Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moules Provencales (Mussels Steamed in White Wine)

Mussels were on sale at the market today and I have been wanting to try making them at home for a long, long time so I decided to go for it. When I got home I did some extensive 'net research to ensure I prepared the mussels in the healthiest and most sanitary way possible. One of the things I came across was this hilarious YouTube video of a French Chef preparing "Moules Provencales". I based this recipe on his tutorial and it turned out great.

The video is here.

extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced (THE MORE THE BETTER!)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup white wine
1 to 1.5kg (3 lb) live mussels, washed and beards removed
2-4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, or 1 fresh tomato, seeded and diced
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper

1. Here is a great article on picking, storing and preparing mussels. If you are not already familiar with mussels, make sure you read up before you begin.

2. Keep mussels refrigerated until ready to use. When ready to cook, pick through your mussels to ensure all are tightly closed. If any are open, follow Chef Jean Pierre's instructions in the video above and lightly tap on the shells and set aside for a few minutes. I found almost all of mine closed after this "tapping" process. Out of the whole batch, I only had to throw out three, two of which had broken shells. The rest were perfectly fine after a bit of tapping and resting - as Chef Jean Pierre said, they really were just sleeping with their mouths open. :)

3. Place mussels in a colander and rinse under cold water. Remove beards (if they are present - mine didn't have beards) and scrub off any barnacles or grit. Mine were "cultivated", or "rope grown" so the shells were very smooth and clean. Wild mussels will likely need a bit of gentle scrubbing.

4. While mussels are resting in the colander, heat olive oil in a saute pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for a minute or two then add garlic. Stir until onions turn transcendent.

5. Pour in wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Now, as Chef Jean Pierre said, CRANK UP THE HEAT and pour in the mussels. Immediately put the lid on the pan and gently shake the pan a bit. Watch the clock. Two minutes was the perfect amount of time for my mussels, which is just about when the steam started to come out of the pan.

6. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove mussels from the pan and place into a covered serving dish. Gently sort through mussels and discard any that did not open (they only need to open 1 cm, minimum).

7. Strain cooking juices into a bowl. Take the strained liquid and pour back into the saute pan. Discard the onion/garlic mixture. If a few onions sneak into the juices, that's a-okay.

8. Turn the heat to medium and simmer the wine for minute. Add the butter and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Let reduce for about 5 minutes. Add parsley, sea salt and cracked pepper and stir together.

9. Pour liquid over the mussels. Serve with crusty bread for dipping into the juice!

A+ - This is definitely a fave. I shared the dish with my mom for dinner. Between the mussels and half a baguette, it was all the food we needed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pizza a Patate (Potato Pizza)

One of my co-workers told me about a fabulous, homey flatbread appetizer that her Italian mother often makes with fresh pizza dough and thinly sliced baking potatoes. I found a couple interesting recipes online, but I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, so I had to improvise with what I had. Instead of making my own dough, I took the easy way out and used a frozen pizza shell. I also added thinly sliced onion and small chunks of fresh garlic. I covered the whole thing with a very generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. I baked my flatbread in the oven until the crust turned golden and the potatoes started to get crispy, then topped it with a few fresh spinach leaves and sliced tomatoes. Mozza cheese would be a nice addition, but it isn't necessary.

The addition of fresh garlic chunks was wonderful. The garlic roasted and became really buttery. The Italian seasoning and sea salt was a nice touch too. I don't recommend using pre-cooked or frozen pizza shells. The shell cooks up faster than the potatoes so you risk the shell getting too crispy. Next time I will follow one of the linked recipes and make my own pizza dough. Next time I will also stick with a more authentic Italian Potato Flatbread and skip the spinach and tomato. Simple is best. Potato, onion, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. Delicious!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sushi Fail

One of my recent experiments into Japanese cuisine was Sushi making. I made maki (rolls) and cones (hand rolls). I tried to be healthy and fancy and used wild rice instead of sushi rice. Big mistake. Wild rice, even when mixed with rice vinegar, does not stay sticky, especially once it cools. As well, rolling sushi is not as easy as it looks. My rolls were very loose and ended up coming apart as we ate them. I couldn't figure out how to roll the cones properly so they ended up being weird cylinder shapes. The plus side is that the "sushi", and I use that term loosely, was pretty good.

I'm not going to give instructions on how to make what I made, because I am certainly no expert. You can probably find hundreds of sushi tutorials on the net that can help you just fine. I will tell you what I put into my rolls.

Crab and Veggie Rolls

I had "California Rolls" in the back of my mind when putting these together, but I didn't want the heavy mayonnaise/crab mix. Instead I used fresh Alaskan King Crab meat and omitted the Japanese mayo entirely. The results were surprisingly good - light and fresh.

- Alaskan King Crab meat (bought bulk at the local seafood shop)
- yellow mango, sliced into matchsticks
- English cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
- avocado, sliced
- carrot, sliced into matchsticks
- brown & wild rice blend
- nori seaweed wrap
- wasabi

Shrimp & Veggie Hand Rolls (Cones)

- Baby shrimp
- English cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
- yellow mango, sliced into matchsticks
- avocado, sliced
- carrot, sliced into matchsticks
- brown & wild rice blend
- nori seaweed wrap

If I had any leaf lettuce or pea shoots I would have used those too... and I also considered baking a yam and adding that (I love yam rolls!) but I wasn't quite that prepared. Sushi making isn't my forte that's for sure, but it was a fun experiment!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunomono Salad

Japanese Sunomono Salad is a cold dish of rice noodles, thinly sliced raw vegetables and seafood marinated in a vinegar based dressing. ("Su" means vinegar in Japanese.) The result is a light, refreshing dish, most often served as an appetizer. Sunomono is easy to prepare as it requires no cooking.

Serves 2

1 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp sake or mirin
dash soy sauce
dash sesame oil
1 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 cup warm water (use more water if you'd like to dilute the vinegar taste a bit more)

1/2 carrot, sliced very thin
1/2 cucumber, sliced very thin
2 thin slices of lemon, cut in half
handful of cooked baby shrimp (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per person)
1 cup softened rice vermicelli noodles (prepared according to package directions)

1. In a small bowl whisk together marinade ingredients and let stand while you slice the vegetables.

2. Place carrot and cucumber slices in the marinade and leave for 5-10 minutes then remove the veggies and set aside, reserving the marinade.

3. Use small soup bowls to assemble the Sunomono. Place 1/2 cup softened rice noodles in the bottom of each bowl. Pour some marinade in until it just reaches the top (approx 1/2 cup).

4. Arrange carrots, cucumber and shrimp on top of the noodle/vinegar. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve (no more than a couple hours).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Miso Soup

This is another recipe inspired by the 5 Factor World Diet cookbook. Apparently miso soup is a common breakfast dish in Japan. I can't get it in my mind to have soup for breakfast so I've been making a pot for work lunches. This is the quickest and easiest recipe yet.

Serves 2

Slightly modified from the original recipe.

1 can vegetable broth (or 1 cup homemade chicken broth)
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp light miso paste
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup firm tofu, sliced into small cubes
1 green onion, sliced thinly

1. Pour broth, water and rice vinegar to a small sauce pan and warm over medium heat.

2. Stir in the miso paste and continue stirring until dissolved and well combined. Simmer 3 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add mushrooms and peas and simmer for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove the pot from heat and add the tofu. Let sit for 2-3 minutes.

5. Ladle into two bowls and garnish with green onion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

This is homemade frozen yogurt WITHOUT an ice cream maker. Yes, it can be done!

A few years ago I bought a fabulous Magic Bullet blender and I have been making my own version of frozen yogurt ever since. I usually make up a batch at the start of the week and keep it on hand for quick, healthy desserts and evening snacks. Out of curiosity I Google'd recipes for homemade frozen yogurt and found that most of them contain an enormous amount of added sugar. One i looked at called for 1 cup icing sugar for only 1 cup of yogurt. Many recipes called for gelatin, evaporated milk and even eggs. Why? Yogurt freezes well and quickly without the need for added stabilizers and frozen berries contain such a high amount of natural sugar it seems redundant to add much more. Try it and you will see!

Serves 3-4

1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 cup frozen berries (I used raspberries this time)
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp coconut water (optional)

1. Add everything to a blender and pulse until berries are pureed and the mixture is smooth.

2. Pour into a glass bowl that has a tight fitting lid. Tap on counter top to get all the air out of the bottom and evenly spread mixture.

3. Cover and place in freezer for 1-2 hours or until frozen.

4. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and set on counter for 10-15 minutes. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

A new partner joined my team at work this week. As a welcome present, I wanted to make cupcakes. The only concern was that my team has been eating cake almost every shift for the past couple weeks; Between birthdays, goodbyes and St. Patrick's day, we definitely got our fill of sweets. While flipping through some of my old Clean Eating magazines, I came across this recipe for "clean" chocolate cupcakes. The cupcakes were quick and easy to make, despite having to whip and fold in egg whites. I made a few small changes because the first time I made these according to the recipe, I found them a bit dry. The recipe says you will yield 12 but I ended up with 18, albeit small, cupcakes.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

Slightly modified from original recipe.

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sucanat plus 1/4 cup sucanat, divided
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites
Fresh REAL whipped cream, for topping
Fresh raspberries for garnish

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper or silicone cupcake liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, 1 cup sucanat, flour, salt and baking soda.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk, oil, vanilla and a whole egg.

4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour into wet ingredients. Stir well to combine. Batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

5. Add egg whites to a large, clean, dry mixing bowl. Whip whites with a hand mixer on low speed until they begin to get foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup of sucanat to the whites. Continue whipping whites until medium-stiff peaks form.

6. Fold whites into cake batter using a rubber spatula. The directions say to fold them "gently but assertively". I'm not sure what that means, so I just folded them in gently until they were combined.

7. Fill each of 12 cupcake liners until 3/4 full. Tap bottom of the filled muffin pan on the counter top. Transfer immediately to the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean. The recipe called for baking the cakes for 45 minutes. I found this too long. Start checking when you reach 30 minutes to be safe.

8. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

9. Once cooled, spread a thin layer of Cool Whip over top of each muffin and garnish with a fresh berry. In the magazine, the cupcakes are topped with a simple choclate ganache made of chopped bittersweet chocolate and a coupe teaspoons of milk. I wanted something a little more simple so I opted for Cool Whip. If you want to be even fancier, when very chilled, Cool Whip works well in a piping bag. That's how I ended up decorating the cupcakes I took to work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

5 Factor Chicken Yakatori

This recipe is from the 5 Factor Wold Diet cookbook. The book is actually quite interesting. Trainer to the stars, Harley Pasternak analyzes the traditional lifestyles, culinary habits and diets of ten of the healthiest countries in the world (based on life expectancy and obesity rates), then bases his recipes and meal plans around them. It should be no surprise that four of the top 10 countries are in Asian and five are around the Mediterranean (the tenth is Sweden, praised for it's "rustic and practical" diet, which includes a great deal of fish). The 5 Factor Diet itself isn't much of a diet at all. The principles making up the "5 Factors" are kind of "no-brainers" to healthy living;

1. Eat 5 small meals a day.
2. Follow 5 specific nutritional criteria for each meal (protein, complex carbs, fiber, healthy fat & a non-caloric beverage).
3. Each meal should contain no more than 5 core ingredients and take only 5 minutes to prepare (this isn't so much for health as it is for convenience).
4. Work out for a minimum of 25 minutes, 5 days a week.
5. Enjoy one "free" day a week.

I bought the book mainly for its recipes for healthy, quick and easy Asian dishes. So far I am quite pleased.

Chicken Yakatori

Serves 2

Slightly modified from the original recipe.

1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut vertically into 1 inch strips
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water at least 20 minutes

1. Whisk together mirin, soy sauce, agave, rice vinegar and ginger in a deep glass bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade for basting. Add the cut chicken pieces to the marinade and toss well to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to a couple hours. Once marinated, thread chicken pieces onto skewers.

2. Pre-heat grill or non-stick grill pan over high heat. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. Brush chicken pieces with reserved marinade.

3. Serve over warm brown rice with a side of marinated cucumber salad or serve as an appetizer.

Marinated Cucumber Salad:

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp agave syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 English cucumber, sliced very thin
1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
1/4 Thai red chili pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds

1. Combine vinegar, water, salt and agave syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat.

2. Cook until boiling then set aside to cool.

3. Place sliced cucumber, onion and chili pepper in a bowl. Pour vinegar over top of vegetables.

4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

5. Using a slotted spoon, scoop vegetables onto plate. Top with course fresh ground pepper and black sesame seeds.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Breakfast Egg Salad

Last night I hard boiled a big batch of eggs to leave in my fridge for quick meals. This morning I had some extra time and lots of veggies to use up so I put together a hard boiled egg salad. Salad for breakfast? Sure, why not!

2 hard boiled eggs, yolks removed, broken into pieces
1 hard boiled egg, with yolk, sliced
1 tomato, sliced and quartered
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 red onion, diced
fresh chopped parsley
fresh cracked pepper
fleur de sel or course sea salt
balsamic vinegar
flax seeds (optional)

1. Assemble salad by arranging broken egg white pieces, tomato slices, green onion and red onion on a plate.

2. Top with sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

3. Arrange sliced egg in a fan over top of everything.

4. Finish with fresh cracked pepper, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

5. For an extra healthy kick, I sprinkled 1/2 tsp of flax seeds over top of everything. You may also notice the white creamy stuff on the right side of the plate. That is left over homemade Tzatziki sauce. I used 10 Cent's recipe and it turned out fabulous.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Spelt Muffins

Featured on the Tasty Kitchen Blog!

I've been slacking in the breakfast department lately. Waking up too late and flying out the door; Barely enough time to shower and dress let alone feed myself. To curb the problem, I baked a batch of these great muffins and froze half to have on hand for the days when I don't have time for a quality meal.

With a hint of lemon, no refined sugar, no white flour and the added bonus of wheat germ and flax, these muffins are good and satisfying.

Yields 12 muffins.

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
2 tbsp flax seed meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tsp baking soda
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F

2. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin or two 12 cup mini muffin tins.

3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (butter, honey, apple sauce, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice).

4. In another large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (spelt flour, wheat germ, flax seed meal, baking soda, salt and lemon zest).

5. Slowly stir dry mixture into wet mixture and fold together until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

6. Spoon batter into muffin cups so they are 2/3 full.

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

8. Let cool and serve with honey or a small amount of butter!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Avatarts (aka: Pudding Tarts)

Every year my family holds an Oscar party. We all get together to eat appies, play movie trivia and watch the Oscars together. Last year we started "themed" appies; making our appetizers themed to some of the nominated movies and actors. We are going with themed appies again this year, but the theme has to be one of the ten best picture nominees.

My first submission is Avatarts (for Avatar).

The recipe is poached from a Kraft Foods Jell-O Pudding Pie recipe. My cousin affectionately calls this "White Trash Pie" because it is so ridiculously easy and cheap to throw together. Normally you would use a pre-made graham or oreo cookie pie crust but since I am making tarts, I used frozen sweet tart shells, baked them according to package directions, then filled them with the pudding mix. Still very simple and fun!

The recipe for Jell-O Pudding Pie is here. I didn't follow the recipe quite to spec. I made TWO packets of vanilla pudding, according to package directions then added SIXTY drops of blue food colouring. I started with thirty but after adding the Cool Whip, the colour faded quite a bit so I had to add more colour. Next time I might try gel colour pastes. I added 1/2 the container of Cool Whip to the pudding and mixed it all together, rather than layering it into the tart shells. Then I spooned it all into a decorator bag fitted with a wide tip and filled the tart shells.

Quick, fun, easy and I'm sure kids will love the quirky colouring!

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