Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chai Spiced Pancakes

On those mornings when I don't have the energy to whip up something from scratch, I simply modify a premade buttermilk pancake mix. Usually I just add a bunch of cinnamon and a handful of oats and bake per box instructions, but this morning I wanted to do something else.

I thought I'd give chai pancakes a try...I love chai, and I love's win-win, right?

They turned out pretty good! Maybe next time I'll try to find the black tea I have in the cupboards here from the last time my Mom visited. All the ingredients are things that I had in the cupboard, so adjust as you need to...if you have a cinnamon stick, throw that in instead of ground cinnamon. Have whole cloves? Use those instead of the ground stuff. I happened to have some cardamom pods but I could have just as easily used the ground stuff. The only thing I probably wouldn't substitute is the fresh ginger root for ground, if you can help it.

For the record, I'm sure you could make it a lot simpler and just steep a commercially made chai tea bag in the milk and call it a day, but you wouldn't have the control you do when you mix the flavours yourself...and also, it's just more fun to mix it yourself (if you have the stuff handy)...I like to cackle like a Mad Scientist when I add things to the pot.  It's true!

Chai Pancakes

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
8 cardamom pods, cracked open (or, maybe 1/4 tsp ground?)
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or, maybe 6 whole cloves)
1" slice of ginger, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp freshly ground (or cracked) black pepper
(and around 2 tsp black tea leaves if you wish)
Powdered pancake mix (I use PC Extra-Fluffy & Complete Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix)
Handful of oats

Place milk and water in a small saucepan and heat gently. Don't want to scald this.

Add all the spices (and tea if you're using it) and simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Smells good, right? Taste (trying to avoid the whole hunks of stuff in there) and adjust spices to your taste. I added a squirt of honey to sweeten it up a bit.

Strain mixture.

Place required amount of pancake mix in a medium sized bowl (I just eyeball the amount I need), add oats, and pour warm spiced milk mixture over. Stir and add water as necessary to make batter the right consistency.

Fry those puppies up and enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hamburger Hash

As I mentioned in yesterday's Tuna Noodle Casserole post, Hamburger Hash was one of the staples in our home. This dish was also the first thing I ever made for Don and he loved it. It was also the first time I realized that he is of the school that ketchup is a side dish, and I was all offended that he was smothering my food with Leamington's Finest, but that's another story. I'm over it. Really.

Here's the thing...I would imagine something like this would be a pretty universal dish, it's just meat and potatoes,  but I've made it before in other parts of North America and was informed that "We don't eat that here". Is it possible this is just a regional thing? My friend in college used to eat this (she's local). Her family called it "Hamburger Gravy".

Truth be told, it's just lazy-ass shepherds pie, right?

It's easy to make, doesn't take a lot of stuff, and it's relatively cheap. That's All Win in my book.


Hamburger Hash

1 lb ground beef (I prefer extra lean)
Handful frozen corn (or peas, carrots, green beans, whatever)
Beef or mushroom gravy (Bisto or other powdered mix, canned, whatever you can scrounge up)
Potatoes, peeled and chopped
Butter and milk for your mash
Salt and pepper

Put your potatoes on to boil. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the smaller you cut your potatoes, the quicker they are going to cook...and if you cut them evenly, they will cook evenly. Amazing, right?

In a large frying pan, brown the ground beef, drain if necessary, and add the frozen (or fresh) veg. Add gravy and warm everything. Taste and season as needed.

Mash or whip your potatoes with butter, milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, whatever you do. I used butter and a little heavy cream that I had leftover in the fridge. I finished them off with some chives from our garden and some salt and pepper.

Plop your potatoes on the plate and make a well in the centre. Slop some meat and gravy in the well.

Eat, and enjoy :)

What's on the Plate for Next Week?

Every Friday (at least that's the plan), I look at the flyers for inspiration -  and to see what's going on sale - and I plan what we're going to eat. Doing it on Friday makes it less tempting to eat out all weekend which is appealing (who likes to cook and clean up on their days off?) but it adds up. Fast. We do try to go out once a week or so for dinner because we work hard, man...we deserve it!

This isn't set in stone...who knows? The grocery store might not have what I need, or something may come up during the week, but it's nice to have everything I need to make a dish, and planning ahead saves money.

So, here's the plan:

- Salmon with mango salsa and new potatoes
- Steak with mushroom "stew" and mango salad
- Pizza pasta
- Chicken benedict
- Mexican pizza with leek and avocado soup
- Tacos (Don's fave...a weekly requirement)

I have a few things in my fridge left over from last week (leeks, mushrooms, pepperoni...) that I kept in mind while planning. Also, I love mango but never use a whole fruit for any given recipe, so spreading it out over 2 different dishes allows me to eat it and not have to waste the rest!

We try to eat fish at least once a week, and I'm not a huge fan of the fish...unless it's battered and deep fried (which sort of defeats the purpose of eating it for health reasons). I have tried a bunch of different recipes using salmon and tilapia and find that, prepared the right way, I actually enjoy it. I'm excited to try this new concoction!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I don't know anyone whose Mom or Grandma didn't make tuna noodle casserole. It's the ultimate in "dollar stretching meals"...I am pretty sure that this dish, creamed peas on toast, bucketloads of spaghetti, chili, stew, hamburger hash (which we're making tonight) and "garbage soup", completely made up my childhood dinner menu...

..and I swore I would never eat this stuff once I left home, nor would I ever use frozen peas in anything ever again. Aside from the creamed peas on toast, I've changed my mind.

This is a super versatile meal that can include most anything you have on hand, and is quite satisfying.


Tuna Noodle Casserole

1/3 bag eggless whole wheat egg noodles
1 can cream of whatever soup (I think this one is cream of chicken, but cream of mushroom is really good too)
1 can tuna (chunk light packed in water this time...sometimes I'll add 2 cans)
1 yellow pepper, diced
Handful frozen peas
Salt and pepper

Cook noodles according to package directions.

In large microwaveable bowl, mix soup (undiluted), peas and tuna. Pop in microwave until peas are defrosted and mixture is hot. Taste and season accordingly.

Once noodles are done to the desired texture, drain well and mix into soup mixture, adding yellow peppers.

I add the yellow peppers last because I like them crispy in this dish. Do what you want.

You can also (more traditionally), throw the whole mess into a casserole, top with breadcrumbs and cheese or whatever and put it in the oven...but it's summer, and the thought of putting the oven on for 30 minutes is not a welcome one. This is one of those times where I like using the microwave.

If you DO throw the lot in the oven, make sure the noodles are just underdone, so that they finish cooking in the casserole rather than overcooking.

What do you like in your tuna noodle casserole?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

I've been making this for a while. It's a comforting recipe to me, and I find it's great all year round, for lunch or for dinner. If you're not one for curry, this is a great dish to try. It has a lightly curried flavour...aromatic, warm, I love this...and it's one of Don and Quinn's favourites as well.

It's not the pretties thing to look at, but I urge you to give it a try and let me know how you like it.


Curried Chicken Salad
(makes enough for my brood of 2 plus a wee one, adjust as necessary)

2 chicken skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons curry powder (adjust to your taste)
2 tablespoons grated ginger root
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/2 (or so) diced Granny Smith apple (I leave the peel on)
(other additions that sometimes find their way in include green onion and celery)

Poach chicken breasts by placing them in a saucepan, covering them with cold water, and bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover until the chicken is cooked through (maybe 20 or 30 mins). Cut into bite sized chunks (or pull) and leave to cool.

Mix together yogurt, mayo, lime juice, curry powder, ginger root (I freeze my ginger root, one of the best tips I ever got), parsley, walnuts and apple. Combine with cooled chicken breast pieces and refrigerate.

Serve cold with pita chips, or pita halves (makes great pita pocket sandwiches), in a wrap, or between two pieces of bread.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Penne

I had a bunch of red peppers from Sunquest Farms here in my county (I love using local food!) that I wanted to roast down into a sauce.

Michael Smith is my "go to guy" for recipes, and he didn't disappoint this time. He has a Bowtie Pasta with Roast Red Pepper recipe that I worked from, and I know how I'd adjust it the next time. Maybe add a little white wine? We'll see.


Roasted Red Pepper Penne
(this was enough for the three of us plus a little left over...adjust accordingly)

4 red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 head garlic, peeled, whole cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place peppers, onions and garlic in a bowl, drizzle in olive oil and toss to coat, spread evenly onto foil lined (easy cleanup!) baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fennel seed.

Roast for about 45 minutes (check every once in a while to make sure everything is cooking evenly...rotate pan if necessary), until veggies are soft and have some nice colour.

Place roasted veggies into a blender and puree with a little water to loosen it up. Alternately, you can pop the roasted veggies into a sauce pan and hit them with your immersion blender.

Cook your penne in some boiling, salted water, and keep the sauce warm on the stove. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

When the pasta is nearly done, throw a few handfuls of baby spinach into the sauce and stir. The heat of the sauce, and the soon-to-be-added pasta will wilt the spinach. You don't need to cook the crap out of it at this point....unless you like slimy spinach. Hey, it's your dinner!

Spoon the penne right into the sauce. The little bit of starchy water will help the sauce stick to the pasta. Note, I said "little bit"...clearly, if you dump the pasta in with a ton of water, you'll have the opposite effect. Use your head here.

Dish it up and add a nice bit of parmesan (shavings, gratings, whatever). I also added a bit of dried red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness of the sauce.

The addition of the fennel seeds triggered a memory of sausages (but no chewy gristle!!), and it was pretty awesome. The sauce was velvety and sweet. I'd never had a pepper sauce before.

Other recipies using red peppers I'd love to try include:
Anna Olsen's Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Pepper Coulis and Red Pepper Soup from Smitten Kitchen.

Blueberry Boy Bait

Yup...that's what I said...

Blueberry. Boy. Bait.

This is apparently a second place winner in a 1954 Pillsbury Bake-Off. The 15 year old girl who made it named for the effect it had on boys...riskee!!

It was adapted by Cook's Country, and Cook's Country's recipe was adapted by Smitten Kitchen.

Then I got ahold of it.

This is the first time I've made this delicious little treat and I can think of a couple of ways I might adjust it further to better suit my taste.

One thing I will say about this cake: It's SO moist and buttery that when you press down on it, there's an audible, rich crackle of moisture...and just the thought of that makes my mouth water.

I made this one with local blueberries, but it could easily be made with would be delicious with peaches, rhubarb, cherries...the endless possibilities give me goosebumps!


Blueberry Boy Bait

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (plus 1 tsp set aside)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup demerara sugar (*see note)
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk (whole milk, buttermilk, skim milk, whatever you have...)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don't bother defrosting)

For the topping:
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don't bother defrosting)
1/4 cup demerera sugar (*see note)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

* Note: I try to avoid using white sugar or commercially processed brown sugar in recipes...I prefer demerera sugar. If you don't have demerera sugar, in the cake you can use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar, and in the topping, 1/4 cup white or brown sugar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and milk, and mix until combined.

Slowly beat in dry ingredients, in 2 or 3 batches, until just combined.

Toss blueberries in 1 tsp flour (it will help keep them from sinking to the bottom), and fold into batter with a spatula. Place batter into pan and smooth the top.

Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and evenly sprinkle on top.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. I had to check on it and rotate it throughout the baking to make sure it baked evenly.

It's rich, that's for sure, but it's a nice treat. It was a great way to use up some local fruit that I had lying around. I'd totally make this again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cream of Mushroom Soup and Grilled Cheese


Based on Chef Michael Smith's Cream of Mushroom Soup recipe.

1 stick butter
2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I like crimini mushrooms)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 cups(ish) red wine
4 cups stock or broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup heavy cream
Couple sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tblsp corn starch mixed in 1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in large saucepot (or soup pot). Add mushrooms and onions and saute until softened and lightly browned. It might take a bit as mushrooms release a lot of water, but once that evaporates, they will brown and you'll be in business!

Season with salt and pepper. Add red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, and simmer until the wine reduces to about half. Add broth and cream, and bring back to a summer. Toss in thyme and simmer a few more minutes.

Add cornstarch and water mixture slowly and stir until the soup thickens to your liking. Taste and season as necessary.

When I plate (bowl?) my soup, I like to throw some chives on top and drizzle a bit of truffle oil or sweet chili oil.

To make the cheese sandwich, I just used some panini rolls I got at the grocery store. I heated up our panini grill, lightly buttered the outside of the bun, slapped some whole grain mustard on the inside of the bun, and laid on some old cheddar (or American cheese slices because they melt awesomely) on the mustard...put the "lid" on the sandwich, and put it in the panini grill for a few minutes until the crust is crispy and golden.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dad's Birthday Lunch

My Dad is always complaining that I never invite him over for dinner. If he says this to you, he's lying. I have invited him to dinner quite a few times when he's been here and he always turns me down...I think he's afraid of driving in the county at night. Who can blame him, really? Tomato zombies and all...

So it was his birthday this past week, and we invited him over for lunch. I picked up a delicious Black Forest cake from Lakeside Bakery and made burgers and pasta salad.

I made Roger Mooking's Pasta Salad with Green Onion Dressing. I made it the night before to let the dressing mellow out a bit, and to ensure it was cold for lunch today.

Green Onion Dressing


1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch green onion, white bottoms and green tops separated
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey (this is not in the original recipe)
1 box bowtie pasta, cooked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, cut into 1/4" inch thick rings
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
chopped parsley
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted

Heat up the grill (I've also done this on the stovetop in a pan). Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the white bottoms of the green onions and the red onion slices. Grill until slightly softened and charred.

Set red onion aside. Roughly chop grilled whites of the green onions and place in blender with green onion tops, garlic, white white vinegar, dijon mustard, honey and olive oil and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, stir in sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

I added a touch of honey to this dressing to cut the sharpness of the onions and to make it taste a little richer, but you could totally omit it if you like.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl, chop up grilled red onion from earlier and add to the pasta, throw in peppers, and slop in the dressing. Add chopped parsley, taste for a final seasoning with salt and pepper, and put in fridge.

Granted, you could serve this lukewarm or room temperature, there's something awesome about a cold pasta salad.

I toasted some coconut on the stovetop and put it on the table in case someone (like my Dad) doesn't like coconut.

This is an "occasional" recipe. I prefer potato salad with things like this (and my potato salad recipe is golden) but, since we had eaten potato salad recently, I wanted to make something different. This isn't the best pasta salad I've ever had/made, but it's pretty tasty.

The Burger

Based on Michael Smith's awesome hamburger recipe.


1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soya sauce

I read somewhere that you shouldn't overwork your meat. Since then, I've mixed all my bits and pieces first, and THEN added the meat in to combine. Not sure if it makes sense, but whatever. It's what I do...and this is my blog, so there.

I also tend to grate my onion so that the pieces are small (which is really good if you have pickypants to feed, thankfully I don't...yet). Today I used shallots, because that's what I had and they needed to be used up, so I just chopped them finely.

So throw the onion (or shallots in this case), Worcestershire sauce and soya sauce in a medium bowl. Season with pepper and mix. You won't need salt (unless you like your burgers extra salty) because you are using soya. This is a genius move on the part of Chef Smith. The flavour it lends the meat is very impressive.

Plop in your ground beef, mix, seperate into 4 portions, form into patties no more than an inch thick. In our house, they need to be thinnish. That's how Don prefers them. I also let the meat come to just a smidge colder than room temperature.

I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere too, to not put cold meat on a hot grill (or in a hot pan). My logic (and that's often questionable, admittedly) is that a super cold hunk of meat will contract when placed on a searing hot grill which would make the meat tough in the end. I could be totally off base, and if I am, don't tell me about it. I don't want to hear it.

So where was I?

Heat the grill, and toss the burger patties on. Leave them alone. Seriously. Don't poke at them, don't flip them, and for pete's sake, DON'T SMUSH THEM DOWN WITH THE FLIPPERMAGIG!

Why do we have the urge to press the meat into the grates? All it does is smush the burger flat and dump out a crapload of juicy goodness!

Michael says around 4 minutes each side should do...I'm not sure how long I cook my burgers for. I guess until I think they are done.

While I was cooking the burgers, I toasted the herb focaccia on the grill to dry out the surface a bit. I like that.

This time I dumped some Diana Sauce (Original style) on the top during the last minute or so, and then pulled them off the grill, put them on the platter, and let them rest for a few minutes while I make sure everything else is in order.

I shredded some cheddar to put on the hot, glazy bbq sauce, and dumped a bit more on top.

Why didn't I melt the cheese on the burger while it was cooking, you may ask? I don't like it. It gets oily and weird...and I like the texture of the shredded cheese mixed in with the bbq sauce. Do whatever you want.

I don't like anything else on my burger when I do it like this...I think the bbq sauce and cheese is plenty, but dress it up to your taste.

This is how I make my burgers, generally. They are pretty tasty, and have the texture that Don prefers in a burger - tender and a little crumbly (and if you don't manhandle them on the grill, the crumble factor happens when you take a bite, as opposed to on the grill)...that's why there's no egg involved.

We had our cake, and retired to the living room where Quinn entertained everyone with his spastic form of interpretive dance, and wild boxing style.


Happy Birthday, Dad!

Mushroom and Leek Pizza

Tonight we had mushroom and leek pizza. It's pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.


1 store bought pizza crust (we used a President's Choice thin crust, but you could certainly use a homemade crust, or even a pita bread)
Olive oil
1 Tblsp butter
6oz mushrooms (whatever kind you like, we used crimini)
1 leek, green tops removed
2 sprigs of thyme
Tomato pesto (I used PC Tomato Pesto)
Fresh mozzerella
1 plum tomato
Salt and pepper

You can attack this pizza a number of different ways: do it on the it in the oven (on a pizza stone, the back of a cookie sheet, a pizza pan, or right on the rack). I prefer the oven method for this pizza, and our pizza stone rules my I will explain what I did using that cooking method, but whichever style you choose, the order is the same: heat up the crust (or prebake if you're making it from a dough), put the stuff on, cook it, eat it, lick the plate.

Crank the oven to 350, put in the stone. Heat a skillet on the stove, adding a tblsp of both olive oil and butter when the pan is hot. Add sliced mushrooms (we like them sliced thinly) and sliced leeks to soften and brown.

Let me divert your attention to something you may or may not know...leeks can be dirty veggies, and just rinsing them under the tap isn't going to get all the sand out. Get a bowl of cold water and, as you chop the leeks, place them in the bowl to float. You might need to give them a swish to break up the rings because that's where the dirt and grit will be hiding. The leek slices will float on the top, and the grit will sink to the bottom. Scoop the ones off the top and throw them into the pan. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and the thyme leaves.

Ok, back to this pizza. While the mushrooms and leeks are browning, I pulled the hot pizza stone out of the oven, oiled the bottom of the prepared pizza crust, put it on the stone, and put it in the oven to warm.

Once the crust is warmed, pull it out of the oven and smear on some tomato pesto. Distribute the mushroom/leek mess over the pesto, add slices of roma tomato, cover with rounds of fresh mozzarella. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (optional), salt and pepper, and slide back in the oven to melt the cheese.

I really like this pizza because it's not too heavy, and I'm not a huge fan of saucy pizzas, so the pesto element of this is just perfect. Pizza is a great dinner because it's so versatile.

I also make one that has refried beans as the "sauce" and is topped with shredded cheddar and cilantro. I'll have to make that again soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Curry

I love this recipe! It's an adaptation of Michael Smith's Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry.


The Rice Part

1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup red rice (or 1/2 cup brown rice in total)
1 1/4 cup water

I have a little rice cooker, so these are my measurements. Do what you need to do in order to get some rice done.

Reminder, this amount of rice is for 2 people + a little person. Adjust as necessary.

The Curry Part

Vegetable oil
1 onion, diced (I used a red onion this time because that's what I had)
4 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tsp curry paste (I had Indian Red Curry...adjust to your taste)
1 can butter beans
1 can coconut milk
1 cup orange juice (didn't have any this time, so I used water and juice of a lemon to equal 1 cup)
3/4 cup peanut butter
Handful of frozen peas
Handful of arugula
Handful of cilantro

Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large pot and toss in onions and garlic. I like to grate my garlic. Do what you need to do to make you happy. Cook a few minutes until onions start to brown.

Grate in ginger. Stir in curry paste, rinsed butter beans (or chick peas if that's what you have), coconut milk, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, orange juice, and salt to taste.

Bring to boil and drop to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. Stir in peas, arugula (or some baby spinach if you have it), and cilantro.

Serve hot, over rice.

We eat this every couple of weeks. The curry makes enough for 4 people...or enough for two for dinner and lunches the next day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Veggie Burgers

I believe our neighbours think that we're crazy...we all know that when you BBQ, it has include MEATY GOODNESS!! And let me tell you, when they are out grilling, the smells that come from over the fence are divine - but I'm certain that the male counterpart feels so sorry for Don that he's being tortured with "burger substitutes" that one day he's going to sneak a burger over here, stealth style. Yeah, Kevin, I'm talking about you.

Truth is, Don doesn't mind the portobello burger...and I think they are pretty dang tasty too, and I used to HATE grilled veggies. Always thought they were slimy and/or bitter. I have found if they are done correctly, this is not the case.

Tonight we had grilled veggie burgers with grilled radicchio and some leftover potato salad (which is probably one of Don's most favourite things that I make). There is a deli  on Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, NJ that makes THE BEST potato salad I have ever had. This is the closest I've been able to come.

In an attempt to make a couple of friends happy by posting ACTUAL recipies, rather than "throw some of this and some of that in a bowl" ("OMG Jace, how are we supposed to make your delicious food if you don't tell us how to do it??") here you go...keep in mind that this is for 2 adults (and smidgens for the little one). Adjust as necessary.

Potato Salad

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed (I've also sliced in 1/8" rounds on the mandolin)
Onions, diced finely (I've used yellow onions, white onions and green onions...whatever is on hand), optional
1\4 cup mayonnaise
2 tblsp apple cider vinegar
1 tblsp sugar (or more to taste)
1 tsp yellow mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Put potatoes on to boil in salted water.

Mix vinegar and sugar to get the sugar dissolved, add mustard, salt and pepper to taste. It should be a good balance of sweet and tangy with a really creamy texture. Adjust as necessary. Stir in onions.

Drain potatoes when they are fork tender and dump the hot potatoes into the dressing. Mix gently (try not to break the potatoes into mush)

Refrigerate and serve cold.

Use whatever potatoes you have on hand, or whatever potatoes you prefer. You can add a chopped boiled egg (which I've done, but am too lazy to do, normally). Throw in diced sweet pepper, celery, add paprika, whatever tickles your fancy.

Grilled Radicchio...not my recipe. I'm not a big fan of radicchio because it's bitter, but Anthony Sedlak's recipe is tasty and a great addition to this meal.

Grilled Veggie Burgers

2 large portobello mushrooms, stem removed
1 sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into quarters
1/4 cup mayonnaise
5 or 6 basil leaves
Squirt of lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar or President's Choice Glaze with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Salt & pepper
Hamburger bun, foccaccia, whatever you have
Arugula, baby spinach, lettuce...whatever you have (as long as it's not that crappy iceburg lettuce)
Balsamic vinegar or President's Choice Glaze with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Heat grill on high (or you can do it on the stovetop). Drizzle mushrooms and peppers with balsamic vinegar (if not using the PC Glaze), olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides.

Mix mayo, chopped basil, a pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice (optional) and pop in the fridge.

Grill for about 3-5 minutes (depends on the size of your vegetables, the heat of your grill, and the alignment of the planets...ok, I was joking about that last one) each side, until the mushrooms and peppers are heated through and softened. If using the glaze, apply during the last 2 minutes or so. You can also grill your bread if you like.

Assemble burger (you know, bun bottom, greens, veggies, basil mayo and bun top) and go to town.

You can use whatever veggies you want in like eggplant? Go for it. Grilled pineapple? Ok then. Red onion? Perfect! You can add a bit of garlic to your mayo, rub some garlic on your grilled bread...avoid the garlic if you don't like it...up to you!

So there you go...that's what was On My Plate tonight.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Family Reunion: Salty, Spicy, Chocolatey 2 Bite Brownies

When I am stressed out, I bake. Friday afternoon we realized that our family room/laundry room/basement was flooded, which sucked the fun out of our "4 day family weekend" I baked.

On Saturday was my family's annual reunion. Four generations together in the same place? It is great fun. I didn't get a chance to visit with everyone as much as I would have liked to because I was trading entertaining Quinn responsibilities with my sister Kate (since poor Don was stuck here at home cleaning up the aftermath), but it was great fun!

I decided to bake up some Salty, Spicy, Chocolatey 2 Bite Brownies to bring along for the ride. The recipe is based off of Brian Boitano's "Fudgy Gooey Brownies" from the Band Aid episode of What Would Brian Boitano Make?


Preheat oven to 325 degrees (though I have the annoying breed of oven that needs to be closely monitored and adjusted throughout the cooking process....maybe one day a kitchen appliance company will read my blog, feel sorry for me, and donate a new oven).

This recipe made about 55 little brownies in my 24 count mini muffin tin.

Melt 12 oz semisweet chocolate and 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (cut into cubes) in a double boiler until glossy and remove from heat.

In bowl, mix 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp chili powder, and 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.

In a second bowl, mix 4 large eggs and 3 large egg yolks (all at room temperature), and 1 tblsp vanilla.

Stir 1 cup demerara sugar and 3/4 cup white sugar into melted chocolate and butter mixture until combined. The chocolate should be cooled slightly (so you shouldn't end up with scrambled eggs), so you can add your egg gunk and stir to combine.

At this point add the flour mixture in a couple of batches, but don't overmix.

Grab a small ice cream/cookie scoop and portion it out into the mini muffin tin. Before popping into the oven for about 15 minutes, sprinkle the top with a little bit of flaked sea salt. I actually had some Himalyan Pink on hand, so that's what went on top. Keep an eye on the brownies until the tops look set. The middle will still be gooey so relying on the "clean tester" method won't work.

Let brownies set up a bit in the pan for 2 minutes or so, then transfer to a baking rack to finish cooling.

Brian's recipe called for espresso powder, which I did not have (and can't get without having to buy a crapload that I'll never use), and ancho chili powder (which I could not find). I eliminated the espresso powder and subbed run of the mill chili powder, and it was tasty as heck.

The Verdict?
Very tender, great chocolate flavour with some heat in the back of the throat. Would be amazing with a little caramel drizzled on top.

Not dense like brownies usually are (which is why he's not a fan). He liked them.

Did not try these.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pancakes and Bacon Candy for Breakfast

It's Canada Day...and Don and I both have the day off (yay!). As Don and Quinn watched Imagination Movers, I took to making breakfast.

We had half a package of low sodium bacon kicking around, and I pulled out the ingredients to make pancakes. Everything came out of my pantry...and believe me, I don't have a funky pantry. It's pretty basic. I'll bet you have most of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge too!

Getting the bacon started was easy. Preheated the oven to 300ish, lined a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup), and put a baking rack on the baking sheet (so the bacon doesn't sit in its grease- lets it get crispy, which is exactly how we love it). I spread the bacon out on the baking rack, gave each slice a generous grind of pepper from our ridiculously large pepper mill (one day I'll show you guys, it really is ridiculous) and a sprinkling of demerara sugar.

Did you guys know that brown sugar is basically refined white sugar with molasses added? I learned that recently, and it's totally the opposite of what I've always thought. I now use demerara sugar, which is partially refined sugar cane extract.

Back to the bacon. The bacon went into the oven for a while, until it cooked and eventually crisped up (did I mention that we love crispy bacon?) The pepper adds a bit of bite, and the cripsy saltiness blends so incredibly with the sweet, caramalized, is there anything better than bacon?

I pulled out my "Cooking Bible" (Michael Smith's The Best of Chef at Home). I have tried most of the recipes in this book (which is more than I can say about my other cookbooks gathering dust on the shelf) and have absolutely loved 98% of them.

My pancake recipe is based on his Whole Grain Pancakes recipe on page 3. I half it and have made a few adjustments to suit our family's tastes.

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (less about 2 Tblsp)
2 Tblsp Red River Cereal
1 Tblsp baking powder
about 2 Tblsp cinnamon (we love cinnamon)
pinch salt
1 cup milk
1/8 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1 Tbslp honey
2 eggs
splash of vanilla

I did the whole "mix the dry, mix the wet, mix them together, don't over stir" thing, and then I let it sit for a little bit. I don't start the pancakes until the bacon is nearly done. I know, pure genius, what can I say?

As I'm cooking the pancakes (and if I need to explain to you how to do this, I think you need more than what my blog can offer you), I keep the finished ones under an inverted bowl. Got that tip by watching Michael Smith's show. Sometimes I put them in a warm oven, but it was all full up with bacony goodness, so I used the bowl trick.


Michael's recipes are great because they are a basic outline of what you might want to use together and he encourages you to play with the balance until you find something that suits your taste.

The blend of unbleached all purpose flour and whole wheat flour allows for some nutritious "meaty flavour" without it being too heavy. I added the Red River Cereal to the oats' measurement because I love the texture of the grains (and added nutritional value). I have made these pancakes with 1/2 cup oatmeal (as called for in the original recipe) and loved it. I made them with 1/2 cup Red River Cereal in place of the oats and they were like bricks. Tasty, but way too heavy! You can use 1 or 2 eggs (more for added richness), water in place of milk, butter in place of oil...whatever you have. These would also be great with a bit of cubed apple or another fruit in them, but Don's not a fan of fruit in his food, so it's left out of ours.

The Verdict:
I love that these are nutritous and really tasty. It's strange how much they taste like they have apples in them. Must be the oatmeal and cinnamon combo. Not too much extra work (from a boxed mix) and it's way better for you!
Says they are tasty, meaty and tender. The bacon? Fricken delicious.

Loves him some "pan-kins and bacon". He ate 1 1/2 pancakes (no syrup...I don't want to clean that off him!) and a piece of bacon (sans pepper and sugar...I always keep one piece that I don't season)

This is a regular rotation recipe.