idea until I looked around and started seeing it all around my home. Orange pillows, blankets, glass bowls and vases. I really don't know how long, subconsciously, I have liked it.

It was when I was chatting online with the hubby about a new purchase and how excited I was about it when he said "let me guess, is it in the color orange?". I really had no clue that I gravitated toward it. So, I thank him for helping me realize something that seemed so obvious. Because now, I totally notice that orange makes my head turn in the store.

And that is why I got up the nerve to paint one wall in my house a bright orange-red. I only wish I had done it sooner :)
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