Saturday, July 24, 2010

On Vacation

I'm heading to the family cabin on Vancouver Island for the next week. I may or may not post recipes. I have nothing planned, cooking wise, but you never know what could happen.

Back in August!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Herb & Garlic Penne with Summer Squash

I picked up some local summer squash at the Farmer's Market last week - one yellow and one green. Perfect for a simple and yummy pasta dish. This is a 20 minute meal and can be made even faster if you pre-cook your pasta and pre-slice your zucchini.

Serves 4 (adjust pasta amount for more or less)

4-6 cups penne pasta, cooked & drained per package directions
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 large green zucchini, sliced very thin
1 large yellow zucchini, sliced very thin
3/4 cup shredded or fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (I used lemon basil, yum!)

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan over medium heat.

2. Add chili flakes, garlic and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

3. Stir in pasta. Add Parmesan and fresh herbs and mix together. Turn off heat and stir until pasta warmed through.

4. Season with salt and pepper. Top with more fresh herbs and Parmesan.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hibiscus Tea Smoothie

Hibiscus Tea is often referred to as the "Super flower" tea. It is said that Hibiscus Tea can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and, since it is rich in vitamin C, contribute to a healthy immune system. Sounds great, right? Only one problem. I can't stomach Hibiscus tea. The smell is too floral and overpowering so I have a very hard time getting it down. Instead I thought I would try to mask the strong scent by using the tea in a smoothie of frozen berries and yogurt.

Marianne has been looking for pure Hibiscus Tea all over Vancouver. I found mine while visiting the States (can't remember if it was in Palm Springs or North Carolina). If you have trouble finding Hibiscus Tea (or any other variety), check out The Republic of Tea.

Their Be Well Red Tea Collection is great; the Get Clean Tea for daily detox is my favourite. It's red rooibos based with milk thistle seed, sarsaparilla root, danelion root, chicory root and other things to help flush out your liver and kidneys. It's all natural and flavoured with a hint of vanilla and almond. Much tastier than drinking straight dandelion root tea!

Anyway, back to the Hibiscus Tea Smoothie...

Makes 1 large Smoothie

3/4 cup strongly brewed Hibiscus Tea, cooled slightly
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain or Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen berries (I used blueberries & strawberries this time. Raspberries are great too!)
1 tbsp ground flax seed or flax oil

1. Add everything to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Try Green Tea or other herbal teas in place of Hibiscus!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garlic Cheese Croûtons

Last week I bought a loaf of delicious artisan Garlic Cheese bread from A Bread Affair. This was my second loaf, and unlike the first that I gobbled up in three days, I could only finish half of this one before it started to dry out.

Marianne suggested that the Garlic Cheese loaf would make tasty croûtons so I stole her idea and made some for my soup.

Make sure you use day old, dried out bread, not stale bread! Stale bread will make stale croûtons! If you can't find an artisan style garlic cheese bread, use a crusty French or Italian bread and add a teaspoon or so of fresh minced garlic to the mix.

4-6 slices of day old crusty garlic cheese bread
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Coarsely chop bread into cubes about 1" square. Add to a large bowl.

3. Add Parmesan and parsley to bread in the bowl. Toss together.

4. Drizzle olive oil over everything and toss well to coat bread cubes.

5. Spread bread cubes in a single layer, on an ungreased baking sheet.

6. Bake in oven until crisp, about 20 minutes. This could take longer, depending on volume of pieces, size of cubes and density of bread. Keep an eye on your cubes and remove from oven just as they start to turn golden.

7. Set aside to cool. Store in container with tight fitting lid. Use within a week or so otherwise your croûtons will be stale!

Use on top of salads or soups. They are even tasty enough to eat on their own... although not recommended!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Healthy Eating Reference Books

Today I'd like to share with you all the books that forever changed the way I view food and the way I cook and eat. About two years ago I became far more conscious of where the food I eat was coming from, how it was produced and how it was affecting my body. You may have already seen (Food Inc.) or read (Skinny Bitch) some horror stories about the food industry. The four books listed below are different, in that they seek to educate, not scare.

1. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Johnny Bowden

This is the first book I bought and the book that had the most impact on my diet. It was recommended by Lori, who affectionately refers to it as her "food bible". Rather than tell me what not to eat and why everything is bad for me (think Skinny Bitch), The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth tells me what I should be eating to get the optimum health benefits from food. Written by acclaimed health expert Johnny Bowden, the book contains a plethora of interesting facts about the food you love and explains why it is so good for our bodies. Bowden even encourages the inclusion of dairy (raw milk!) and red meat in our diets (organic, grass fed, pasture raised, of course). He's also big on the use of spices and promotes the consumption of chocolate & red wine (in moderation)! Marianne was pleased to see Bowden promote the healthy consumption of eggs - the whole egg - yolk and all. Another interesting thing is that Bowden is one of the few mainstream health experts to speak out against canola oil, saying that "high-temperature processing increases trans-fats in canola oil". Instead he favours butter, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil. Modern vegetable oils do not make an appearance in his list. Thank goodness!

2. In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." And so begins Michael Pollan's look at how the food industry and the Western diet is killing us. He says food has turned into science. Low fat, low calorie, low carb, high fibre. The food industry is making a killing off diet trends and killing us in the process. Pollan refers to it as the American Paradox: "The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become". We are a society living off refined, processed foods full of preservatives, additives, fillers and very little nutrients. It's said that this is the first generation of children not expected to live longer than their parents. It's shocking and it's an eye opener - especially when you learn how little the Government intervenes in food manufacturing and how big business and corporate lobbyists control how our food is grown and produced. (The movie Food Inc. also discusses this but it's much more sensationalized.) Of course Pollan has an agenda of his own, but his message is worth consideration.

3. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith & James MacKinnon

From the book jacket: "When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born."

Endearing and enlightening, the tale of Alisa & James struck a cord for me. I watched every episode of "The 100 Mile Challenge" on the Food Network (a reality based documentary where Alisa & James recruited six families in Mission, B.C. to take on the 100 Mile Challenge) and really began to consider how important local eating really is to our health, our environment and our economy. The true 100 Mile Diet may not be practical for every day living (no wheat, no olive oil, no soy sauce!) but there are changes we can all make to incorporate some of the 100 Mile philosophy into our lives and our kitchens.

4. Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of ways to live to be 100 by Dr. Maoshing Ni

The author, Maoshing Ni is a world renowned doctor of Chinese medicine. Inspired by thousands of years of Chinese tradition Secrets of Longevity is full of wisdom and sage advise on diet, healing, exercise, relationships, and community. It's no surprise that some of the ancient secrets in the chapter on nutrition are echoed in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth and some of the other tidbits on healthy living are touted by doctors and health experts all over the world. It's a quick and enjoyable read.

Of course there are dozens more books out there with similar messages as these four, but these are the ones that have had the most impact on me. I'm always open to new and interesting reads, so please, if you have any suggestions, share in the comments.

P.S. For those of you who have read Skinny Bitch and are wondering why I picked on it a bit, I really, really disliked the message in the book. Maybe you connected with the message and you consider it a book that changed your life, like some of the ones above changed mine. I, on the other hand, found it to be totally misleading and actually detrimental to those looking to live a truly healthy, well balanced life style. For those that haven't read it, Skinny Bitch, in my opinion, is nothing more than vegan propaganda and fear mongering at its best. I agree there are compelling reasons to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but the arguments in Skinny Bitch do not help the cause.

P.S.S. All four books I posted are linked to their listing in the side bar under "Required Reading". Click and buy!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Favourite Kitchen Tools - Part Three: Cookware

My list of favourite kitchen items continues with... cookware! See Part One. See Part Two.

1. Cast Iron Fry Pan and Cast Iron Grill Pan - Sear on the stove and finish in the oven. Makes pretty grill marks when you don't feel like grilling outdoors. Easy to clean, in fact, barely any cleaning at all! Simply wipe out with a dry paper towel. For tough, baked on messes, use a paper towel soaked in vinegar. (This is up for debate, but occasionally, a very gentle cleaning with soap and water is okay in my books.)

2. Basket Steamer - Steams vegetables in no time at all without resorting to the microwave! I also like to use it when making mashed potatoes. Steamed potatoes mash nicer than boiled potatoes. Michael Smith told me so!

3. Dutch Oven - Stewing and braising with ease. Stove to oven to table is a breeze! Some may call this a French Oven - some being the French cookware company Le Creuset. There is absolutely no difference, and since I have Dutch heritage, I prefer the Dutch moniker. Although in France and the Netherlands I suspect they simply call this a "cocotte" or casserole dish. :)

4. All-Clad Sauté Pan - This was a gift from my mother last Christmas and I really don't know how I used to cook without it. A good quality sauté pan is a must! Large base, high sides, even heat distribution. A sauté pan IS NOT the same as a frying pan. And please - none of that non-stick nonsense. How are you supposed deglaze your pan and scrape up all those flavourful crunchy bits in a non-stick pan?

What are your favourite pieces of kitchen cookware?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ahi Tuna Asian Salad

It's left overs for lunch.

Top a big plate of lettuce and veggies with left over Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna pieces. Drizzle generously with the Sweet Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce (from the Ahi recipe). Sprinkle with crispy wonton pieces and mandarin orange segments. Add a dollop of Wasabi Mayo to the centre (to dip your Tuna into) and voila. Left over lunch perfection!

Yum yum!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

A lot of soup lately. I'm an odd bird; I like soup in hot weather. A big pot of soup doesn't take long to make and it lasts a few days, which means I don't have to cook as often when it's nice & warm outside.

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
1 large onion, chopped fine
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 cups chopped nugget potatoes (6-8 small)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
2 heads broccoli, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add chopped potato, bay leaf, oregano and broth. Bring to a boil quickly over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are completely tender, about 15 minutes. Add the broccoli and simmer until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup using an immersion blender. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve the piping hot soup in bowls, sprinkled with a tablespoon or more of cheddar cheese. Toss in a couple croûtons too!

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Sister's Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

My sister made this dish for my Dad's 60th Birthday Cocktail Party. I absolutely loved these delicious little tuna bites with two dipping sauces and I have been craving more ever since. On the way home from work tonight I stopped by the store, picked up a small piece of fresh Ahi and made my own version.

My two Ahi tuna pieces equaled just over 330 grams (approx 12 ounces). Very small indeed, but plenty to serve two for dinner. The recipe is based on the amount of fish I had. Adjust measurements up or down based on the size of your fish.

Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna:

2 small pieces fresh sushi grade Ahi tuna
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1/4 tsp Fleur de Sel with Wasabi (I used one made by The Cape Herb & Spice Company. It's available at IGA. My sister got her blend from Choices Market. If you can't find Fleur de Sel with Wasabi, try using a 1/2 tsp course sea salt with a small pinch of wasabi powder.)

1. Place sesame seeds and salt in a shallow bowl. Wet tuna lightly with water. Press both sides of tuna into the mixture to coat.

2a. Heat grill to high. Spray lightly with oil. Place coated Ahi pieces on hot grill and grill for 2 minutes per side.


2b. Heat small amount of oil in a pan over high heat. Place coated Ahi pieces in hot pan and sear for 2 minutes per side.

3. Place Ahi on a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a very sharp knife, slice Ahi into thin slices, going with the grain. If serving as a main dish, you could cut the pieces larger.

4. Serve with Wasabi Mayo and Sweet Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce. Can be served warm or cold.

Wasabi Mayo:

2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp wasabi paste
1/2 tsp wasabi powder

1. Mix together in a small bowl. Add more wasabi to taste.

My sister adds a dash each of green and yellow food colouring to get a nice "wasabi green" colour. I opted not to take this added step. Wasabi Mayo would taste great with an Ahi Tuna burger too!

Sweet Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce:

1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp finely chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Add everything to a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well until blended.

This would also make a good marinade or salad dressing!

This recipe was featured on the front page of Tasty Kitchen on July 15, 2010!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cream of Lettuce Soup

Cream of Lettuce? You got it. I saw Ricardo make this the other day on his show. He calls it "Choisy Soup". I Google'd high and low and could not find the origins of "Choisy Soup". As well, "choisy" in french is related to "choisir", meaning choose. Lettuce in French is "laitue". So I don't understand the name "Choisy Soup" and I don't know where it comes from. If anyone can advise, please leave a comment.

I decided to make this soup because I made a fatal error in shopping for one and bought a bulk bag of hearts of romaine. What am I going to do with THREE hearts of romaine lettuce? I can barely get through one let alone three! When I saw this odd soup, I thought it would be a good way to use up all that extra lettuce and soup is always nice this time of year, especially when it's vibrant green!

1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 cups milk
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups potatoes, diced
6 cups lettuce, coarsely chopped (I used Romaine)
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream for garnish, optional

1. Heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and onions and cook until onions are tender.

2. Add milk, broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

3. Add lettuce. You may have to do this a bit at a time to fit it all in. Lettuce will quickly reduce by half so you will have lots of room. Stir and continue to heat for a few minutes.

4. Pour soup into a blender and puree until smooth. You could also use an immersion blender in the soup pot. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the soup through the strainer, using a spatula to move the soup around the strainer and push it through. Add more salt and pepper as required.

5. Spoon strained soup into bowls. If you'd like, Add back a spoonful or two of the vegetable puree from the strainer. Garnish with sour cream and chopped chives. Can be served hot or cold. (The left over mush might make a nice quiche filling. Will have to investigate.)

Make it vegan by using olive oil instead of butter and non-dairy milk instead of milk.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Local Eating - Summer Foods

It's July! Summer has arrived in the Lower Mainland. After a dismal June and a chilly beginning to July, the sun is finally shining and it's HOT!

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

Vegetables: Beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage (savoy & red), carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard (swiss), corn, cucumbers, fennel bulbs, garlic, kale, lettuce, leeks, mustard greens, onions (green, red & yellow), peas, peppers, potatoes (red, russet, yellow, white), radishes, rhubarb (field), salad greens, shallots, spinach, squash (summer), tomatoes, turnips (white), zucchini

Fruit: Apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, nectarines, raspberries, rhubarb (field), Saskatoon berries, strawberries

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), salmon (Chinook/King/Spring/Pink/Sockeye), scallops, shrimp (side stripe, west coast), Spring dogfish, Tuna (Albacore)

Herbs: Basil, bay leaves, chives, cilantro, dill leaf, epazote, fennel leaf, garlic chives, lavender, lemon verbena, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory (summer & winter), shiso, sorrel, tarragon, thyme

Etc: Honey, mushrooms, nuts

Keep an eye out in your local grocery stores, or even better, hit up a weekly Farmers Market in your neighbourhood.

Today I went to the Port Coquitlam Farmers Market and stocked up on blueberries, raspberries, onions and bell peppers!

More recipes coming soon-ish.

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