Monday, May 31, 2010

Crème Caramel

The other night I had a friend over for dinner and was feeling rather ambitious so less that half hour before she was due to arrive, I "whipped up" a batch of Crème Caramel. I've made it once before and I remember it being fairly easy. I found a recipe online and followed it exactly, except for using skim milk because that was all I had. It turned out great, although my caramel sauce could have been a little more caramelized. I got rather impatient. It takes quite a while for the sugar/water mixture to reduce then caramelize. Despite this, the Crème Caramel turned out well and tasted fabulous!

Recipe from Christine Cushing Live at

Crème Caramel:

Makes 6 individual custards or one large

2/3 cup sugar (150 ml)
1/3 cup water (75 ml)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine the water and sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot. Gently stir to mix and start the sugar dissolving. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Tilt pan to ensure that sugar is dissolved. Do not stir the mixture once the heat is on or the sugar will crystallize. Increase heat to high and cook until sugar turns amber in colour. *WHEN IT SAYS DO NOT STIR, THEY MEAN IT. Once sugar mixture starts to boil, leave it alone. It will take at least 15 minutes for the sugar to start to caramelize. Be patient!

3. Pour liquid caramel into six 3-inch (6 ounce) ramekins, dividing equally and tilting ramekins to cover the bottoms with the caramel. Caramel will harden but don't worry, it's only temporary.

2 cups milk
pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 egg yolk

1. Over medium heat, bring milk just to a boil in medium saucepan with salt and vanilla. Remove from heat and cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved.

2. Stir together eggs and egg yolk in a medium bowl until well blended. Slowly pour warm milk into egg mixture a little bit at a time, stirring continuously. Do not pour the milk in all at once or you risk scrambling your eggs! Ladle custard mixture into the awaiting ramekins.

3. Transfer ramekins to a baking pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in preheated oven until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the centers and the crème caramel jiggles as one, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove ramekins from bath. Let cool to room temperature.

4. When cooled, run a knife around the inside edge of each ramekin and invert each onto a serving plate. Tap bottom of ramekin and gently lift ramekin up, leaving the custard behind on the plate with caramel sauce covering the top and running down the sides! Pretty and yummy!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Little More Than Five Minute Tomato Sauce

I'm going on vacation for a couple weeks; leaving Wednesday. I've been trying to use up all my fresh produce so I don't have to throw it out before I go. I had four tomatoes that weren't quite fresh enough to eat raw but weren't quite rotten enough to throw out. I figured I would make a batch of tomato sauce and freeze it for use when I returned home. I spent quite a bit of time searching online to find a quick and easy tomato sauce recipe that called for the basic ingredients I had on hand, namely tomatoes.

I found this one at 101 Cookbooks. It's called Five Minute Tomato Sauce and only uses canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and seasonings. I adapted the recipe slightly since I used fresh tomatoes and added some onion. I also added a can of my Grandma's home-canned stewed tomatoes.

A little more than five minutes, but this sauce is so simple and tasty, I will definitely be adding it to my repertoire.

A Little More Than Five Minute Tomato Sauce:

Makes about 4 cups

4 tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes (or your Grandma's homemade stewed tomatoes if you are so lucky!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 onion, diced small
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1. Prepare the fresh tomatoes by gently cutting a shallow X shape into the bottoms. Immerse the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to soften the skins. Drain and run cold water over the tomatoes. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove from the pot and peel the skins off, by pulling the sides where the X was cut. The skins should remove easily.

2. Place fresh tomatoes in a blender and pulse a couple times. Don't over do it! You do not want to puree the tomatoes.

3. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium. Add onion and saute for a couple minutes until they turn translucent. Add garlic, salt and chili flakes. Saute for 45 seconds.

4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and blended tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add Italian seasoning and stir well. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. (Since we are using fresh tomatoes, there is more liquid to boil off so a longer cooking time is required.)

5. Taste sauce and more salt if needed.

6. Spoon sauce over pasta of your choice & enjoy!

I had a friend over for dinner last night and served the sauce over spinach & cheese ravioli with a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan. The sauce was simple and delightful. Very fresh tasting, with a bit of a kick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spicy Mongolian Beef (Sweet & Spicy Beef)

Mongolian Beef. A delicious dish of succulent beef, bathed in a sweet, spicy and savoury sauce. A delicious dish that has nothing to do with Mongolia. Odd, eh? This dish is actually an Americanized "Chinese" dish. Mongolian Beef uses Asian inspired ingredients, but you won't find this in China and you definitely won't find it in Mongolia. I vote we change the name to Sweet & Spicy Beef. But that's just me.

P.S. I LOVED this dish.


1 lb flank steak, cut into very thin slices against the grain
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (rice wine)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sucanat (or dark brown sugar)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp garlic chili sauce
2 green onion, cut into 1 inch lengths

1. Place steak into a shallow dish.

2. Mix all ingredients together and pour over steak. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. The longer you marinate the better. Drain remaining marinade before using beef in the stir fry.


1/3 cup orange juice
zest of half 1 large orange
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine (rice wine)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp garlic chili sauce
1 tbsp corn starch mixed with a splash of warm water

1. Mix everything together in a bowl and set aside.

Stir Fry:

Marinated beef
Prepared sauce
4 green onions, cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 Thai chili peppers, seeded and sliced thin
2 tbsp peanut oil

1. Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tbsp peanut oil and roll wok to coat. Add beef pieces. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes until beef is mostly browned. A little pink here and there is okay. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

2. Add another tbsp of peanut oil to the wok. Add onion, green onions and chili peppers and stir gently for a minute.

3. Pour the sauce into the wok. Stir for a couple minutes until sauce starts to thicken. Add beef back to wok. Toss together so beef is well coated in sauce.

4. Remove beef from wok immediately. Serve with rice or rice stick noodles. Sprinkle sliced green onion and grated orange zest on top to finish.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Macadamia Nut Crusted Prawns with Pineapple-Papaya Marmalade

A few years ago I went to Hawaii and became obsessed with island food. I loved it so much that I brought home a copy of Sam Choy's Aloha Cuisine and a new phase in my cooking life began. It's been a while since I've made any Island inspired dishes but with the return of summer, I think it's time for a change!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Prawns

1 lb raw jumbo shrimp (21/25 count), peeled & de-veined, with tails on
3 eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
pinch each of salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Butterfly shrimp and pat dry. Follow instructions here if you aren't sure how to butterfly shrimp.

2. Crack eggs in a shallow dish and beat well.

3. In a separate shallow dish, mix together the panko, macadamia nuts, salt and pepper.

4. In a deep skillet, heat olive oil to medium.

5. Bread each prawn by dredging the prawn through the egg mixture, then with your other hand, dredge it through the breadcrumb mixture, firmly pressing the prawn into the breadcrumbs so it is well coated. Set aside.

6. When you have 5 or 6 prawns coated, place them in the hot skillet. Turn after one minute and continue cooking for another minute, until golden brown. Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate. Continue with the rest of the prawns.

7. Serve with a side of Sam Choy's Minted Pineapple-Papaya Marmalade.

Variation: Try adding shredded coconut to your panko/macadamia nut mixture. About one cup will do for delicious Coconut Mac Nut Crusted Prawns!

Sam Choy's Minted Pineapple-Papaya Marmalade

1/2 cup papaya, diced
1/2 cup pineapple, diced
3 tbsp sucanat
few leaves of fresh chopped mint

1. Combine papaya, pineapple and sucanat in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of fresh mint and stir. Set aside to cool.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad

This salad is very quick and easy to toss together. It only uses 4 main ingredients (plus seasonings) and is the perfect lunch or side dish on a warm spring or summer day.

2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, assorted colours
1/2 one small shallot, diced fine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley or basil, chopped
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

1. Rinse tomatoes and cut in half vertically. Add to a serving bowl.

2. Add diced shallot, vinegar and olive oil. Gently toss everything to mix together.

3. Add herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you are not planning on serving the salad immediately, do not add the salt until just before serving. Salt will draw the juices out of the tomatoes making the salad very watery.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Double Berry Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb is in season and in abundance at all the local markets. I'm not sure how to use rhubarb other than to make a crisp, crumble or pie. If any of you have other ways to use fresh rhubarb, please let me know!

Double Berry Rhubarb Crisp

3-4 stalks fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 3/4" slices
1lb carton of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sucanat
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sucanat
1 cup butter, melted

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Add all the inside ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.

3. Mix all the topping ingredients in a small bowl until crumbly. Spoon over top of fruit mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle with more sucanat or sugar.

4. Bake in hot oven for 45 minutes until top is crisp and inside it hot and bubbling.

Serve warm with ice cream! Yum!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shopping Adventures

Yesterday Marianne and I went to Organic World's Specialty Meats to see what they had to offer. A couple of my co-workers had told me good things about Organic World and the reviews on Yelp were very positive so I was excited to check it out. Thankfully, the reviews and recommendations did not disappoint.

I picked up 4 organic, boneless, skinless chicken breast (2 marinated) and 1 lb of organic lean ground beef for the whopping price of $16 and change. The beef was $2.20. The chicken was about $7 per package, only a dollar or so more than the cost for non-organic chicken at a conventional grocery store.

Organic World has a huge selection of fresh and frozen meat, poultry, cold cuts and seafood. They even have game meat. Marianne picked up some Bison Pepperoni and Bison Cheese & Jalapeno Smokies (only $3.99)! Great prices, great selection, great quality.

Organic World's Specialty Meats
22268 Dewdney Trunk Road
Maple Ridge, BC V2X 3H9
(604) 476-0717

* * * * *

Next up was a visit to the Trout Lake Farmers Market in East Vancouver. It was crowded when we got there just after 9am. I immediately got in line for heirloom tomatoes from Celyddon Farms. Marianne wandered over to another booth to pick up farm fresh asparagus (the first of the season). I also picked up some green onions and rhubarb and a tub of Bean Boy Creations Organic Hummus (Smokey Tomato Chipotle flavour)!

The best part of the market was all the organic herb & plant vendors. I bought an italian parsley plant, a curly parsley plant, two basil plants, one Thai basil plant, three strawberry plants and one container of assorted lettuce plants. Prices varied from booth to booth but I think I did well in the deal department.

Lettuce Container Flat and Curly Pasley Italian Basil and Thai Basil

Trout Lake Farmers Market
North Parking Lot of John Hendry Park
3300 Victoria Drive (At E. 15th Ave)
Vancouver, B.C.
Saturdays 9am - 2pm

All in all it was shopping success. Next Sunday I hope to visit the Coquitlam Farmers Market.

And... more recipes coming soon, including a strawberry rhubarb crisp and an heirloom cherry tomato salad!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mexican Seasoning

I've posted several Mexican recipes involving this seasoning blend so I figured it was a good time to put it up as a stand alone post. This seasoning blend is quite versatile.

Mexican Seasoning:

2 tbsp oregano
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cinnamon

1. Mix everything together in a Mason Jar. For best flavour, use within six months. Don't be afraid of the cinnamon and cloves. Trust me, they add great flavour and dimension.

Use for Crisp Beef Burritos, Braised & Shredded Beef Taquitos, Beef & Bean Enchiladas or Spicy Black Bean Tortilla Soup.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Silver Hills Bread Giveaway

Photo via the web.

Marianne is having another giveaway over at her site!

This time the prize is 5 "free purchase coupons" for Silver Hills Sprouted Grain Bread. That's FIVE free loaves! Also included in the prize is a T-Shirt.

Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery is based in Abbotsford. All their breads are made with organic sprouted grains and several are wheat free. My favourite is Macks Flax. It keeps me going... if you get what I mean! ;-)

Go HERE to enter the giveaway contest!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spot Prawns are here!


And the annual Spot Prawn Festival is tomorrow at False Creek Fisherman's Wharf (near Granville Island).

Spot prawns are local to the waters off BC's West coast. They're only available for about 80 days, with the season beginning in May. They are caught wild, not farmed, and they are deemed sustainable under the Ocean Wise program.

Unfortunately for you (and me), Spot Prawns are not easy to come by. As Remy Scalza states in his article, line ups at the Fisherman's Wharf are long and shoppers often swarm the boats before they have even docked to get the sweet, shellfish. Plus they are expensive - $12 a pound expensive. If you aren't lucky enough to score some of your own fresh BC Spot Prawns, perhaps you will be lucky enough to dine at one of the fine Vancouver restaurants featuring Spot Prawns on its menu.

Also check out this article by local Iron Chef Rob Feenie, including a Spot Prawn recipe.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Farmers Markets

So now you know what local means and what local food is available right now. Now it's time to talk about where to find it. Nearly ever city in the Lower Mainland hosts a weekly or bi-weekly Farmer's Market. This is generally the best and easiest way to get farm fresh products. You buy straight from the farmer. You get to know your food producer. You get to ask questions about how your food was grown or produced. It doesn't get any better than that!

Most markets start up the first couple weeks of May. Check the websites to see the official Opening Day. Then get your ass down there and don't forget your reusable shopping bag!


Burnaby - Burnaby City Hall, Saturdays through October.

Coquitlam - Dogwood Pavilion at Poirier Rec Centre, Sundays through September.

New Westminster - Royal City Farmers Markert at Tipperary Park, Thursdays into October.

North Vancouver - at Lonsdale Quay, Saturdays through October.

Surrey - operates Wednesdays, June through September.

Vancouver - four summer markets operating around the city on various days. Check their website for info.

West Vancouver - Ambleside Park behind the Police Station, Sundays through October.

White Rock - Miramar Village Plaza, Sundays through October.

For more markets all over British Columbia, check the BC Farmers Market website.

Check the website before you go as the hours vary for each market. Many also offer winter markets, starting up in early November. Be sure to check in to your favourite market website when summer is over.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Local Eating - Spring Foods

Springtime on a farm pasture in Maple Ridge.

Now that we've talked about what "local food" means, it's time to talk about what local food is.

It's May! Springtime in Vancouver!

According to Get Local BC, the following foods are available locally:

Vegetables: Asparagus, celery, chard (swiss), greenhouse cucumbers, kale, mustard greens, onions (green), onions (red & yellow), peas, greenhouse peppers, new potatoes, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb (field), salad greens, shallots, spinach, greenhouse tomatoes, turnips (white)

Fruit: Rhubarb (field)

Meat & Dairy: Dairy products, eggs, beef, buffalo, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, ostrich, pheasant, pork, rabbit, turkey

Seafood: Clams, cod (Pacific), crab, Dungeness crab, flounder/sole (Pacific), halibut (Pacific), lingcod, mussels, oysters (Pacific), prawns (jumbo & spot), sablefish (black cod), scallops, shrimp (side stripe, west coast), Spring dogfish

Herbs: Bay leaves, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill leaf, fennel leaf, garlic chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory (winter), sorrel, tarragon, thyme

Etc: Honey, mushrooms, nuts

Next up... where to buy your local foods. May marks beginning of Farmer's Market season!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What is Local Food ?

Blueberry fields in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

I've talked before about the benefits of local eating. The benefits are obvious and compelling.

-Local food supports the small, family run farms, which supports the local economy & leads to job creation
-Foods are fresher, more nutritious and taste better. Local foods are picked at their peak of freshness and delivered to you within a few days.
-It's better for the environment. Local food means reduced emissions as food doesn't travel as far to get to your table. It also means less packaging and less waste.
-In the case of dairy, poultry and meat producers, you often get a more humanely raised, healthier products.

It's easier said than done though. Most large, corporate grocery stores do not carry local products. (Safeway, I'm talking to you.) In larger cities, local products, especially meat products, are often impossible to find. Local products can also cost more because they are often of better quality and produced in smaller quantities.

First of all, what is "local"? I learned there is no standard definition. The term "local" can be interpreted differently depending on whom you ask and what you are looking for. The broadest definition of the term "local food" is anything that is produced in the province/state in which you reside, even if it's several hundred or thousand miles away.

Others define local as anything that takes one day or less to reach your table (thereby reducing emissions involved in transporting the products). A reasonable distance for food to travel in one day (known as DGD or days-good-distance), is 400 miles. Source.

The 100 Mile Diet movement sees local food as anything grown or produced within 100 miles of your residence. If you live in British Columbia, you can check distances between cities here to see if your local farmers/food produces fit within the 100 mile guide. In the Lower Mainland of BC (Greater Vancouver), we are quite lucky to have so many products and food producers within 100 miles. Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy and seafood. Our area has it all.

The most narrow view of a local diet is anything produced within a city and its surroundings; For example, the Metro Vancouver area (ending north of the Fraser in Maple Ridge and south of the Fraser in Langley). This wouldn't be a very easy diet to follow since many farms and producers are in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and beyond. The Canada Food Inspection Agency also follows this narrow view, stating that for goods to be advertised as "local" or "locally grown", it must originate within 50 km from where it is sold - 50 kilometres is only about 31 miles! Source.

My personal view of "local" changes depending on what product I'm looking to purchase. My most general sense of local is 100 miles, because it's easy to define and like I said, there is an abundance of food items grown and produced within 100 miles of my home. If you look at this map on the 100 Mile Diet website, you will see. A hundred miles from the Vancouver area covers much of the southern tip of Vancouver Island, northern Washington, Whistler and the Fraser Valley.

I know from all the searching I have done, that grass fed beef is not readily available within my 100 mile radius. I know that Okanagan wines taste better than Fraser Valley wines (in my opinion, of course), and some of the best BC fruit comes from the Okanagan as well. For some products, I redefine my idea of local to anything grown or produced in the entire province.

Now with all that said, my diet isn't based around local products. In fact, I eat very few local products. I would like to eat local and support local growers and producers but like I said, it isn't easy and it isn't cheap. Aside from weekly community Farmer's Markets and small local grocers, the only way to get many local products it to go direct to the producer. I don't have the time or desire to be driving all over the Lower Mainland to buy my weekly groceries from several different sources. This is why I appreciate the Farmer's Markets. This year, I will try to go weekly and if not, at least every other week. I will try to buy most of my fresh produce from the farm stand and when I can't, I will seek out as much local produce as I can from the produce store nearby.

Another source for local foods is via home delivery services such as Spud or Organics@Home. Come Fall and Winter when the Farmer's Markets are over, I will be joining one of these services. Not only can you get in season, local produce, but you can also get grass-fed beef and organic grocery products - all delivered right to your door step.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Heirloom Tomato, Bocconcini & Basil Spinach Salad with Balsamic Reduction (Insalata Caprese)

I think this one takes the prize for longest title. Some fancier foodies/chefs/bloggers would call it Caprese Salad but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it as HTBBSS. It also takes the prize for quickest, tastiest and most gourmet lunch ever.

There is no recipe for this salad. I sliced some fresh heirloom tomatoes (pretty orange & yellow striped ones), tore up some fresh basil leaves, threw some spinach on the plate, topped it all with some baby bocconcini pieces, sprinkled it all with course salt and fresh cracked pepper and drizzled on a generous amount of reduced balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Delicious!

I've been making this salad for quite a while. It was inspired by a similar one I had at a local Irish Pub once. Normally I make my own balsamic reduction by simply simmering one cup of balsamic vinegar until it's been reduced by half. It's easy to do but it takes a while and smells up the kitchen.

Yesterday I went to the 18th Annual Vancouver Wellness Show and bought a bottle of Nonna Pia's Gourmet Classic Balsamic Reduction. It's produced and bottled in Whistler. It feels right to support a local, family run business. And it's a good product; a really, really good product. Saves time and no smelly kitchen!

Speaking of local eating, this month marks the opening of many community farmers markets. If you're in the Coquitlam area check here. Vancouver? Look here. Other cities across the province of BC? Check this one.

I will post more in depth about farmers markets and what it means to be "local", another day.

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