Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fishcakes and Skullheads

When we were kids, we ate Brussels sprouts a lot. My Grandma Val (I believe) told us once that they were "skullheads", and that did the trick! We ate them right up.

My "skullheads" recipe is pretty simple, and may not sound appetizing, but I assure you, they are. I pick Brussels sprouts all about the same size (smaller is tastier, as is true for a lot of veggies) but as long as they aren't the size of my hand, they are fine. A little rinse, a cut in half, and a toss into a non-stick frying pan. If there are loose leaves that fall in, don't fuss, they are actually the best part of this dish. I admit that I often peel the leaves off on purpose just so I can have more of them.

Add about 1/4 cup water and a sprinkle of salt to the pan and let the veggies steam a bit. Turn down the heat to medium-high and add a tablespoon or so of butter. Allow to melt in, shake it up occasionally, and just let it sit and caramelize.

I usually add a couple of tablespoons of butter in 2 installments, but cook until the sprouts look brown and the loose leaves almost look burnt. Not quite black, and not stinking up the house with char, but dark brown.

Doesn't sound like it would be that great, but it is ridiculously tasty.

Alternatively, you can probably Google up some "oven roasted brussels sprouts" recipes. Similar end product.

The fishcakes recipe came from the same magazine as the Yummy Cake (Canadian Family, October 2010) and it's part of the article/group of recipes that are to help people make food that everyone will enjoy if you're also cooking for those with food sensitivities. This one was called "Shellfish-Free Crab Cakes".

I call them frickin delicious. You know I don't love the fish, but try to find recipes to make the fish palatable for me so I can reap the health benefits. THIS is sooo good!


1/2 lb tilapia fillets (or another whitefish, if that's all you have available)
1/2 lb salmon fillets
2 medium sized white potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
2 tablespoons seafood seasoning (recipe calls for 1 tblsp Old Bay but we don't have that here)
Pepper (and salt if you're using Old Bay)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Oil for pan frying

Peel and slice potatoes thinly, cover with cold water in a saucepot and boil until done. The thinner/smaller you slice potatoes (and other root veggies), the faster they will cook...obviously. And if you cut them evenly, they will cook evenly. Magic, that!

While potatoes cook, put a large frying pan of salted water onto the stove to boil. Once the water is boiling, turn it down to simmer and poach the fish for about 6 minutes.

Drain the potatoes well (don't want soggy fishcakes!) and scoop the fish onto a paper towel lined plate.

Now, let's get down to business: In a large bowl, rice potatoes (or mash), toss in onion, parsley, lemon zest, and seasonings. Peel skin off the fish (if necessary) and flake both into bowl (big chunks, small chunks, whatever you like). Mix gently and taste for seasoning. Adjust if necessary. NOW add the egg (see what I did there?) and mix gently to incorporate.

Place breadcrumbs on a shallow bowl (or plate). I added a little bit more of my seasoning because it was really good! Grab a golf ball sized chunk of fishcake, roll into a ball and flatten slightly to form a patty. Coat in panko and place on a plate or sheetpan. Continue until you've formed all the mix. You are probably looking at about 15 or 18 patties? Pop in fridge to cool down and set a little, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix 1/4 cup mayo with just under 1/4 cup ketchup. Add 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle (I actually took a shortcut and used dill relish)...or you could use sweet pickles, finely chopped red onion, nothing aside from the mayo and ketchup...up to you. Mix and stick in fridge.

Heat a thin layer of oil in the bottom of a frying pan and brown up the fishcakes. Drain on paper towel and enjoy!

I'm sure you could also bake them after spritzing them with a little oil if you don't like the idea of pan frying.

My thoughts about the recipe? It's an incredible main, and would be a great little appetizer. Don LOVED them, as did Quinn, and me, the fish disliker thought they were wicked good. Probably because of the crispy, crusty potato, and the seasoning. I could barely taste the fish inside, and I know it was there!

It did take longer than I like to spend on a weeknight dinner, so while I would definitely make this again, I would probably save it for a weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Yummy Cake

Quinn eats Oatmeal Bear Paw cookies. They are these soft cake like cookies, and they are oh so convenient, but there are things in them that I prefer not to feed him - modified palm oils, sorbitol, artificial flavours...

I'm not saying that I'm going to totally stop buying them. They do serve their purpose as an occasional convenience food, but there has to be something better for him!

Then arrives my new Canadian Family magazine (October 2010). There was a recipe under the article "Smart Foods" for Flaxen Oaty Cranerry Walnut Bars.

Comparing the Nutritional Values, there really wasn't much difference between the Bear Paws and the Bars With the Really Long Name...but the ingredients were MUCH better. I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe and made them.

Quinn called them "Yummy Cake", which is a heck of a lot easier to remember than Flaxen Oaty Cranerry Walnut Bars. I will definitely make these again. I might try some different fruit and nut combinations next time. They are tasty, and healthy, and fulfilling. Give them a try!

Yummy Cake

yummy cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 flax seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Grease 9x9 square pan (these could probably make great cookie cakes or mini muffins...adjust the baking time as necessary if you change it up) and preheat oven to 350.

Mix flour, oats, cranberries, nuts, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in a seperate bowl, and add eggs, milk, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into pan and bake about 30 minutes (or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean).

Cool in pan and cut into bars.

Really, any fruit/nut combo would work. Bits of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, apple...mash in a banana (maybe you'd need to adjust the milk and butter for that?) The cake part is a great base for anything you like to put into your baking. Grate in some zucchini! Heck, the possibilities are endless. Do it up!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Radish Spread

So I went to a party at a friend's place a few weeks ago, and she had this INCREDIBLE radish dip...a recipe of her Mother's. I couldn't stay away from it! I got the recipe from her and immediately set to making it.

And it just didn't taste the same as hers. No matter what I did.

When people have a "signature recipe", I think it's just impossible to replicate it. Stacy must have put some magic in that dip. Seriously.

This recipe has haunted me since. Who would have thought that radish + cream cheese (and a few other things) = wicked good? What else could I do to this combination?

Making up recipes on the fly is easy. It really is. I know, you're probably rolling your eyes (I would have been, a few years ago), but if you know what tastes good with what, you can do it! I believe in you!

Let's see what we already know: nearly everything tastes awesome with cream cheese. It's true. Add a smear of cream cheese to a roast beef sandwich. It's GOOD! But cream cheese is sort of bland...so you have to build it up with flavours.

Garlic, shallots or onions, very finely diced would fit that bill. Garlic might be a little strong with the radish as I want the radish to shine. So shallots it was...I like the sweetness of a shallot. And I'm totally lazy, so rather than chopping it super finely, I just grated it into the cream cheese.

Let's look at the radish - what tastes good with radish? Dill does!

I added a bit of this and a bit of that, and came up with this recipe...and it's pretty awesome.

I love radishes but can only do so much with them raw, you know? I am glad to now have this spread in my repitoire...it would be all sorts of awesome spread atop a toasted sesame seed bagel, or (as I was eating it this afternoon)on a multi grain cracker.


Radish Spread


1 brick cream cheese, softened
1 med shallot
1 teaspoon dill weed (or more...but keep in mind that the flavour intensifies over time)
splash lemon juice
7 medium sized radishes (or more)
pinch salt

Grate shallot and radishes into cream cheese and mix. Add dill and lemon juice, stir and taste. Add a pinch of salt, mix, and taste again. Adjust any flavours as you see fit (more radish, more dill...keeping in mind that the flavour will get stronger as the dip sits...whatever).

Put dip in fridge to set up a bit and allow the flavours to meld.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dead Easy Roast & Rosemary Foccacia

I think I got the recipe for this roast online somewhere, years ago. I've made roast a bunch of different ways, but I always seem to come back to this one. It's no fuss, and it is very well received.

If it isn't broke...

Dead Easy Roast


Seriously, that's it.

1 package gravy mix (I have used Bisto, brown gravy mix, mushroom gravy mix...whatever I have on hand)
1 package ranch dressing/dip mix (I've also done it with the herb dressing/dip mix and italian dressing powder mix)
1/2 cup water
A hunka roast (this is what we had in the freezer)
Veggies (in this case, an onion, and some potatoes and carrots, but whatever you like)

Get out your crock pot. Pop in the roast (if it's tied, leave the string on). Mix water and seasoning packets, pour over roast. Cover and cook for 8 hours or so. The amount of water might look low but as the roast cooks, it will add liquid (as will the veggies, after you add them).

Stir and flip occasionally (though you don't have to really do this...if you're making this roast while you're at work). Add chopped veggies (bite sized pieces) about 2 hours before crock pot time is complete.

I added a bit of rosemary from our garden to this one, but other than that, there shouldn't be a need to add salt or pepper.


Rosemary Foccacia


This recipe is pretty forgiving, as long as you give it a *little* time to rise. I should have let this batch rise a little longer, but SOMEONE was in a hurry to eat his roast. Turned out pretty good, though.

It's based off this recipe, Black Olive Foccacia, though I obviously adjusted it. I would like to try it with black olives though.

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (or more) of chopped, fresh rosemary
Course salt and chopped, fresh rosemary for top

I was so excited to have a reason to use my awesome stand mixer. Just sayin'. I had to dig out my dough hook (never used that on the mixer before) but you could totally do this by hand if you need/want to.

Pour warm water into bowl of mixer, add yeast, sugar and 1 cup of the flour and stir until combined. Let rest 10 minutes (you'll see a change as the yeast begins to activate)

Add remaining 2 cups flour, salt, olive oil, and rosemary and mix (using the dough hook) for a couple of minutes until the dough forms a ball. Continue to mix (or take it and knead it by hand) for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in large, oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and place somewhere warm to rise.

The original recipe called for a 1 hour rise, but I think last night's batch got a 30 minute siesta. Punch dough down, knead a few times (by hand this time) and pull to fit on an oiled baking sheet (I think I used a 13x9 because that's what I had handy).

Poke top with fingers to make indents, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle course salt and chopped rosemary atop. Let rest another 30 minutes (we didn't have time for that last night, but it would have made for a loftier end product).

Bake in a preheated 375 oven until golden and crusty on top, and cooked (but still soft) in the centre.

The original recipe called for a 450 degree oven and 40 minutes, but in my oven, that makes the outside cook too quickly (so I knocked down the temp) and it took closer to 25 minutes to cook. Just keep an eye on it.

Cut and serve...this is great for sopping up the gravy from the roast (and a great compliment to the chef).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Frozen Mud Pie

Frozen Mud Pie


Got this recipe from Johnson's Right@Home newsletter. I made a couple of slight modifications.

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp water
One brick cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
One tub Cool Whip, thawed
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus 2 tbsp for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray a 9 in springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs with melted butter and 1 tbsp of water. Mix and press into bottom of springform pan.

Bake 15 minutes and let cool.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add cocoa powder and milk, incorporating completely. Fold in Cool Whip and 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips.

Pour into cooled crust, sprinkle other mini chocolate chips on top, and toss on some extra crumbs. Do whatcha like (chopped, roasted peanuts would be really good on top too!). Freeze for a few hours.

Remove cuff from springform pan by carefully sliding knife in between pie and pan.

Cut (you might need to use a knife warmed with hot water) and serve.

It's good frozen, though my crust got ridiculously hard, or chilled in the fridge.

Pizza Pasta

Pizza Pasta can be made with whatever you have...but it is basically pizza toppings baked with pasta.

Pizza Pasta


1/2 box whole grain penne
1 jar prepared pasta sauce (or, if I have some homemade leftover I use that instead)
Sliced pepperoni
Black olives
Mozzerella cheese

This time I also added ground beef with a little onion, because my Mother in Law gave me some ground beef that needed to be cooked up.

Cook noodles according to directions (maybe a smidge underdone to allow them to finish cooking in the oven if you go that route).

I browned the ground beef and drained, added the pepperoni and sauce. If I am adding veggies, I throw them in as well.

Mix saucy slop and noodles, dump into casserole, top with cheese, and bake until cheese is melted.

Freezes well and makes for great leftovers.

If you need to make this ahead (which I sometimes do when I need to use up veggies or other leftovers but don't necessarily want to eat it right away), cook the noodles and the slop and put it in the casserole, top with cheese, and freeze. When you feel like eating it, pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw, and bake it at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted.

Or, you can put the slop and noodles into individual microwaveable containers and freeze. When you want one for lunch or dinner, take it out, nuke it, and eat!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chicken Benedict and Honey Mustard Chicken

My Mom gave me this recipe, and she swears it came from my Aunt, who swears that she's never seen it before. I can't take credit for it, but I don't know who I can give credit to.


It's a fairly healthy recipe, depending on how you make the sauce. I don't do "low fat" mayo and sour cream, and Don finds the creamy sauce too heavy, so I make a honey mustard for him.

There are three components to this dish, the rice, the chicken and the sauce. You should probably make them in that order. By the time the sauce is done, the chicken and rice should be about ready to go.

The Rice

1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup red rice (or 1/2 cup brown rice in total)
1 1/4 cup water
4 spinach nuggets (the pkg tells me it's 85g worth, or one serving)

I have a small Salton rice cooker and the perfect ratio for rice is 1/2 cup uncooked rice, 1 1/4 cups water. I usually do half and half brown rice and red rice, but do what you like. I couldn't tell you how long the rice cooks for, my little rice cooker dealie tells me when it's done.

I add the spinach (I found genius frozen chopped spinach nuggets at WalMart) when the water is nearly cooked in. The spinach I use is already cooked. I have also done this with a handful of fresh baby spinach as well. If that's what you have, add this a tad sooner to allow it time to wilt...and make sure you chop it. No one likes a wad of slimy spinach in their rice.

Once your rice is started, it's time for...

The Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
Bread crumbs (I love Panko)
Salt and pepper (or any other seasoning you like)

Preheat over to 350.

Dip chicken breasts in egg and then coat with bread crumbs (I usually season mine with a Garlic and Wine seasoning from the most heavenly restaurant, The Melting Pot - but salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, whatever you like...the chicken shouldn't be super strongly seasoned though)

I place breaded chicken on a rack placed on a foil lined cookie sheet. I like to limit the amount of cleanup I (make Don) do.

Place in preheated oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes until a thermometer tells you it's done (or juices run clear, or whatever method you use).

Time to make the sauces!

Mock Hollandaise (or, "The Best Part of This Meal")

6 or so mushrooms of your choice (I usually use crimini but we had button mushrooms on hand), sliced thinly - or a can of sliced mushrooms (but these are not allowed in our house)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
Juice of half a lemon

Throw sliced mushrooms into a saucepan with a bit of water and boil to soften. Drain mushrooms once done and put aside. If you're using canned mushrooms, drain and rinse and set aside.

In saucepan over medium low heat, add mayo, sour cream, mustard and lemon juice. You won't die if you need to use the bottled lemon juice, but it really does taste best with fresh if you have it.

Taste this awesome sauce (and resist the urge to eat it by the spoonful) and add a little salt and a sprinkle of paprika. Add the mushrooms and heat through.

Honey Mustard Sauce for Don


4 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard (or whatever mustard you have on hand)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons white wine (we had some hanging out in the fridge, im sure you could omit this if you needed to, or add water, orange juice, or stock?)

Add everything to a saucepot, bring to a boil and simmer until slightly thickened.

At this point, your rice and spinach, and chicken should be good to go.

Plate up a bed of rice, pop the breaded chicken on top, and cover with the sauce.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mexican Pizza & Cold Avocado and Leek Soup

The pizza is something I've made for a while, but the soup was adapted from Fast, Healthy Food from Readers Digest. I'll admit that I've never had cold soup. Really. I'm not kidding. The thought of a cold avocado soup made me a little twitchy, but I do love avocado, and adore the creaminess of it...and I had a few leeks in the fridge that needed to be used up, so I gave it a go.

It was a win!

I would recommend starting the leek part of the soup a few hours earlier, to allow it to cool.

Cold Avocado and Leek Soup


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, whites thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced (I grate mine right into the pot)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 ripe avocado
1 small container plain yogurt (like, the single sized serving)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, heat oil and soften sliced and cleaned leeks (remember, slicing the leeks and floating them in a bowl of cold water allows the dirt and grit to fall to the bottom and the clean leeks remain at the top) for a few minutes. Pour in veggie stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes or until leeks are very soft.

Put aside to cool.

Once cooled, pop leeks and broth in a blender and puree.

You don't want to open the avocado too soon because it will turn brown and the flavour will lessen. I'd serve this soup within an hour of mixing it up.

Cut avocado and remove pit, and scoop flesh into blender. Add yogurt, lime juice, and cilantro and whirr it up until smooth. Pop back into fridge to cool completely.

Serve with a little fresh cilantro on top.

The cookbook mentions that you can also serve this soup hot, but would replace the yogurt with sour cream.

Mexican Pizza


1 pizza crust (I use a PC Thin pizza crust, but you can make your own...just bake it off first)
1 cup refried beans (canned or homemade, or you can use black bean dip - see below)
Shredded cheddar
Any toppings you wish to add (or not)
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat your oven to 400 or so, pop in pizza stone (or you can use the underside of a cookie sheet, or other pizza pan...whatever you have). Remove stone or pan from oven, oil as necessary, and place pizza crust.

Smother beans on top - sometimes I'll use canned refried beans and add half a packet of low sodium taco seasoning. This time I used the canned beans and added some chipotle salsa I had in the fridge for seasoning. Sometimes I use a bean dip (recipe below) instead of the refried beans.

Top with shredded cheddar and anything else you'd like to add (that you want to heat up) and pop into the oven until pizza is hot and cheese is melted.

Pull out of the oven, and top with chopped cilantro and anything else you might want to put on there...I like raw green onions and I had some kicking around, so I put them on at this point.

Black Bean Dip (alternative to refried beans)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, grated in
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon (or so) fresh cilantro, to taste

Heat oil in saucepan and soften onions and garlic. Place in food processor and add rest of ingredients (aside from salt and pepper). Process until smooth, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Sometimes I like to add a couple dashes of hot sauce.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Salmon with Mango Salsa

As I mentioned in this post, I'm not a huge fan of the salmon...but I know it's good for me and I do try to make fish at least once a week. Truth be told, though, I'm starting to acquire a taste for it. I certainly don't CRAVE it, don't know if I ever will, but I've found a few ways to make it that taste pretty good to me.

This is one of those recipes. It's based off of a recipe in Fast Healthy Food, a Reader's Digest cookbook.

Quinn really enjoyed it, and didn't balk at the pepper.

Salmon with Mango Salsa


4 salmon fillets
4 teaspoons mixed peppercorns (black, white, green and pink)
Baby new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and diced
3 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, soaked in warm, salty water to soften a bit
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash of hot sauce

Check the salmon for pin bones and remove them, rinse the fillets and pat dry.

Crush the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle (or you can use a pepper grinder or spice grinder...but make sure you're getting a coarse grind). Press the peppercorns onto the surface of the salmon and set aside.

Put potatoes on to boil, and cook until done.

Heat a frying pan (cast iron, preferrably, because they just rock).

While pan is heating, grab a medium bowl and toss diced mango and finely chopped green onions into it. Rinse the pink peppercorns you were soaking and coarsely chop them. Throw them, chopped cilantro, lime juice and olive oil into the bowl and give it all a stir. Taste and add a dash or two of hot sauce (or you can eliminate it, if you aren't too keen on it). Set aside.

Salmon cooking time! Lubricate the hot frying pan as necessary so the fish doesn't stick. Fry fish over medium high heat, on one side, for about 4 minutes, flip, and do it up another 4 (or until fish is cooked to your liking).

Serve it up with mango salsa and potatoes.

This recipe serves 4, so adjust as necessary.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tomato Onion Tart

Don brought some local tomatoes home, so I figured I'd throw together a tomato tart of some sort. Coincidentally, I saw that Food Network Canada had tweeted about this recipe, so I figured I'd try it.

I realized I'd used up all my cornmeal on the anthills outside (don't ask) so I figured I'd substitute whole wheat flour. It was tasty, but a little heavy...cornmeal would have been WAY better. Next time, I'll make sure I use cornmeal.

I'd also use thinly sliced tomato, and seed them first.

Tomato Onion Tart


The Crust

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup freshly grated parmasan
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt and Pepper

Mix flour, cornmeal, paramasan, and oregano. Add in olive oil and water, mix until just combined, form to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in fridge to rest about 30 minutes.

The Guts

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large tomato (or a couple of plum tomatoes), sliced thinly
Grated parmasan

Add olive oil to a hot frying pan and caramelize the onions. Once the onions start to turn translucent, turn the heat down and let them brown and sweeten up. stirring only a couple of times as necessary to keep from burning.

In the middle of cooking the onions, preheat oven to 400 and pull out your tart pan. We all have one of those, right? I don't. I used the springform pan I use for my cheesecake.

Put it Together

Pull crust out of the fridge and roll out into an even disk that will fit into your 8" tart pan/whatever you're using with a little lip. I guess you could also roll it to a rectangle and put it on a cookie sheet. You really don't need to make this too complicated.

Spread caramelized onions onto crust, arrange tomato slices atop, and cover with freshly shredded parmasan. I also added a grind or two of pepper...the salt level was good because of the cheese - didn't need to add that. It pays to taste your food before seasoning (learned that the hard way...a few times, sad to say).

Pop into oven for about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are softened and the exposed crust is golden.

I grabbed some basil from the garden and put that on before serving.