Saturday, October 30, 2010

Colcannon, a new way

Calm yourselves: I did not use these to make dinner.. although that would be kinda cool, considering that it's Halloween soon. Yup, you guessed it. These were part of Halloween plan. Specifics? Borrowed from my scientist sister, used by 13-year-olds, one pretending to be a mad scientist, another the victim with her eyes and mouth sewn closed. Yeah, I need a life.

This week was incredibly crazy. We had taken a little mini-vacation to Ottawa leaving on a Friday night and returning on a Sunday evening. After walking in the sunny crisp autumn air, enjoying the beautiful fall colours, sampling Ottawa's coffee and eating at the most incredible vegan restaurant in the hidden downtown of Gatineau on the Quebec side, reality bit me on Monday. Halloween preparations at school. Oh. My.. I won't continue. Despite the stress, all went well, but I'm exhausted.

After a crazy week of eating cleverly defrosted leftovers in between baking these muffins for the bake sale and these healthy oatmeal cookies to give away instead of candy (yeah yeah .. but you know, the kids liked them!!), and trekking all the way up to the UPS pick-up centre near York University (don't EVER send or receive anything from UPS) it was time for some cooking. And it was comfort food that we were both craving. Calm yourselves. I did not eat peanut butter for dinner .. although I thought about it. Instead, we made a comforting dish of potatoes and cabbage -- our very own version of colcannon. Traditionally, colcannon is just mashed potatoes with boiled cabbage mixed in. At Halloween, it was served with small coins in the middle as prizes. We skipped that part ... I was all Halloweened out! But we did fancy it up a little by using red cabbage and adding a beautifully smooth aged cheddar studded with caraway seeds. We also baked it in the oven for bit to the let the cheese get brown and bubbly. Yum! Very comforting and just what we needed to erase week of stress.

Happy Halloween!

Fancied Colcannon

makes 2 large servings

2 medium white potatoes
1 tablespoon of cream or milk
1 cup of shredded red cabbage
a small chunk of crumbled aged cheddar with caraway (or just sprinkle in some caraway seeds)
1 tablespoon of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until mashable. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Add the cream/milk and mash until desired consistency (we liked a bit of lumps!).

2. Blanch the cabbage for about 2-3 minutes, or until the colour just starts to fade a bit. Add to the mashed potatoes. Crumble in half the cheese and stir. Season to taste.

3. Pour the mixture into a cake pan and top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Put under the broiler for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Coffee Update (it's been a while!)

Cafe 260: double americano, mochacinno and banana chocolate latte (!)
Bisogno Espresso Bar: cappuccino, vanilla soy latte and drip coffee (they steamed my cream!)
I Deal Coffee (Ossington): rooibos tea, drip coffee and cappucino
T.A.N. Coffee: vanilla tea latte with almond milk (!), mochacinno and vanilla soy latte (so good!)
Cafe Novo: soy latte, cappuccino and latte au miel with almond milk (sooooooooo delicious!) enjoyed in the sun with a chococlate truffle brownie and meringues (proceeds going to charity)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Peanut Butter + Fruit Part 2

Peanut Butter and Banana. Need I say more? Classic combination, nostalgic, comfort food. That's peanut butter and banana.. in a sandwich, that is. When they're combined to make .. say .. a quick bread .. or some little mini muffins, this magical combination becomes even more magical. I love banana bread, but I love this peanut butter banana bread even more. It's not like a traditional banana bread, in being really dense, moist and hearty. It's actually quite light and more sponge-cake-like. So maybe it's not banana bread? Who cares? It's awesome!

I've made this bread many times since discovering and altering a recipe online (sorry! I can't remember/find the original!) before my blogging days. The first time I made this recipe, it was for my love to take on his 24 hour train ride to his hometown. He loved it and so did his niece. Since then, I've made it in the form of little cupcakes/muffins to give as gifts and of course, just to snack on it's own because peanut butter and bananas together rock.

Conclusion: Peanut Butter + Banana = Amazing.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
adapted from somewhere online!

1/2 cup of natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of yogurt

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, oil, sugar, egg and mashed bananas. Whisk until smooth.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the baking powder, baking soda and flour.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture alternating with milk and yogurt, folding the batter gently, until everything is combined.

4. Pour the batter into a loaf pan, or in muffin tins (makes 24 minis!) and bake at 350 degrees or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean (about 25 minutes for the loaf, and 15 for the muffins). Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Coffee Update coming soon!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peanut Butter + Fruit Part 1

Did we ever discuss my love for peanut butter? It's not just a love. It more like a dependency. Kind of like with coffee. Yup, I have peanut butter days. Yup, it's that bad. Weekends are usually when I get to eat peanut butter, and while I love it stirred into bowls of oatmeal, baked into a cookie, worked into granola or in a classic or super special PBJ, my favourite way to eat peanut butter has always been and always will be, on a spoon. That being said, I'm forever looking for ways to add peanut butter to different things. I've been known to substitute peanut butter for butter, mostly because I like the taste, partly because it's a healthier alternative.

That's exactly what happened here: a peanut butter apple crumble/crisp. Don't get me wrong; I love the classic no-fail apple crumble, and it will probably remain my partner's favourite, but let me tell you, this peanut butter version is going to steal your heart. In the past year, I've realized that natural peanut butter is so much better than the commercial version, so that's what I used in this recipe. It makes the apples get sticky and gooey and creamy -- a perfect match to the toasty crumble/crisp topping that gets sprinkled over top. And since realizing that honey and peanut butter so hand-in-hand, there's a generous spoon of it added to the filling and the topping. Peanut butter + fruit = happiness. Can you guess what the next combination will be?? And can anyone tell me what's the difference between a crumble and a crisp?

Peanut Butter Apple Crumble/Crisp


2-3 apples, peeled cored and diced (I used Empires)
a pinch of cinnamon
a splash of water
2 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter


1/2 cup of oats
1/3 cup of whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of honey
3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter

1. Put all the ingredients for the filling in a small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring for the first few minutes, until the peanut butter melds with the rest of the ingredients. Turn it down to low and cook until the apples get tender -- about 7-10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, make the crumble by first mixing together the oats, flour and brown sugar until well combined. All the honey and peanut butter and work it into the dry mixture slowly, until a crumble forms.

3. Pour the apple mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle over the crumble topping. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the top gets nice and golden brown. Get ready for a bit of peanut butter heaven .. and you don't even have to feel guilty!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Whoa .. Roast Chicken

I met a teacher a couple of years ago that didn't like the colonial-political ideals behind Thanksgiving. For years, we had fooled ourselves into thinking here in Canada, our Thanksgiving was really more about harvest and thanks for the harvest. It was the American Thanksgiving that marked the beginning of colonial genocide. Who are we kidding? Politics aside, this teacher still needed to acknowledge the holiday and the day off school, so she called it Turkey Day. When I met the students she used to teach (she taught them in grade 6 and I got them in grade 7), none of them referred to this day as Thanksgiving. I'd hear things like "It's Turkey Day in one more week!" and "Is it already almost Turkey Day?" Since then, I've kind of adopted the term when I speak to my students about Thanksgiving, just to see their reactions. I can't really say that I'm rejecting the holiday since I do enjoy the day off and the excuse to bake with pumpkins and apples and cranberries, but some things can't be swept under the table, so Turkey Day it is!

That being said, we did not make turkey. We did the cliche thing and made chicken instead. Same thing, right? Ok, maybe not, but chicken was what we made. And oh what a chicken it was! I take no credit -- it was all my partner and his out-of-the-box techniques. What do I mean by that? First, there was no trussing involved, which some might say would result in dry chicken (but dry it was not!). Also, we didn't rotate the chicken at all -- we kept it breast-side down the whole time (result? Very juicy breast meat!).

What did we put on it? No butter. Not a drop. We did rub it first in cookie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom), and then with a paste made with herbs, oil and mustard. It needed lots of attention and lots of love -- ie. basting every 10 minutes and adding stock to the pan if things were looking too dry. But the real secret were the temperatures. 15 minutes at 500 degrees to seal in all the juices, 15 at 450 and then down to 400 for about an hour. This got us very crispy skin and tender, juicy, flavourful, perfectly cooked meat. As we don't have a meat thermometer, we relied on timing, looks, experience (not mine of course!) and a culinarily-trained mind. I would probably have punctured it to be sure, but I think you can just look at the juices oozing from the cavity and if they're clear, the chicken is probably done. That, and I think the general rule is 15 minutes per pound. Mind you, I wouldn't have tackled this project without my partner .. unlike certain people who are brining and roasting turkey as we speak ...

Make some chicken! Turkey Day won't mind at all.

Roast Chicken with Spices

one 3(ish) pound chicken, cleaned and patted dry

1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of dried oregano
about 6 sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of mustard

roasting veggies of your choice (we used carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions)
1/2 cup of stock (and more as needed)

1. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. Don't forget to put some in the cavity. Rub with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

2. In a mini-chopper, mix together the oregano, sage, mustard and oil until you get a runny paste. Spread over the chicken.

3. Place your chicken on a roasting pan and arrange your vegetables around it. Pour the stock in and bake at 500 for fifteen minutes. Baste the chicken and turn the oven down to 450. Bake for another 15 minutes, baste, and turn the oven down to 400.

4. Roast the chicken at 400 for about an hour, basting every 10-minutes minutes and adding stock if needed. Rely on which ever method you like to tell when it's done.

5. Leftovers are awesome used in this biscuit-topped pie ... and in chicken salad sandwiches with a handful of raisins and a dash of curry powder. Enjoy and Happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cranberry Update

In between making cocoa banana millet porridge for breakfast, washing the bathroom and doing my day plans for next week during the wee hours of this morning, I managed to squeeze in some cranberry baking! That loaf with oatmeal and cranberries? It also makes 24 mini muffins and tastes even better when you use orange juice and add the zest of half a large orange ... just in case Insomnia has come for a very early morning cup of tea ...

Coffee Update from last weekend ...
Te Aro on Queen: cappuccino, flat white with soy (long shot of espresso with steamed soy) and a vanilla soy latte .. enjoyed in the rain.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bouncy Berries

This summer, I fell in love again with local berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries .. I was sad to see them go when the chilly weather set in. But with the crisp weather, chilly wind, changing leaves and starting of school came a different berry, one that I had never played with before: the cranberry. Don't get me wrong; I love dried cranberries, especially in muffins and granola. But I had never cooked or baked with fresh cranberries before .. until now.

They are so cute! And they bounce and float in water! I had a blast this past weekend, making Anna Olson's cranberry vinaigrette which I used to dress a fall salad of wild rice with roasted squash and fennel, and also her cranberry apple crisp, which was the perfect dessert to bring to a mid-week family gather. The cranberries have this wonderful, tangy tart flavour that brings out the best in the apples, and gives salad dressings a whole new meaning for me. But while these recipes were a smashing hit, yesterday, I was more in the mood for a loaf-type treat, or something more muffiny and wholesome. Surrounded by loaves and quick breads in the blogging world, I took that as inspiration and made this Wholesome Cranberry Oatmeal Loaf. Totally, healthy, very berry-licious and quick to make for guilt-free week night treat that went perfect with a cup of tea. The texture is light despite the oatmeal with a very moist-but-not-dense crumb. It's not too sweet, and just tart enough to keep my taste buds awake.

This recipe makes one little loaf, which was more than enough for me and my love to snack on while watching CSI New York off the internet. But I'm betting that it could easily be doubled, and would also work great as muffins. You could also add orange zest which would probably go great with the cranberries, or some wheat bran if you're feeling extra healthy .. even some grated apple and flaked almonds would be awesome. Go play with cranberries! I dare you!

Wholesome Cranberry Oatmeal Loaf

2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 egg
6 tablespoons of skim milk yogurt
2 tablespoons of fruit juice (I used Ceres Young Berry juice)
splash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 cup of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of fresh cranberries

1. Whisk the oil, honey, brown sugar, egg, yogurt, juice and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.

2. Sift in the the flours, spices, baking soda and baking powder and stir to combine. Add the oats and cranberries and stir.

3. Pour the batter into a small loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top gets nice and golden and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

4. Enjoy with a cup of tea (coco rooibos chai would be lovely if you're so lucky ..)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pizza Crazy

This summer, everyone made pizza. I did too! This recipe rocks. I mean, SERIOUSLY rocks. Kickpleat, you've done it again.

Check out the pizzas I made!!

This one has fresh and roasted veggies ...

This one has chicken ...

This one has bacon and spicy salami ...

This is a breakfast one with eggs, sausage, spinach ... I was guided by this recipe ...

And LOOK!! That's pizza dough too! Chili powder, herbs, honey, olive oil, crunchy, chewy bready goodness inspired by the lovely tara ...

I never knew pizza could be such an easy thing to make. It feels so liberating to add whatever you want to the dough; kind of like an empty page waiting to be filled up -- reminds me of my journal days when I would write stories and things in my head on the subway, the bus, in front of the computer in the middle of studying for an exam, during the early morning hours of insomnia .. Those days may be gone, but my pizza days have just begun!

Check this one out ...

Ok, it's not really a pizza. It started when I saw my cooking love, Anna Olson make a concord grape focaccia on her newish show Fresh. And then I saw this post from smitten kitchen who made kind of the same thing, but with rosemary. But Anna Olson's version needed to rest a for different periods of time .. time that I didn't have ... And smitten kitchen's version required fancy equipment like a hook and an electric mixer. So, I went back to my summer discovery: a pizza dough that you don't have to knead and that doesn't need a lot of rest. I used a combination of all purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour, added just a touch more honey than the recipe called for and then piled on the grapes, sprinkled on the rosemary and sugar and hoped for the best.

My grape pizza turned out wonderful -- a perfect treat, nice enough to give to friends, and wonderful the next morning for breakfast alongside a little smoothie. The texture was really interesting, almost pastry like and crumbly because of the type of flour I used. If you wanted to turn this into dinner, I'm sure you could add some crumble goat cheese, or even extra old cheddar, some chopped walnuts, and some baby arugula. Wow ... I need to try that next!

So, it's not really focaccia; big deal. One day, we'll dig through storage and find that big monster kitchen aid that comes with all the fancy attachments. One day, I'll take an entire day off so that I can let a dough rise as much as it likes. One day I'll find my story-writing groove again and write on the streetcar on the way to work instead of sleep ... Until then, I'm consoled by pizza.

Sweet Pizza with Concord Grapes and Rosemary
crust from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
inspired and guided by Anna Olson and Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
1 package of instant yeast
1 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of honey
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup of all purpose flour (+ more for if needed)

On top:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup of concord grapes, halved and de-seeded
2 teaspoons of coarse sugar

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, water, honey, salt, rosemary and oil. Sift in the flour and stir to combine. Dough should be soft, but not too sticky. Add more all purpose flour if needed. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

2. Sprinkle corn meal on a baking sheet (rectangular works too!). Knead the dough a few times in the bowl, adding more flour if needed until you get a soft, smooth ball of dough. Press the dough out on the baking sheet.

3. Brush the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle on the grapes and press down on them slightly. Add the rosemary needles and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

4. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until the crust gets lightly golden brown.