Friday, July 30, 2010

GRILLED VEGETABLES

Barbecues (bbq) are not just for cooking meat.  I like to grill vegetables right on the bbq.  Recently I made two recipes  - one was grilling vegetables on the bbq and then making a salad with them and the second recipe is a vegetable torte based on a recipe by Mark Bittman that I found online at the NY Times.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/dining/21mini.html?scp=10&sq=mark%20bittman&st=cse    This recipe requires grilling followed by baking the vegetables in a spring form pan.  If you go to the link that I provided, there is a short video that shows Mark Bittman making the recipe.  I always enjoy watching him cook, he makes it look easy and he likes to keep it simple.  You can add or substitute other vegetables than the ones I have used in these two recipes.

RECIPE #1
Here is the bbq that I use.  I like it because it has a cast iron lid.  After heating the bbq to about 400 degrees F,  I placed two sliced small eggplants and one sliced zucchini, a quartered large onion, four portabella mushrooms and a yellow pepper cut into two halves.  I brushed the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkled salt on them before grilling.  
Grilled vegetables taken off the bbq.  Don't worry about making too much as the vegetables shrink while grilling. 
I chopped up the vegetables into bite size pieces. After everything is chopped and placed into a mixing bowl, I added some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh basil from the garden. 

The finished product.  It is a great tasting salad.
RECIPE #2
In making Mark Bittman's recipe, I adapted it to meet my preferences.  I decided to bake the vegetables versus grilling them on the bbq and added some other ingredients. 
I sliced one zucchini and two eggplants and brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt. 
In a second pan, I cut up one yellow pepper, two portabella and several white mushrooms, baby carrots and asparagus.  After brushing with oil and sprinkling with salt, the two pans were put in the oven and baked at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  Once the vegetables were cooked, the second half of the cooking process started.  

Using a spring form pan, I started to layer the vegetables.  I used the eggplant as the bottom layer followed by the other vegetables.  In many ways, this is like a stacked, crustless pizza. 
After the vegetables were layered, I added sliced tomato and sprinkled about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and a chunk of focaccia bread cut up into small pieces. You can use other bread or fresh bread crumbs if desired.  If you have fresh herbs, you can add basil, oregano, parsley or thyme.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. 

The finished product.  I probably used too large of a spring form pan for the amount of vegetables that I layered in the pan.  The torte was delicious and this was supper for the DH and I. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

BANANA BREAD

I find making banana bread one of the easier recipes to make.  It helps when you have frozen bananas in the freezer as you can make it when it is convenient for you versus when the bananas are really ripe and something needs to be done with them.  I usually don't have the problem of buying bananas and no one is eating them and they are getting too ripe to eat.  I buy bananas for the dog.  The dog has a 'B' every morning and will patiently wait for it to be hand fed to him in small pieces.  He doesn't grab the piece of banana out of your hand but gingerly takes it from your fingers.  He has us well trained.

I have been making this particular banana bread recipe for years and I don't know where I found it.  You can reduce the sugar content by substituting splenda and reduce the fat by using applesauce instead of oil or margarine.  

BANANA BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

1 ¾ cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup dates, raisins or nuts
1/3 cup margarine or butter
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 to 3 ripe bananas, mashed
¼ cup milk (or less)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl or food processor, mix dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, cream the margarine with the sugar, then add the eggs, and milk and mix well.  Add the egg mixture to the flour and combine by hand or using the processor.   Add the bananas.  Mix until the bananas are blended into the batter.   Pour the batter into a large loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 to 60 minutes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FROZEN YOGURT ICE CREAM

I made this recipe using frozen strawberries.   I first thawed the three cups of berries before I cooked them with the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.   Because I used frozen berries, I didn't need to mash them with a potato masher as they were quite soft.  You can substitute other berries or fruit such as peaches in this recipe.  I decided to use half and half instead of whole milk and I used a bit less than half of cup of sugar as these strawberries by themselves are pretty sweet. 

INGREDIENTS
3 cups pitted fresh cherries or strawberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar (more or less depending on sweetness)
1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
1 1/2 cups full fat yogurt        
2 tbsp almond liqueur

DIRECTIONS
Place the pitted cherries or strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. While the mixture is heating, use a potato masher to mash up the berries in the pot which will release some of their moisture. When all of the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Place contents in a blender and pulse until smooth.

Mix fruit purée, milk, and yogurt together in a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour; the longer the mixture chills the better you can chill overnight.

Right before processing in an ice cream maker, add the almond liqueur if using. The alcohol in the liqueur will help keep the frozen yogurt smooth, but it is not necessary. Process the mixture in your ice cream maker for 25 minutes.

You can eat it right away (it will be rather soft) or put it in the freezer for a few hours to harden up a bit.
Makes a little more than 1 quart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

CHERRIES

In our backyard we have two varieties of cherry trees.  One has berries the size of bing cherries and the second tree has fruit the size of large blueberries.  Before we had cherry trees, we used to go pick sour cherries at a local U-Pick farm.  That was my first introduction to making cherry jam, jelly and real cherry pie.
If you are going to get serious about making jams, jellies or syrups, you need to have a cherry pitter.   This manual cherry pitter operates using a plunger which pushes the pit out of the cherry.  You can only pit one cherry at a time which therefore does require time to process the eight cups of cherries needed to make jam.  I made a double batch.
Making cherry jam is not difficult, it just requires pectin, pitted cherries, sugar, almond flavour and sealers. 
Here is the finished product.
I also decided to make syrup and to make things easier I first cooked the cherries and did not pit them.  Instead I used a strainer to separate the juice from the pulp and pits.  This old fashioned strainer works well and I have also used it to make apple sauce.
When making syrup, jam or jelly, you have to skim the froth off the surface before you ladle it into hot sterilized jars.   This week I made a total of 28 jars of jam and syrup.  We have more than enough for the next year and I also like to have jars to give as hostess gifts.



The DH loves pie and homemade cherry pie is probably one of his favorites,  I made this pie today using whole wheat flour for the pie crust, 4 cups of pitted cherries, one cup of sugar, three tablespoons of minute tapioca  and one teaspoon of almond extract. I made the pie after making 13 jars of syrup.  What a day!



Monday, July 19, 2010

CHICKPEA AND COUSCOUS SALAD

I have been making this chickpea and couscous salad for a number of years.  It is from a 1997 Bonnie Stern cookbook and it ranks as one of my favourite top five salads.  I love the combination of corn, cilantro, lemon juice, orange juice and chickpeas.   I will make some variations or substitutions depending on the ingredients I have in the house.  Sometimes I don't have orange juice so I will use almost 1/2 cup of lemon juice.  You would need to add some water to the lemon juice otherwise it will be too tangy.  I had orange juice in the cupboard so today so I used 1/2 cup and did not add any lemon juice.  I also have whole wheat couscous and figure it is better to use whole wheat.



CHICKPEA AND COUSCOUS SALAD


INGREDIENTS:

1 cup couscous
1 large can of chickpeas, drained
1 red or other coloured pepper, diced
1 cup niblets corn
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup of cilantro or parsley, chopped

Dressing:

1 good squirt of hot chili sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice vinegar or cider vinegar
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil 1 ¼ cups of water in a pot.  Once the water starts to boil, add the couscous, cover and turn the heat off on the burner.  Let rest for 15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Allow to cool.

In a large bowl combine the couscous, pepper, corn, onions and cilantro.  Make the dressing in a separate dish and pour over the couscous mixture.  Toss well and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

From ‘More Heartsmart Cooking with Bonnie Stern’

Friday, July 16, 2010

ORZO SALAD

Earlier this year, I wrote about orzo, its origins and versatility in using for various dishes.  I wanted to make lamb burgers tonight and needed a salad and some carbs to accompany the burgers.  An orzo salad can be a great combination for vegetables and carbs.  I used a variety of vegetables that I had in the fridge.  
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
4 baby carrots, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
3 mushrooms, chopped
1/2 large tomato, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
8 pitted ripe olives, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Boil water and add orzo.  Reduce heat to medium and for the last few minutes of cooking add the carrots.  Drain and let cool for five minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables, cilantro and olives to a bowl,  followed by the orzo and carrots.   Mix and then add the olive oil and lemon.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Serves 3 to 4 people. 




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKE














To make this simple, light and elegant dish, you need shortcake biscuits, a fruit compote, some whipping cream, a bowl and a spoon.  I spotted this recipe on simplyrecipes.com one sunday morning and knew that I was going to make it that day.  I made the fruit compote using frozen and fresh blueberries.  I did make some changes to the recipe.  I used margarine instead of butter, added the egg and instead of adding heavy whipping cream to the egg and vanilla mixture, I used soy milk.  For the whipped cream topping, I used Coolwhip (fat reduced).  I also cut the recipe in half and only made half the recipe because it would still allow for desserts during the week.  I did not make the biscuits 3/4 to one inch thick but made them smaller as I knew they would rise because of the addition of baking powder.  From one cup of flour I made 10 biscuits.


Blueberry Shortcake 

INGREDIENTS:
Berries
5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch cinnamon

Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 Tbsp) heavy whipping cream
1 large egg*
1 tsp vanilla extract
Heavy cream for whipping
*The egg is optional. Including the egg will result in a less crumbly shortcake biscuit, but either way, with or without egg, is good.

DIRECTIONS:

Place blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cinnamon into a medium saucepan. Heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is just barely coming to a simmer. Use a potato masher to mash up the berries a bit, to release the juices. Remove from heat and let come to room temp.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the small cubes of butter, and use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, with pea-sized pieces of butter still intact.

 In a small bowl mix the egg, whipping cream, and vanilla extract. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into it. Stir with a fork just until the dough barely comes together. Do not over mix or your biscuits will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a large pancake shape, about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Using a pastry round (or the lightly floured ridges of drinking glasses) cut into biscuit forms and place 1 1/2-inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. You can also cut the biscuits into squares if that's easier. The the dough is too soft to work with, put it in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes first.

Put the biscuits in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until they have risen and are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on a baking rack.

Serve the berries spooned over biscuits that have been broken open, and top with whipped cream.  Serves 6-8. 



Saturday, July 10, 2010

TRAVELS - DUCKS, FOOTBALL AND OTHER THINGS


Dear Diary:

Who would have thought that in mixing business and pleasure, I would spend a morning with the Montreal CFL football team; enjoy Montreal bagels; experience traffic jams; spend a day in cottage country in the Laurentians and feed ducklings; walk along the St. John's River in Fredericton; eat fresh mussels, scallops, and lobster; and do a bit of shopping all within a space of a week.

First let me explain the football team.  I was on the same flight with the CFL team from Montreal and spent a few extra hours due to the previous night's thunderstorm and plane delay by the gates at a smaller airport and in a plane seated amongst the players.  Most of the plane was occupied by the football team and I got the chance to study the dynamics of a professional team.  I also got to hold a grey cup ring which is quite heavy and loaded with diamonds.  I didn't talk to them about their loss their previous night but found other small talk conversations to focus on.  I did learn that their gear and equipment is not flown to the city where they are playing but driven instead.  They must have several sets of gear which gets trucked around the country.   Some of the players dress quite sharply, wear big diamond stud earrings and favour tattoos.  Throughout the trip, the coaches studied their laptop computers which had film from the previous night's game.  If you ever want to feel tiny and petite, sit amongst football players.

Montreal is a great cosmopolitan city.  I was selective about what I did due to time limitations.  I did learn that Quebec ducks like to be fed bread and are no different than ducks from home.

Mom duck made sure her four ducklings got fed plus she was able to enjoy some of the fresh hamburger buns.  There were actually two sets of moms and ducklings and you had to be careful to give each group some separate space as the moms were protective of their brood.




 


Following feeding these ducks 
it was time for supper for my friends and I.

The St. John's River in Fredericton is very pretty.  I didn't get a chance to explore the city of Fredericton because of business commitments but had a chance to do some walking and also watch the river from the hotel where I was staying.  Fredericton reminded me of the prairies.  People were very friendly and polite.   Fredericton is a university town and also is the provincial capital so it has a number of government departments.  It is not an industrial town.

Diary, the best part of being away is coming home.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CITRUS QUINOA SALAD

I found this quinoa salad recipe in one of Anne Lindsay's cookbooks - Lighthearted at Home.  I mad a few changes to the original recipe.   The recipe calls for orange slices or mandarin sections which I didn't have, nor did I have lemon or lime rind.  I used a combination of dried figs and apricots in making this recipe as I didn't have enough dried figs to make half a cup.  I used toasted pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds or almonds.  The salad turned out well and I will definitely make it again.

 INGREDIENTS:

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup diced cucumber
2 green onions diced
½ cup diced dried figs or dried apricots or raisins
½ cup mandarin orange sections or regular orange slices cut into pieces
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted almonds or toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

DRESSING:

1 tsp grated lemon or lime rind
3 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
14 tsp each cumin and ground coriander

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse quinoa under cold water; drain.  In a saucepan, add the water and quinoa, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Drain and let cool. 

In a bowl, combine the quinoa, cucumber, dried fruit, orange sections, onions, nuts, and parsley.   In a small bowl mix up the dressing, pour over the salad and toss to mix.  Serves 6.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

POTATO SALAD

Summer, steak, hamburgers and potato salad go hand in hand and making potato salad is one of the easier salads to make.  The main ingredient of course is the potato.  Everything else is up to personal preferences.

I don't always add hard boiled eggs to potato salad but when I do, an easy way to make hard boiled eggs is to add the eggs to the pot that you are cooking the potatoes in and after you have simmered the potatoes for 10 minutes, I remove the eggs and cool them off in a bowl of cold water.  I let the potatoes simmer until they are fork tender.  You can add other vegetables that are not listed in this recipe including celery.  In making this salad, I used a variety of fresh herbs from the garden.

Potato Salad


INGREDIENTS:
3 medium sized potatoes, cut into chunks
1 hard boiled egg, coarsely chopped
1/2 red, orange or green pepper. diced
4 radishes, diced
several slices of red onion, diced
1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 good tsp of dijon mustard
1/4 cup of mayonnaise (more or less to taste)
herbs, chopped - chives, dill, parsley
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Cook the potatoes with the skins on ( I leave the skins on the potato unless I am using russet potatoes) in a large pot and simmer until they are fork tender (about 20 minutes).  Drain in a colander.  Cool for several minutes.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, mustard, mayonnaise and vinegar in a small bowl or container.  Add the egg, pepper, radishes, onion and herbs to the bowl with the potatoes.  Mix the contents of the bowl and then add the dressing to this mixture.  Combine everything together and add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the salad in the fridge and take out when you are ready to serve your meal.  Serves 3 to 4 people.