Friday, June 25, 2010

My Favourite Kitchen Tools - Part Two: Appliances

My list of "must have" kitchen tools continues with... Appliances! See Part One.

1. Magic Bullet Blender - I have a mini food processor and a full size blender but I always come back to my bullet. Compact, powerful and easy to clean.

2. Rice Cooker - Perfect rice, every time, without burning the bottom of your pan. (Yes, I do that.)

3: Immersion Blender - Great for blending soups & sauces right in the pan. Saves time and clean up.

4. Slow Cooker - Soups, stews, pot roasts, shredded braised beef... perfect for winter comfort foods and perfect for a busy work week. Put everything in the crock pot, turn it on before you head to work and dinner is ready when you get home!

5. Electric Tea Kettle - (Cordless is best!) I use mine at least once every day. It boils water in a minute or less. Great to have for a quick cup of tea before I head to work.

What are your favourite applicances?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

I never liked Tomato Soup until I tried it at Fix at Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was simply described as "Old School Tomato Soup" and was served with an "Aged Vermont Cheddar Grilled Cheese" sandwich. It was absolutely divine and it's a shame that it does not appear to be on the menu anymore. I have no idea what was in that soup but it made me a Tomato Soup fan from that day forward.

This recipe is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa.

Yields enough to fill two large soup bowls.

There are a lot of steps in this recipe but it doesn't make much more than an hour and the results are worth it! And as shown in step 7, you will also end up with about a cup of Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce to use over pasta for dinner! If you'd like more soup for your efforts, double the recipe.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tsp
1 red pepper, cored and cut into 4 large pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 firm Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp sucanat
2 tbsp tomato paste
large handful fresh basil, chopped (plus more basil leaves for garnish)
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp pinch salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup milk or cream (or any milk of your choice)

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Rub olive oil over both sides of red pepper pieces. Place peppers skin side up on a baking sheet. Roast in heated oven for 15-20 minutes until skins start to brown and blister. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. While peppers are cooling, heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and everything is very fragrant.

3. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

4. In the meantime, once peppers have cooled, remove the skins. They should come off easily with your fingers but if needed, use a knife to scrape the skin away. Chop peppers and Add peppers to soup pot.

5. Add stock, sucanat, tomato paste, fresh & dried basil, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes.

6. Remove pot from heat and blend well with an immersion blender. Ensure there are no large chunks remaining.

7. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the blended soup, a cup at a time, into the strainer. Use a spatula to move the soup around and force it through the strainer. Remove any pulp left in the strainer and spoon it into a bowl for use later. You've also made a nice Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce!

8. Once you have strained all the soup, pour it back into the soup pot. Add milk and stir well. Heat to a simmer before serving. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with more fresh basil.

Optional Garnish: These remove the "gluten free", "dairy free" and "vegan" designations assigned to this recipe, but if you are so inclined, garnish the soup with a handful of croutons or shredded Parmesan cheese. I also served my soup with a couple of Baked Zucchini Fries!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baked Zucchini Fries

When I saw this recipe for Baked Zucchini Fries, I knew I had to try it. I had just about 3/4 of a zucchini in my fridge that needed to be used pronto so this seemed like the perfect fix. If you are a fan of Zoo Sticks from White Spot, but not a fan of the heavy, deep fried, breaded coating, you will love these Zucchini Fries!

Serves 1-2 as an appetizer or side dish

1 medium zucchini, cut into thin sticks, about 2 1/2 inches long
1 egg white, beaten lightly
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (see here for tips on how to make your own)
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freeze dried parsley (or fresh chopped)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.

2. Pour egg white into a shallow bowl or plate.

3. Add breadcrumbs and seasonings to a second shallow bowl or plate. Mix well. Set the bowls and the baking pan side by side. (I worked right to left. The egg wash was on the right, the breadcrumbs in the middle and the baking pan on the left.)

4. Using your right hand, dip the zucchini sticks, two or three at a time, into the egg whites, turning to coat well. Still using your right hand, transfer the zucchini from the egg wash to the breadcrumbs. Now use your left hand to turn and coat the zucchini in breadcrumbs then place it on the baking sheet. This is Michael Smith's Wet Hand/Dry Hand method. Continue using this method until all the zucchini pieces are coated and placed on the baking sheet. Ensure they are in a single layer and spaced evenly.

5. Place baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Turn zucchini about half way through cooking.

6. Remove from oven and serve immediately with dip of your choice.

Dip suggestions: Marinara sauce, salsa, hot sauce, dijon mustard, ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Favourite Kitchen Tools - Part One: Gadgets

Being a kitchen cowgirl rather than an expert cook, I don't always use the right utensil for the job or use a utensil the way it is intended to be use. I do have a few favourites that I tend to stick with, no matter what I'm making. These are my go-to gadgets.

1. Silicone Locking Tongs - Heat resistant to 575 degrees F and extremely handy when cooking meat.

2. Silicon Spoon - My prefered tool for soups, sauces and stir fries.

3. Whiskie (Mini Whisk) - A silly, kitchy gadget but one I use ALL THE TIME. I love Whiskie! For eggs, sauces, dressings... you name it.

4. Microplane Grater/Zester - Grate hard cheese, nutmeg or chocolate and zest citrus with speed and ease.

5. Fine Mesh Strainer - Strain soups, sauces and rinse your quinoa. (Laura Calder has it on her list of top tools to have in a French kitchen!)

What are your favourite gadgets?

Thai Away - Meals in Minutes

I'm not usually one to purchase or promote pre-made, frozen meals but when I found Thai Away Meals in Minutes at IGA recently, I had to give it a try. I love Thai food, especially red curry.

Thai Away is a Vancouver based restaurant chain that also produces frozen prepared Thai entrees and sauces.

I bought and tried the Red Thai Curry with Chicken entree and the Yellow Thai Curry. It's meant to serve two. I am not kidding when I say this - it was absolutely FANTASTIC. The Red Thai curry contains fairly large chunks of chicken, butternut squash and Thai basil leaves. The package also includes a side of brown Jasmine rice. You simply boil a large pot of water and place the two frozen packages in the water for 10 minutes (or microwave). There are no preservatives. No MSG. Nothing you can't pronounce or recognize.

I will definitely be buying these frozen entrees again. They're absolutely perfect for an on-the-go or in-a-pinch meal.

See here for a list of other entrees available.

See here for a list of grocers that carry the Meals in Minutes products. Pretty well every IGA in the Lower Mainland is listed along with Wholefoods/Capers, Nestor's Markets and Choices.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Un-breaded Chicken Parmesan

Can you tell I bought a club pack of chicken last week? Every meal is chicken, chicken and more chicken.

Today I am in the mood for Italian. I love Chicken Parmesan but don't need the breaded, fried, fatty part of it in my diet. Thankfully, Giada saved the day!

I had to make some changes because I didn't have all the fresh herbs. I learned you can sub dried herbs for fresh on a 3:1 ratio. In other words, 1 tablespoon of fresh herb would equal 1 teaspoon of dried herb. But since my dried herbs aren't quite fresh, and dried herbs lose their potency with age, I did a 2:1 ratio (1/2 as much dried to fresh).

While this recipe only uses two chicken breasts, it could easily serve four people. Once the chicken is pounded out, the piece is quite large. I ate half a chicken breast and it was plenty... and the recipe ended up feeding me for two lunches and two dinners!

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis on Everyday Italian.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (If using fresh, use 1 tbps of whatever fresh Italian herbs you'd like. Giada uses parsley, thyme and rosemary.)
pinch sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups A Little More Than Five Minute Tomato Sauce or any simple tomato sauce you have on hand.
2 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Place chicken breasts between two pieces of waxed paper or in a large ziplock bag. Pound each chicken breast, using a mallet, to 1/4 inch thickness to create chicken cutlets. (If serving four, you may want to cut the chicken breasts in half before pounding.)

3. Add oil and herbs to a small bowl and stir together. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Heat an oven-proof skillet over high heat. Brush both sides of the flattened chicken with herb oil. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook 2 minutes per side, just to brown. Remove skillet from the heat. If you wanted to prepare this meal for a dinner party, you could do the first four steps earlier in the day, then complete the rest shortly before serving your meal.

5. Spoon tomato sauce over top of and around chicken. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of mozzarella and 2 teaspoons of Parmesan over each piece of chicken.

6. Bake in hot oven until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

7. Serve chicken over cooked pasta of your choice, topped with more warm tomato sauce.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Clean Strawberry Skillet Jam

I did a bad thing yesterday and left a colander full of fresh strawberries out all day and night. When I found them today they were pretty soft and starting to bruise in some spots. Not good enough to eat as is, passable in a smoothie but best in jam!

This skillet jam is a no-brainer. It doesn't take a large amount of fruit and takes no time at all to cook up a batch. Spoon it over toast, scones, or my favourite way, over top of ice cream.

The strawberries are so sweet on their own that a whole lot of added sugar isn't necessary. The apricot preserves add extra sweetness as well as act as a thickening agent. The vanilla is optional but it adds such great flavour and makes your kitchen smell fabulous. You don't want to skip the vanilla!

Yields about 1 1/2 cups

2 cups small diced strawberries
1 tbsp sucanat
1 tbsp low-cal apricot preserves
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Add diced strawberries to a saucepan. Using a potato masher or the back of a spoon, gently mash the strawberries a little bit to extract some juice.Add the sucanat and apricot preserves and stir well.

2. Cook mixture over medium-high heat, stirring often. When a liquid consistency is reached, add vanilla extract. Continue to mash up any large pieces using the back of a spoon or a small masher. Bring to a low boil and continue cooking jam for about 10 minutes until syrup thickens.

3. Remove from heat and let cool. It will continue to thicken as it cools. If you prefer a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to puree mixture, or leave as is for a chunky, rustic texture. I did a half & half and pulsed my mixture with the immersion blender a couple times, but kept some chunks as well.

4. Spoon into a glass jar or other container with a tight fitting lid. Jam keeps in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, but it probably won't last that long!

For a different flavour combination, substitute another flavour of preserves in place of apricot. Blackberry would be fantastic!

Use it over vanilla ice cream. Trust me. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Curried Lemongrass Chicken

The chicken marinade comes from Food & Wine Magazine. Their recipe calls for stir frying the chicken with a calorie rich caramel sauce. I can do without the excess sugar so I just went with the marinade portion of the recipe then stir fried the chicken with aromatics and vegetables. I served it over plain vermicelli noodles and topped it with left over Spicy Almond Dressing. The finished dish was very spicy. If you aren't into spice, omit the chili peppers where you see fit.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Thai chili pepper, cut in half & seeded
1 stalk of fresh or jarred lemongrass, cut in half and smashed (If using fresh, see here on how to prepare it. Follow directions on preparing for soup.)
1 tbsp mild curry powder
2 tbsp sucanat
1 tsp salt

1. Add everything, except chicken, to a shallow bowl and mix together well. Add chicken and toss to coat.

2. Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Stir Fry:

splash of cooking oil
1 piece lemongrass, minced
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 Thai chili, seeded and sliced thin
1/2 red onion, minced
marinated chicken, marinade discarded
1/2 medium zucchini, sliced thin then cut into quarters
1/2 large red pepper, diced

1. Add oil to a wok and heat over medium-high heat.

2. Add lemongrass, green onion, chili and onion and stir fry for a couple minutes.

3. Add chicken and stir fry until all sides of chicken are no longer pink. Place lid over wok and let chicken cook for about 5 minutes.

4. Add zucchini and red peppers. Stir everything together. Place lid back on the wok and cook for another 5-8 minutes until chicken is cooked through. (Internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees.)

5. Pour contents of wok over cooked rice or noodles. Top with fresh cilantro.

This recipe was featured on the front page of Tasty Kitchen on July 16, 2010!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clams Provencales

While in North Carolina, we had a huge seafood feast one night of blue crab, jumbo shrimp, fresh tuna and clams. I had the task of preparing the clams. Initially I thought we would have mussels as well so I planned to make my Moules Provencales. Unfortunately mussels aren't in season in the area we were visiting so we only had clams. I figured, why not use the Moules Provencales recipe on the clams?!

Clams Provencales turned out very well! The only difference in the recipe is that clams take longer to cook than mussels. They need 8-10 minutes of steaming before they open up. Some took even longer.

If you would like to make Clams or Mussels Provencales, check my post here!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tequila Lime Chicken

This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman. I used the marinade on chicken for Fajita Night while on vacation and my cousin declared they were the best fajitas she'd ever eaten! The marinade is a keeper and since I hate drinking Tequila I might as well cook with it!

Tequila Lime Chicken:

3 tbsp fresh lime juice (3-4 whole limes)
Zest of 1 lime
5 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
large handful fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Tequila
1/4 cup olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. Combine lime juice, zest, garlic, jalapeno, salt, cilantro, and tequila in a blender and pulse until all blended. Add olive oil and pulse again to combine.

2. Place chicken in a heavy-duty plastic zip lock bag and pound to an even thickness using a mallet. Pour marinade into bag and seal. Massage marinade into chicken breast. Place in fridge and marinate for a few hours, or overnight.

3. After marinating, remove chicken from bag and place on hot grill. Discard marinade. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

4. Slice chicken to use as fajita or taco meat or serve the whole breast, topped with grated Monterey Jack cheese and fresh salsa as the PW does.

I used my chicken for soft tacos! Fresh Pico De Gallo, sliced avocado and shredded Jack cheese.


Giveaway - Vega Shake & Go Smoothie

Marianne is having ANOTHER giveaway contest at her site.

This one is for Vega Shake & Go Smoothie.

I tried this stuff at the Wellness Show and it's darn tasty. It's also loaded with good stuff and would be a great breakfast on-the-go. I'm all about breakfast on-the-go! One serving contains: 2 servings of vegetables, 2500 mg of Omega 3-6-9,11 g complete, plant based protein (soy free), 1 billion probiotic cultures and only 100 – 120 calories. It comes in four flavours: Vanilla Almondilla, Bodacious Berry, Tropical Tango, or Choc-a-Lot.

If you'd like a chance to win a package of Vega Shake & Go Smoothie, go to Marianne's site here and leave a comment with the flavour you'd most like to try.

Good Luck!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Poached Chicken Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing

I'm back from Vacation and in need of a diet detox. Twelve days of pure indulgence: brisket, baked beans, crab, steak, bacon & eggs, pancakes, butter, chips, candy, pop, alcohol, FRIED PICKLES! It was heaven. Unfortunately, a week and a half of heaven is reflected on my scale this morning. No fear! A few weeks of clean, healthy cooking and I should be back on track. Fingers crossed. :)

This recipe is adapted from "The Eat Clean Diet - Recharged". It's Fresh, wholesome, filling and tasty.

Serves 2 lunch sized salads. For entree size, use one whole chicken breast per person.

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 Thai chili pepper, cut in half and seeded
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1. Add stock, ginger and chili to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add chicken and let cook for about 10 minutes until inside is no longer pink.

2. Remove chicken from stock. Place on cutting board and shred chicken using two forks or cut into thin slices. Set aside.

2 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp honey
1 Thai chili pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 cup stock used to cook chicken

1. Add all ingredients to a blender. Pulse until well combined.

1 x 3" section English cucumber, seeded and cut into matchsticks
1/2 medium carrot cut into matchsticks
2 green onion, sliced into 1" thick pieces
4 handfuls romaine lettuce, chopped
handful fresh cilantro
crushed peanuts or sliced almonds (optional)

1. Split romaine lettuce between two plates. Top each with half the cucumber, carrots and green onion.

2. Top each plate with half the shredded chicken. Drizzle with as much dressing as desired and sprinkle fresh cilantro and nuts over top of everything.

Cook extra chicken for left overs and use the left over chicken stock to make soup! Use the left over dressing over soba or vermicelli noodles, topped with veggies.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Vacation - A Pictorial

On Wednesday I will be spending the night here:

Thursday I will be flying here:

Friday I will be dining here:

It's owned by:


Saturday morning I will be driving to:

And staying here:

I'll be there till the following Saturday. I might go here:

But most of the time I'll be here:

Or here:

And I'm going to eat here:

Because it looks fun.

And I'm going to eat lots of:


And drink lots of:

While sitting on the:

See you in a couple weeks!

All photos from the 'net via Google Images.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Easy Tomato Bruschetta

Still working on using up all my perishables before I leave town. Today I have tomatoes and day old baguette. Perfect for Bruschetta!

Traditional Bruschetta (originating in Italy in the 15th century) is simply grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. It is also commonly topped with various vegetables, cured meats and cheeses. The version we are used to, using tomatoes, fresh herbs and cheese, is more a North Americanized version than a true Italian creation, but it's still really damn good! And... I just learned (or rather finally admitted), it's pronounced "brus-ketta" not "brush-etta" as I have been calling it for so many years.

1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced small (or roma tomatoes, seeded and diced small)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning (more if you feel sassy)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 loaf crusty french baguette, sliced
1 whole clove garlic, cut in half
fresh grated Parmesan
few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
balsamic vinegar for drizzling

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add tomatoes, olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Toss well to mix. Set aside for a few minutes for the flavours to blend together.

3. Rub a half garlic clove over each slice of bread and arrange on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle some olive oil over the bread. Top each slice with a spoonful or two of tomato mixture.

4. Sprinkle some basil on top of each slice, followed by some fresh Parmesan.

5. Bake in pre-heated oven for 5-8 minutes until bread is toasted and cheese is starting to melt. Serve immediately.

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