Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘garlic’

Souveggie

Well I couldn’t exactly call it “fake souvlaki” because it just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Being originally from Montreal, I am no stranger to a good souvlaki.  We have a large Greek community there with lots of wonderful restaurants with vibrant flavours like garlic, lemon and mint.    One of my favorites is what we simply refer to as “souvlaki pita”.  Which usually consists of some sort of grilled meat that has been marinated in above flavours, rolled up in a pita bread with tomato, onion, lettuce and a choice of various sauces, usually tzatziki sauce or a tahini based dressing.  Wrapped in a tinfoil wrapper and you are good to go!

So last night, on the second to last day of the Vegan Challenge, I thought I would try and make a Vegan equivalent to the much-loved favorite.

I started by marinating some strips of tofu in the same flavours the meat would usually be in.

  • lemon juice
  • oregano
  • chopped garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

And let that hang out in the fridge for awhile.

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Then for some extra filling I decided to grill some egg plant as well, which I cut into thin slices and brushed with a little olive oil and then sprinkled with crushed garlic, oregano and some S & P.

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Then I made up a nice tahini dressing of:

  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • crushed garlic
  • dried mint
  • S & P

Don’t be alarmed that the tahini just seems to seize up when you add lemon juice to it.   Just add a few drops of warm water to thin it out to the consistency that you’d like.

Pop your tofu and eggplant in a 450 degree oven  and keep an eye on them until they look done.

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Meanwhile on the side I made up a nice fresh salad of:

  • mixed greens
  • shaved cucumber
  • shaved fennel
  • mixed olives
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a splash of red wine vinegar
  • a sprinkle of oregano
  • a slosh of olive oil
  • S & P

Toss well and serve on the side, although it actually goes very nicely on the sandwich too.

So when you are ready, lay out your pita ( slightly warmed or not)  lay down a few strips of cooked tofu then top with the eggplant.

Drizzle on the tahini dressing and sprinkle with chopped red onion, chopped tomato ( not shown here) and some chopped parsley if you have it.

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Sure, it doesn’t even pretend to taste like chicken, but all of the flavours were there and it was perfectly agreeable!

Even the Chef thought so!

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Different Salads

I suppose a staple of the Vegan diet is salads.

All shapes, sizes and colours.

To be honest, you can pretty much chop up anything, put on a little dressing and call it a “salad” these days!  And why not?

One of my favorite meals, Vegan or not, is what I call my “Mediterranean plates” where I just make a bunch of flavorful piles of stuff that go nicely together.

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Here’s tonight’s group:

First I got started with a nice batch of roasted yams and roasted cauliflower.

Get them started.

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Then I went to a white bean and kale with lemon salad:

In a glass or ceramic bowl add:

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon ( but zest it first and put aside)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 large handful of chopped green kale ( hard stems out)

Mix the kale down into the lemon juice and cover well and let sit in the acid until it gets a little wilted.

Then drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add to the bowl.

Then add:

  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh chopped sage
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a pinch more salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

Mix thoroughly, top with the lemon zest and set aside to rest while you perform your other duties.

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Next we have a nice Cous Cous salad.

Again, in a glass or ceramic bowl ( but preferably with a seal-able lid) start with your dressing on the bottom.   I just used more lemon juice, a little olive oil and some fresh herbs.

Then to the bowl I added some left over grilled vegetables, peppers, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini.   If you don’t have any grilled veg and don’t feel like making any, raw ones would work just fine too but try and keep them of the more delicate nature, not hard things like raw carrots.

Toss these in the dressing.

Meanwhile and this is just something I do for added flavour, but by no means essential……

I like to dry toast the couscous in the bottom of a heavy pot or fry pan till they get just a little bit brownish.

Then toss the DRY couscous in with the vegs and dressing and toss them in well.

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Then pour boiling water over the whole thing ( amount according to couscous directions) and then seal the bowl with a lid or place a plate on top and let stand for about 10 minutes.

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Then I whipped up a nice little Tahini sauce to pour over things:

  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • water as needed

Stir this all up in a bowl adding water as needed to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Tahini tends to cease up when you mix it with other things, so you may have to keep adding water for a bit.

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So now with our yams and cauliflower roasted.

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Our couscous absorbed and fluffed.

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Our beans and kale marinated.

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We are ready to put it all together!

Maybe drop a few spinach leaves or mixed greens on the bottom to “green ” it up a little and then pile on the good stuff!   And drizzle with a bit of tahini sauce!

Yummy Vegan Salad night!!

Or anytime really!   In fact this combo cold the next day made a great work lunch!

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Oh and …….note use of home-made bun now as toasted garlic bread!!!

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Vegan Challenge-Week 1 check in

Well…… I’ve DONE it!!  One whole week with not a hit of animal product past my lips! As suspected, it really hasn’t been that hard because we already enjoy many vegan dishes a week, so it’s not like it feels all “weird” to be eating the things we do, it’s just the every meal aspect of it and of course the cow milk in my tea! Oh and much to my dismay, discovered that most, readily available, chocolate products all seem to contain dairy!!

So what have I been eating you ask?

vegetables II

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On the first night I whipped up a little “Spicy Tofu with vegetables and noodles”.

Start a little before and marinade the tofu for maximum flavour.

Marinade:

  • 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 inch knob of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp sweetener of your choice – I used brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy  or Bragg sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

I whizzed it all up in my mini chopper but if you do your mincing and crushing by hand, just mix it all in a bowl.

Meanwhile, chop up a block of firm tofu into 1 inch cubes.  I put them directly into a glass baking dish in one layer and then pour the marinate all over them and make sure they are evenly coated.

Let sit for at LEAST half hour, but the longer the better.

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When you are ready to eat, assemble your goods.

So now like any “stir fry” type thing, feel free to use what ever vegetables you enjoy but this is what I used:

  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 4 medium size cremini mushrooms cut into fours
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 1 large handful of baby spinach with a rough chopped

Meanwhile:

Put on a pot of water to boil for the noodles.

I was surprised to find out that “Catelli Multigrain” noodles are in fact vegan.  I use these most of the time anyway but had never registered that they were egg free before because it wasn’t a priority, but good to know.

Then while the water is boiling, you might as well prepare a little garnish to go on top.

I chopped up a couple of green onions and made some carrot juliennes ( match stick size) with my new julien peeler ( I’ll show you that another time)

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Okay, let’s get started.

Firstly, in a large skillet or wok,  you want to pan fry your marinated tofu ( adding the marinade in a little at a time till it cooks down)  in a little neutral oil, till it gets  a little crispy on each side, just to give it some texture and the marinade makes a bit of a gooey sauce.

Then remove from the pan and keep warm in a heat safe container.

Add a little more oil and then toss in your vegetables.

Put you noodles in the boiling water and give a little stir.

Keep tossing the veg around until the cabbage starts to get nice and wilted.

Once the noodles are done, drain quickly and keep a bit of the cooking water.  Then toss the noodles into the pan with the veggies and toss them together.

Turn off the heat.

Give them a generous shot of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and then keep tossing it everybody is well acquainted.

Place into your favorite bowl,  spoon on a helping of tofu, then top with the green onions,  carrot sticks and a sprinkle more sesame seeds.

Voila!  Vegan!

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Cockle Warmer

Well we all knew it would happen sooner or later, that the weather would turn on us! I hope not as bad for you as it has been for some!

Now that we have changed the clocks back to standard time here in North America,  it is time to turn to our comfort food.

The “Cockle Warmers” if you will.

Here’s a little impromptu dish I whipped up for a dreary night.

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I started with the base of my “Butter Chicken” recipe but went the lazy route.

Here is what you will need:

  • boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 inch minced fresh ginger

Start by browning the chicken is a deep skillet.  When the chicken is no longer pink, toss in the onions, garlic and ginger and keep stirring around till everything is looking a bit “sweaty”.

Now I just happened to have some grape tomatoes that were about on their last days so I tossed them in.   But you could use any chopped or canned tomato if you like.

Keep cooking till the tomatoes get a bit wrinkly looking.

Then add your spices.  Curry type dishes can be very personal from heat to intensity.   I hate to admit but I really have no rhyme nor reason to my combos.  I have a big drawer full of old pickled artichoke jars that I fill with my herbs and spices.  I open the drawer and see what takes me.   On this occasion I added, more or less a “good sprinkle of”:

  • cumin
  • coriander
  • chili flakes
  • turmeric
  • commercial curry powder
  • smokie paprika
  • garam masala
  • salt & pepper

Sprinkle all of those over the chicken and then stir in thoroughly till you can smell them.

Then add about 1/2 cup or more of cream.

Stir that in well and then cover and let simmer for at least 10 minutes till the flavours get good and acquainted.

You COULD stop here.

But I also happened to have some left over chick peas in the fridge that I tossed in and then some nice kale that I chopped up and added in at the last minute.

Put the lid back on for a few minutes until the chick peas heat and the kale wilts.

Then you are good to go!   Just add it to some rice or your favorite grain.

Or in my house, we even put this sort of thing on pasta!

I quickly whipped up a little cucumber salad to have something fresh along with it.

Finely slice either by hand or on a mandolin slicer some:

  • Cucumber
  • red bell pepper
  • red onion

Toss them in a little rice wine vinegar with a drizzle of something sweet, sugar, honey, agave etc and a little salt and pepper.    Let the vegetables sit in this for a little before serving.   But I like to leave as much of the liquid behind when serving.

And there you have a quick Wednesday night type dinner that was very easy and you can hide all sorts of good for you things in there!!

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Spooky Dip

Okay, so maybe it isn’t THAT spooky, but it IS made with orange and black food!  So I think that counts!

I started by do up a batch of my Roasted Yams but instead of adding my favorite poultry spice to them, I used pumpkin pie spice instead!  And a bit of chili flakes and cumin.

Meanwhile in the food processor, finely squish 1 -2 cloves of fresh garlic.  Then add some rinsed black beans and whiz those up together.

Then I added about a 1/4 cup of plain pumpkin seeds for a little texture and whizzed those in too.

Then the roasted yams.

Whiz them all up till they are mostly creamy with just a bit of chunky bits.

I realized that I have a similar thing I made, only here I just boiled the yams instead of baking them.   Yam Hummus, either way is good.

Now if you are thinking that this spooky dip is kind of light for having black beans in it, you are very observant.

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t actually USE the black beans!  I had some left over in a container in the fridge that I thought were fine, but even after rinsing thoroughly, they were still pretty stanky!!  So I had to open a can of chick peas instead!

So please use caution when using leftovers!  That could put a whole new meaning in Spooky Dip!

Arugula Salad as nature intended

Finally I have harvested something to eat from The Balcony Garden!

I wish you had “taste – O – vision” because this truly was just divine!

I gently trimmed the supple leaves from their base, gave them a quick wash just to remove any “bug spit” then on to the plate!

I whipped up the perfect little dressing that consisted of:

  • 1 clove of fresh garlic finely minced
  • the juice and zest of one lemon
  • olive oil x twice the juice
  • salt & pepper

Whisk that up and lovingly spoon and drizzle over the precious arugula.

Then add a few shavings of some good quality parmesan cheese.

Heavenly I tell you!  Just heavenly!

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he young fresh arugulas are almost sweet, not even a hint of what can usually be a bit of a bitter  bite!  Say THAT three times quickly!

The Joy of the Blog

So what’s the best part of being in the blog world?   Getting to read all the wonderful stuff out there.

It’s fine to sit and write about stuff yourself, but I think it is WAY more fun to read about and try other people’s stuff!

But how do you FIND other stuff?  Well, I didn’t get it at first, but then I caught on.  When people read YOUR stuff……and goodness only knows how they came upon it………but then they hit the “LIKE” button or better yet, they leave a comment, then you see them there.

And then you get curious as to just WHO is reading your stuff…..so you hit the link to them and get to their blog…..then you check out their stuff.  

And around and around it goes!   It’s fascinating really!  It’s  like having friends all over the world who share your interests or turn you on to stuff you never knew about!

So it happened the other day that someone from the blog                         

HEALTHY MODERATION  said that she liked one of my posts, so of course I went to visit her!

And she is a girl after my own heart who enjoys the Lebanese food and has posted some lovely recipes. 

I found one that I had never heard of called Mjadara that I just HAD to try!

Most Lebanese food that I am familiar with has big strong flavours from spices or garlic and lemon but this dish is very gentle and mild, very comforting and hearty.

Actually it reminds me of a Lebanese version of an Ayurvedic ( ancient  Hindu system of traditional medicine) dish called Khichdi, an East Indian rice and lentil comfort food dish.  But it is also used in healing.  People with maladies would eat nothing but this, or be on a “khichdi fast” because it is so gentle it helps to restore health.

But then she paired the Mjadara with Cabbage Salad with Mint and Garlic which added such a  fresh and wonderful balance to the dish.   Truly delightful!

And the best part is, I stumped The Chef!  He had never had either of these dishes before and found himself quite pleased by them.

So may I suggest that next time you are reading a blog, even this blog, to go to the bottom and see who “Liked” it or made a comment and go and visit their blog.   You will be AMAZED where you can find yourself!

At the very least you could find yourself with a great idea for dinner tonight!!

Mjadara and cabbage salad

Mediterranean pasta salad

What with Bar B Q season upon us, we always need to come up with new things to make or bring.  Chances are that over the summer you essentially keep seeing the same ten people in different combinations and locations, so you need to keep straight what you brought to which party so you don’t become THAT person who ALWAYS brings the same thing every time!!

So here’s a dish you can add to your repertoire.

Start by boiling up a pot of the pasta of your choice.  But keep it in the short variety family, rotini, macaroni, fussili, rigatoni etc.

I happened to find something called “Scoobie Doos“!  They are a funky twisted, ribbed macaroni and seem to work perfectly for this kind of dish.

Now if you read my stuff regularly you know I am a great fan of “what ever you have” for most dishes, so I’m just letting you know what I used on this particular occasion, but please feel free to add, omit or substitute.

  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes ( finely chopped)
  • 6 -10 kalamata olives ( pitted and chopped)
  • 1/2 small bulb of fennel ( finely sliced)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Mix all of that up at the bottom of a large mixing bowl.

Then for the “dressing” chop up in a mini chopper or food processor:

  • 2 -3 ( or more depending on relationship with guests) cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 pieces of kale ( leafy bits only) – you KNOW how I love to hide kale in things!
  • juice of one lemon
  • fresh herbs if you have them, oregano, basil, parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Whiz this up to a nice paste, add a bit more olive oil if needed.

Add this to the bottom of the mixing bowl and mix well in with the other elements.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the mixing bowl and toss.   The heat from the pasta with loosen up the other stuff and help it stick to the pasta.

Mix REALLY well because you don’t want globs of the “dressing” stuck at the bottom.

I like to make this at least a couple of hours ahead so all the flavours have time to get acquainted before serving.

Just before you are leaving for the party, or serving at your own place, transfer everything to a more decorative or service friendly dish.   And then top with:

  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • some more lemon zest
  • basil leaves
  • chopped fennel fronds ( green feathery stuff on top of fennel)
  • a grind or two of fresh pepper

And you are in business!

Fattoush Salad

                  When I lived in Montreal, one of my favorite things to eat was Lebanese food.  I have travelled far and wide ( well not to Lebanon but….) and have lived in many cities but have never tasted any Lebanese food as good as they seem to have there.   Not to say that other cities don’t have great Lebanese places too……it’s just that I’ve yet to find them.

                   So to round-up “Salad Week” I thought I would make a Lebanese “style” Fattoush Salad.  I say “style” cause this one isn’t the real deal, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice!

Fattoush Salad

                   A traditional Fattoush is made with the  spice, Sumac.   I neither had, nor care for Sumac so I did not include it in this recipe.  But feel free to try it out for yourself, or use it if you already know you enjoy it.

So we are going to start with some nice pita bread.   I had nice thick ones so I split them length wise to have more.   Brush them with olive oil ( and this is where you would sprinkle on some Sumac) and then I sprinkled smokie paprika just to give a little colour and then toasted them in the oven at 350 degrees till they are nice and toastie.   Remove and let cool.

oil and toast pita bread

So then for the salad in no particular order chop and add to a large bowl:

  • romaine lettuce
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • green onion
  • flat leaf Italian parsley
  • water cress ( except I didn’t have any so I didn’t use)

Toss those together well.

For the dressing:

  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 cup ( or what ever double the juice is) of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp of Sumac ( if you are using)

Shake it all up and pour it all over the salad and then mix well.

Then take the toasted pita and crack up into random pieces and toss that into the salad.

Let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the flavours can soak in to and soften up the pita just a little bit.

There we have it.  Serve up with some shish taouk or Shawarma.   Yum YUm.

Let me know if you have a great Lebanese restaurant in your town so I’ll be sure to check it out if I am ever round there!

Left overs salad

I think sometimes people get hung up on what food is supposed to “look like”.

As in they think that there are some kind of rules about what something is, just because you call it something.

Example, salad.

When you say “salad” what immediately comes to mind?  Some kind of lettuce, few chopped carrots or cucumbers, maybe some sliced radish for colour……..

Or maybe you go to chunky potato salad with the obligatory cup of mayonnaise?

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of those, but sometimes it is okay to get out of the box.

Came home and needed something to eat.  What to do?

Well, I had some slightly old baguette so I chopped that up into bite size squares and tossed it with some chopped garlic, chopped rosemary and some olive oil.   Then on to a tray and into the oven to crisp up.

What next?

I had a romaine lettuce so I washed it and chopped it up and dried it well.

In the bottom of the bowl that I tossed the croutons in, there was some of the oil, garlic and rosemary left, so I used the same bowl and made a little dressing.

Mostly, it was a Caesar dressing only minus the raw egg and anchovy:

  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp Keen’s hot mustard ( or Dijon)
  • a few shots of Worcestershire sauce
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a couple of twirls of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

whisk that up at the bottom of the bowl.

Then add the Romain lettuce and toss with the dressing.   Then add a few handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

But is that it?  No no no……let’s see what we have in the fridge??

Well, how about some left over roasted cauliflower?  Why not?

I just tossed it into a saute pan for a couple of minutes to take the extreme cold off of it and mellow the flavour a bit.

What else do we have?  Oh, here is some left over South West salad, let’s toss that in too!

All right then, I think we are in business!

We have the lettuce tossed in dressing with cheese, then cauliflower and then the bean salad.  Last but not least, the croutons and toss well and serve!

Perfect any night “Salad”!

What have you got in YOUR fridge that you can call salad?

“Left Overs” salad

Salad Wraps

I love, love, love these!

They are easy, tasty and another favorite way of hiding the veggies!

So what you will need for wraps:

  • rice paper
  • mixed greens salad mix or other lettuce
  • cilantro leaves
  • veg cut into strips   ( your choice is endless)

Some choices being:

  • cucumber
  • peppers
  • zucchini
  • carrot
  • jicama
  • basically anything you can cut into a strip
Prepare all of your vegetables before you start.  Then place everything out ready for assembly.
Get a flat, big enough to hold the wrapper, sized bowl of warm water, a cutting board with a clean tea towel on it.
Dip the wrapper in the water for a few seconds till it goes limp.   Practice makes perfect on this.
Lay it out on the the tea towel and line the middle with salad greens then top with your favorite veg.  Being careful not to stuff them too much that you can’t roll them.
Feel free to sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts or sesame seeds or the like.  And the cilantro leaves.
Then roll them up like you would a burrito.  Fold over covering the filling, then sides in, then roll.

Meanwhile………..and this is only a suggestion.  Feel free to use the dipping sauce of your choice…….there are many!

For sauce:

  • 1/2 cup raw soaked cashews  or 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cilantro
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy or Bragg sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes

Whiz this up in the food processor.  Add a little water if it is too thick whiz again.  Repeat till you get the consistency you like.

These make a great snack or lunch or make a bunch ( smaller size ones) and they make a great party snack!

Salad rolls with dipping sauce

Veg Pate

For YEARS I have been trying to score a good recipe for Veggie Pate.

But until now have always been unsuccessful!  I have actually only tried a few because most seem to have some key ingredient that I find objectionable, like too much flour or too much white potato or something or other so I don’t even bother.  Or the ones I have made, have been……okay…..but doesn’t taste like “the one”.

Years ago I went to this bridal shower / stagette type event.  The Bride was a vegan so all of the food could accommodate her.  Actually she and her husband to be were both vegans and so the wedding reception was completely vegan too.  This was quite some time ago, so back in the day something like that was considered quite avant-garde!

But back to the shower.  That was the first time I had ever tasted veggie pate of any kind.  And as someone who LOVES stuff that you can put on bread or crackers, I was very intrigued and delighted.  I didn’t care necessarily that it was vegan or vegetarian or whatever, I just thought that it tasted great!

I had asked the lady who made it if she might give me the recipe and she very pleasantly said “sure, sure……..” but to this day have never got it out of her.  I hear from others that she is very protective of that recipe because it is her “signature” dish!

Well finally I found a recipe that works !  And tastes VERY close to that one I tasted so long ago! 

( click here ) for that recipe.

The only changes I made was that I used rice flour ( cause that’s all I had that wasn’t wheat) AND I added a tbsp of poultry spice because I love that stuff.  Other wise I followed it exactly and it came out perfect!

I have frozen some to eat later.  I will let you know how it holds up.

Citrus Chicken

As I have mentioned many a time before, I am allergic to shell-fish and for that reason I avoid most Asian style restaurants because the abundance of shell-fish is just too high risk.

But this doesn’t mean to say that I don’t LOVE some of the foods one might get there.  Before “the trouble” ( because I wasn’t always allergic) I used to frequent many a Chinese buffet!

One thing I particularly miss is Lemon Chicken.

So today I thought I’d try my own version, only without the crispy batter of course.

Here is what you will need:

  • boneless skinless chicken breast cut in bite size cubes
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • aprox 1 inch minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 orange pepper in thin slices
  • juice of half a fresh orange
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
  • 1/4 water or stock

In a hot skillet, add about 1 tbsp of oil and then brown the chicken.   Then add the garlic and ginger, toss well and cook till they are well sweated.

Then add all of the other ingredients, mix well and bring up to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, it can be ready but the sauce will be thin.   OR you can do like real Chinese food and add some cornstarch to thicken it up and give it that glossy look.

Put 1 tbsp of cornstarch in about 3 tbsp of water and mix into a thin paste, then add to the chicken dish and mix in well.  It should take a short time for it to thicken up.

Then it is ready to serve.  Top with some green onion and maybe some toasted cashews?

Citrus Chicken

Bread in a pot

I had some bad news over the weekend.

And what’s the best thing to do when you get bad news?  Well, make bread of course!

I saw this technique while I was “stumbling” on the internet recently and thought “Hmm…that looks interesting” and believe me, it IS!!

The original recipe  Click Here

I followed the instructions exactly as they are written, no adding my own little this or that!  Except for the additional flavours, instead of any of her choices I used fresh chopped cilantro, lemon zest and dried garlic, cause that’s why I happened to have around.

I was also THRILLED to finally find a use for this cast iron dutch oven I have.  I had bought it a couple of years ago because I thought I was going camping……but as it turned out……I didn’t…..and actually have never been camping!  But I had this pot, which I like, but I don’t know if you know this but you can’t really cook things with tomato in plain cast iron.  Something to do with a reaction of the two that causes some unpleasant taste, and seeing as I envisioned it as my “chili pot”…..well…..it didn’t work out and it has been sitting on the shelf waiting to be used.

Well this was the pot’s chance to shine!!

So, like I said, I followed everything exactly.  Prepared the dough late in the  afternoon, and let it sit over night and then baked it in the morning.

I swear, I really DID try to let it cool!!

But the smell was too overwhelming.  It took all our strength to not gobble down the whole loaf!  Warm and soft on the inside and golden crispy on the outside.  Few pats of delicious butter………it was heavenly!

And just what you need when you are feeling a bit sad!

And then it made great toast the next day and even better croutons for the Caesar Salad!

Decidedly Mediterranean

All right, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately!

Sometimes I just can’t get enough of it.  Luckily the Mediterranean covers a large choice of things to eat, but the one thing they all have in common is a lot of flavour!

So someone asked me if I’d ever made Imam Bayildi”  which apparently translated means “the Iman fainted”, I guess cause it is supposed to be THAT good!  But I had to admit  that I’d never heard of.

Needless to say I looked it up and felt the need to try and make it myself.

So this is what I came up with that is loosely based on most of the recipes I came across.

Basically it is an eggplant stuffed with other vegetables.  But I felt the need to bulk it up a little and use it as a more substantial main dish.  So I added some bulgur wheat to it.

Bulgar is quite easy to make, just put about 1/2 to 1 cup dry Bulgar ( depending on how much you need, it expands a lot!) into a heat safe bowl.

Pour boiling water over it, enough to cover it and then swim a little.   Then cover it with a plate or something like that and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.

Then when all the liquid is sucked up and the bulgur is all puffed up, you are ready to use it!

Meanwhile, get a nice size eggplant, or a few small ones, depending on if you are making it as a main dish or side dish.   Wash them, pat dry and remove the green bits off the stem.  Then slice them in half and place them in a shallow baking dish.  Put in the over at about 375 for about 15 minutes.   But keep a close eye on them.  You don’t want to cook them fully, just enough so that the innards are soft enough to remove easily.

On top of the stove, in a large skillet add:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 red and/or green pepper diced
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 3 coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes ( with juicy bits from inside)

Start with the onions and peppers and cook till softened.

By now your eggplant should be done enough, so remove it from oven and give it a minute or two till you can handle it without pain.

Scoop out the innards and chop it up well and add it to the pan with the onions and peppers.  Set the shells aside waiting to be stuffed.

Then add the tomato and let all of that cook till it is well acquainted.

Then add:

  • a tsp of ground cinnamon (gives it that Mediterranean flare!)
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • a good handful of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

At this point you have more or less the traditional filling, but now is when I added about 3/4 of a cup of the cooked bulgur wheat and mixed thoroughly.

Now you are ready to stuff your eggplants.   Spoon in generous amounts of the filling and pack it in there.  Everything is basically already cooked so we will just be essentially re-heating.

The real recipes don’t call for it, but you could add a bit of bread crumbs on top, or like what I did with a bit of grated parmesan cheese, just to give it a bit of a crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes till everything is nice and warm and serve with the side dishes of your choice. And a little drizzle of good olive oil to make it particularly Mediterranean!

Stuffed eggplant

Tonight I just made some lemon and herb brown rice pilaf to go with it.  The other thing that would go nicely with this and which I had toasted and waiting on the counter but simply forgot to add, would be some pine nuts.   The would definitely add to the “decidedly” Mediterranean taste!

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Lamb and lentil stew

We get good lamb around these parts.

It is my feeling that if you are going to eat meat, then you need to at least eat the best quality of products.  From farms that treat the animals ethically and under the best circumstances.

And I am also of the feeling that you can eat meat, without having to eat a LOT of meat.

This lamb and lentil stew is a perfect example of that.

I started with a fairly small amount of meat, about a pound, cut into bite size chunks and brown them in your Dutch oven in a little olive oil.

Once well browned, all a large onion coarsely sliced and or chopped so that you have nice big pieces.

Stir those in with the lamb meat.  Cook until then are wilted down and even a little brown is okay because it adds flavour.

Then add about a cup of rinsed green lentils and stir them into the mix.

Now add the flavouring.  This is what I used, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • 2-3 minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smokey paprika
  • six dried dates finely chopped

Add all of these and mix in well.  Then add:

  • one can of tomato paste

Stir in to coat everything well.

Then add about 4 cups of water or stock of your choice.

Stir well and then put on high and cover till it comes up to the boil.  Then turn down to a low simmer.

The longer you can leave it the better, but keep checking it and adding more liquid if you need it.   Cook until the lentils are tender and you have a nice thick sauce.

We had it on a bed of couscous.

Very comforting.

Baba ghanoush

Or eggplant dip.

I love most food that originates from the Mediterranean.  

A friend and I were at a local Mediterranean eatery the other night and we started with an appetizer platter that contained baba ghanoush and then I remembered just how much I enjoyed it and thought I best try to make some at home!

Start with an eggplant, wash it and put it on a baking sheet and then poke it with a fork all over.   This is so when it bakes the steam will escape and it won’t explode in the oven!!

poke eggplant with fork

Ideally, the best way to make this is on the bar b que or if you have a gas stove, on the open flame.  You are supposed to char the outside first and then bake it till it’s cooked in the middle.

But if you can’t char it, just bake it in the oven at about 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the food processor, whiz up:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3-4 table spoons of tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper

And then my personal secret ingredient 1 tsp of smokey paprika

Then when the eggplant is baked and let to cool enough to handle, cut it down the middle and scoop out the innards into the food processor and whiz it all up.

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped parsley.

Eat alone with crackers or as part of your own Mediterranean appetizer platter!

Mediterranean appetizer plate

Add baba ghanoush to a plate with tzatziki, feta cheese,  roasted cauliflower, domalas and pita for dipping.

Sesame chicken and asparagus pasta

Here is another quick mid-week easy dinner for you!

Here’s what you will need:

  • skinless boneless chicken in bite size bits
  • asparagus cut into 1 inch bits
  • pasta of your choice ( rotini or penne work best for this)

For the sauce:

  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy or Bragg sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil ( or other neutral oil)
  • 2 tbsp tahini ( sesame paste)
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 tsp crushed chili ( more if you like)
  • 1/4 cup of water or stock

Then I whizzed it up in the mini hand blender.  If you don’t have a blender make sure you mince the garlic and ginger SUPER fine!

So boil the water for the pasta.

In a large skillet saute the chicken parts in a bit of oil. 

Saute chicken

Cook thoroughly, because this is the only time it is being cooked.   Once the chicken is done add the asparagus and about 1/4 of the sauce, just enough to coat the chicken and asparagus and help steam it a bit.  Put on the lid.

Meanwhile, boil and drain the pasta.

Then toss pasta into pan with chicken and asparagus and the rest of the sauce.  Toss well and let it all heat up nicely.

Serve immediately topped with toasted sesame seeds and some chopped green onion if you have it.

Sesame chicken and asparagus pasta

Kale crackers

I was standing around in the grocery store yesterday and was fed up with the price of “good for you” type crackers.

It’s a shame really how the “real” food is so expensive while the sugar leden nutient free stuff is so cheap!  And you wonder why people are so ill…….don’t get me started!

Anyway, I refused to waste money on any of them because I know I can make something WAY better for you and I know exactly what is in them!

As you may have gathered by now, I am a huge fan of kale and like to use it anywhere I can!

Oddly I had some in the fridge that was just about to expire ( weird cause usually it gets used before!).  So I tore up about two big leaves worth and put them into the food processor, with 2 cloves of fresh garlic and 3 green onions ( the whole thing).

I whizzed that up till they were all chopped down to a nice green paste.

Chopped kale

Then it was pretty much a case of the usual cleaning out of the pantry style I seem to enjoy.

I got out the mini coffee grinder and buzzed up a few of my own “flours” out of a few things.  So the measurement would be “one coffee grinder full” but let’s say 1/2 cup just for argument’s sake.

Ground lentils

So 1/2 cup of:

  • ground red lentils
  • ground oat flakes
  • ground flax seeds
  • whole flax seeds
  • corn flour

Then whiz that up.

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • few grinds fresh black pepper

Grind that up and check the consistency.  Mine was still a bit loose so I added about 1/4 cup of water and blended again.  You want it to be the consistency of a nice thick paste.

Cracker dough

Then turn it out onto a baking tray lined with parchment ( I had enough for two trays worth ).

You can use a spatula to spread it out thinly although for some reason it was particularly sticky today so I covered it with another layer of parchment paper and took the rolling-pin to it.

Roll out dough

Peel off the paper, clean up the edges and then score it into what ever shapes you’d like.

I just did boring squares.

You can then top them with some very coarse salt of your liking…….or not.

Score the cracker dough

Then put them in the oven at a low temperature no more than 300 degrees but 250 or even 200 would be fine.  Because it is almost as though we are drying them rather than baking them.   That way they don’t get over done.

Let cool and enjoy with your favorite topping or plain.

Kale crackers

And you will know exactly what is in them!!

Thai Noodles

Or Pad Thai to some, although my recipe isn’t completely authentic, so perhaps “Thai Style” noodles?

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I am terribly allergic to shell-fish so because of that my former love of Asian style food, especially Thai has been curtailed.

I’ve had to learn to make my own “Asian Style” dishes so that I know EXACTLY what it is in them.

One place that I can really get into trouble is with certain fish sauces.  Often they are made with shrimp which will do me in.  Also certain Thai and Chinese curry powders will have pulverized shrimp shells in them.  So if you have a shell-fish allergy….be very very careful in these types of restaurants.

So a long time ago I learned to make my own Thai Noodles.  The recipe, I believe, was based on that of a legendary Toronto eating institution called the “Bamboo Club” which was a funky West Indian type eatery and night club that served up spicy food and even spicier music!

I’m just doing it from memory so I can’t tell you exactly was in their’s but here is what is in mine:

  • plain chicken breast or tofu  ( or if you can, shrimp) or any combo of these
  • 1 package medium width rice noodles ( I like the brand with the elephant )
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 inch fresh minced ginger
  • Salt & pepper
Sauce
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 soy sauce ( + 2 tbsp of fish sauce IF you can have shell fish)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
 
Garnish
  • 2-3 green onions thinly sliced on the bias ( for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts  ( for garnish)
  • handful of chop suey style sprouts ( garnish)

Get everything ready before you start because once you begin, everything will happen fast and it is all about timing!

Start by either boiling a kettle or a pot of water for the noodles.    You can make them either by boiling a pot and when it reaches the boil toss in the noodles and then turn off the heat!  Stir them down until they are soft and cover for a few minutes.

OR place the noodles in a large bowl and then pour the boiled kettle water over them.  Same thing, stir till softened down and then let sit a couple of minutes.

While the water is boiling, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce.  I find doing it in a 2 cup measuring cup is the easiest.

Chop up the things for your garnish.

Okay, now you are ready.

Cut chicken or tofu into bite size pieces and toss into wok or none stick frying pan with a couple of splashed of oil.    Cook until chicken is well cooked then toss in garlic, ginger, salt & pepper and keep tossing till well coated.

Drain your noodles and toss them in the pan with the chicken, toss them around.   Then pour the sauce all over the noodles with as even distribution as you can, toss well to coat.

Then, in the SAME cup that the sauce just came out of, break in your two eggs and beat slightly.  This picks up the left over sauce.

Then pour the egg evenly all over the noodles and put a lid on the pan for a couple of minutes.

Once the eggs “set” toss the noodles all up again to mix the eggs in to the rest of the noodles.

Serve immediately!

Garnish with green onion, chopped peanut, bean sprouts and a wedge of lemon on the side!

Pad Thai

As good as these are fresh, they make a great snack at room temperature left over from the pan!

Or re-fried up the next day or to be honest, even cold!

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