Archive for January, 2010

PiZah!

January 29, 2010

I’m going to try to not rub it in too much, but I had such an amazing day!!!

I had a much-needed day off work that I devoted entirely to myself. I slept in until 9, laid on the couch until 10, had a coffee and went to Body Blitz. For all of you ladies out there that haven’t heard of (or been to) Body Blitz yet, you are missing out! I spent two hours doing the water circuit before my hour-long massage. Maybe it’s my European roots that crave saunas, steam rooms and cold plunges, but it was pretty friggin fantastic. You walk out of this place feeling like a million bucks (and it cured my two-day headache that Advil could not). Check out the website for more info  http://www.bodyblitzspa.com/.

I stopped off at the market on my way home and picked up some pizza dough from the Italian pizza place (not sure what the name is, but it’s on the first floor towards the back on the west side). I’ve tried going through the process of making my own dough several times and it just never tastes as good as the one I get from the market.

Am I sounding like a sales person yet?

Anyways, I rolled out this dough, tossed it around a little bit and topped it with some of my favourite toppings (pretending I was Chef Pasquale). With a little pizza sauce and cheese, this pizza was definitely the perfect end to my perfect day!

*I topped my pizza with fresh Prosciutto, sun-dried black olives and hot peppers.

Steak Dinner

January 25, 2010

I spend a big part of my day talking with writers, journalists and bloggers and not until today, can I honestly understand what it feels like trying to keep up with every story, every idea and every post. Yikes!

Tonight I made homemade chicken pot pie…with a twist, but I’ll have to add this post to my “to do” file. I promise to get it up soon though, because the recipe turned out really well and I’m excited to share it.

The truth is, I’m not ready to let go of the weekend yet.

This past weekend, we indulged. From homemade pizza to a Friday night steak dinner, we definitely ate very well. After a busy week, I was completely content with hibernating, yogaing and eating food that is a little extra special. Even if it meant eating on our “not so special” couch.

On Friday night I made it to the market just before it closed and decided to pick up a couple Striploin steaks. I typically only make steak in the summer on the bbq, but thought I’d give it a shot on the stove top. I paired the steak with some mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Sadly, my steak ended up more on the medium well side, instead of the medium rare side, but it was still great!

Mashed Potatoes:

  • 2-3 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp green onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cube the potatoes. Place them in a pot with cold water and a pinch of salt and boil them until fork tender. Melt the butter and cream cheese and mix the two together with the milk. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher and add the melted butter, cream cheese and milk. Keep mashing until smooth, but be careful not to over mash because you don’t want the potatoes to get too starchy. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the green onion right before serving.

Mixed Vegetables

  • chopped vegetables of your choice (I used peppers and mushrooms)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chopped ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a sauté pan heat the oil on medium high and add the garlic and ginger. Add the vegetables, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and sauté until tender.

Steak

In a large sauté pan, heat a bit of oil on high. Add the steak and brown for about 3 minutes on each side (depending on how you like your steak). A few minutes before serving add some bbq sauce of your choice (optional) to the hot pan and glaze the steak by flipping it over a few times in the sauce.

Who needs The Keg?

Green

January 20, 2010

When I think about the colour green, I think about trees, grass, apples, kiwi, limes, beans, peppers, brussel sprouts, flowers, green tea, green P parking…

Ok, ok, maybe I also think about money (just a little!).

I also think about salad and how much I love it. After scarfing down half a box of Triscuit crackers and half a container of cream cheese at work (and this was just my appetizer) I wanted a lighter dinner tonight. A nice big green garden salad sounded exactly like what my hips had ordered.

At the grocery store I discovered the mini pickled spicy peppers that you get when you order the bottomless garden salad from East Side Mario’s. I almost dropped my grocery basket because I was so excited to see them (they are not easy to find…this is the first time I have spotted them at a grocery store downtown). Some people love em, some people hate em, but we are definitely big fans!

Oh! Pickles are another green “item”! Other than fruits, nature and vegetables, I’m having a really hard time figuring out what else is green.

Anyways, with a few delicious ingredients, garden salads do not have to be boring. I sliced up cucumbers and peppers, shaved some carrot and parmesan cheese using a vegetable peeler, added some craisins and pickled peppers and my salad du jour came alive. I also made homemade croutons and a homemade balsamic dressing. Here’s how:

Croutons

  • whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan lay out all the cubed bread on a single layer. Pour the melted butter on top, sprinkle on the seasoning spices and mix around with your hands until each cube gets some of the love. Bake until golden (about 5 minutes).

Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together, except for the olive oil. When all the other ingredients are combined slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking quickly. This will help emulsify everything together. Extra dressing will keep well in the fridge for a few days.

Bada bing bada boom! At least I think that’s what the East Side Mario’s tagline is…

Too bad my salad is better!

Green Curry

January 19, 2010

The week is flying by and my schedule is pretty much maxed out. I love being busy, but sometimes you just need to take a bit of time to chill out and take a break. As my yoga instructors often say…just let go of everything and breath. 

Tonight we’re going to go see Tegan and Sara (love them!), but I wanted to cook up a little something something before heading out. I made a super quick chicken green curry that I thought was pretty amazing. I can’t take full credit for it, because I did get a little help (ok…maybe a lot of help) from the Thai section in the grocery store. One day, when I have my dream kitchen, I will have every spice out there organized perfectly so that I can make everything from scratch (such as curry paste). I’m using that as my excuse, at least this time.

But honestly, I often order green curry at Thai restaurants because I love it so much, but making it tonight (with my store-bought helpers) tasted just as good…if not better. In the time that it takes you to cook rice, the dish is ready!

Chicken Green Curry

  • 1 can coconut milk (I used the reduced fat one)
  • 2-3 tbsp green curry paste (you can get this in the Thai section in the grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 big handful of green beans
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced

Start by getting your rice going (I used Jasmine tonight). Then, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the green beans. They will start turning a super bright green colour after about 4 minutes. Once they are at this stage, fill a bowl with cold ice water, drain the beans and shock them in the cold water. This will stop them from cooking and keep them bright green.

In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbsp of oil and add the garlic and ginger. As soon as you can smell them, add the chicken and cook through. Add the coconut milk, green curry paste, chicken stock, brown sugar and simmer for about 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before serving add the peppers and green beans. Et voila!

Time for me to go rock it out!

Cabbage Rolls

January 16, 2010

What a lovely Saturday!

We woke up somewhat early, did a little cleaning and went for a stroll around town. I can’t believe that  it’s mid-January and +4 degrees out. Us Toronto folk really can’t complain too much about winter thus far. I know I have been guilty of complaining  myself, but with the sun setting later and the days getting longer, life in Canada really ain’t so bad. Only a couple more months until Spring is officially here!

I love weekends for many reasons. A break from work, extra sleep time, chance to catch up with friends and most importantly…do whatever it is that you feel like doing. Freedom is bliss!

Weekends are also great for cooking. I like to choose dishes that are easy, but ones that may take extra cooking time that I often don’t have during the week.

Today I wanted to cook up a bunch of food for my dad and freeze it in individual sized portions. I don’t get to cook for him often and wanted to make his life a little easier by filling up his freezer with some homemade grub. I haven’t made cabbage rolls before, but have seen my grandma and mom do it a handful of times. Having European roots, this dish was a pretty traditional meal in my household. I didn’t mind though, because it’s one of my top favourites.

*For the non-cabbage lovers, the filling also makes for a tasty stuffed pepper. I had a bit of extra filling, so I made both cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers.

Cabbage Roll Filling:

  • Ground sausage (I used 4 sausages that I took out of their casings)
  • 1 package ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey
  • 2 cups rice, already cooked
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4-6 cups tomato sauce

Remove the core of one green cabbage and place it in salted, boiling water. Cover and boil until leaves become tender. Remove leaves and let dry. Use the outer, tough leaves to line a baking dish. This will make sure that the cabbage rolls don’t  stick to the pan. Pour a bit of tomato sauce to coat the cabbage leaves.

In a pan on medium high heat, sauté the garlic and onion in a bit of oil or butter until tender. Add all the oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the onion and garlic and let cool a bit. 

In a bowl, combine ground sausage, ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, rice, tomato paste, onion and garlic mixture, and a few spoonfuls of  tomato sauce. Use your hands to mix everything together. The mixture is now ready to be stuffed into halved peppers or cabbage leaves.

With the cabbage leaves, make sure to cut the tough stem out, which is at the bottom of the leaf. Lay the leaf flat, fill with about 3 tbsp or so of the mixture and roll up like you would a spring roll. Fold in the edges as you roll so that the filling stays inside.

Place each roll seam-side down in the cabbage  lined pan. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on top. I also like to add about 1 cup of the cooking water from boiling the cabbage to help steam the cabbage as it cooks. Cover with foil and make in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Here’s a shot of my cabbage roll with my stuffed pepper. I added a slice of provolone on the stuffed pepper and put it under the broiler for a few minutes for a little something extra. I think my dad will enjoy these!

Arrrriba!

January 14, 2010

It’s been a bit of a rough week and I just haven’t felt like writing much. I think I started and stopped at least 2 different post ideas, but wasn’t happy with any and put them aside in my “I’ll finish that later” pile.

I decided to start fresh with a little experiment that I thought would help lighten the mood. I bought some tortillas a few nights ago to make chicken caesar wraps (a blog post #FAIL) and have a pile of them still leftover that I wanted to use up before they expired. The only logical solution I could think of to address the “leftover tortilla” dilemma was to attempt my first ever fajita night…totally from scratch.

See you later store-bought fajita mix and hello homemade marinade!

I spent a few minutes surfing the net for some recipe ideas and found a common thread of ingredients: cumin, chili powder, garlic and lime.  Pretty simple n’est pas? PLUS it would make a much healthier alternative than the sodium induced seasoning pouch from the grocery store. As a bonus, it gave me an excuse to make guacamole. I LOVE  me some guacamole. 

I came home from work, skipped yoga, mixed up a marinade, sliced up some chicken and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours or so (we always eat dinner late). Had I committed to fajitas last night, I would have done this then to get extra marinating time, but for some reason I like to live on the edge and keep my options open up to the last-minute. Maybe I’m just making an excuse for my inability to make a decision. 

Here’s how I did my marinade.

Fajita Marinade

  • 1 Cup chicken stock
  • 10 Drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Chicken breasts, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Water (optional)

Mix all the ingredients, add sliced chicken (or beef ) and marinate for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the meantime shred up some cheese, slice up some peppers and onion and get all of your other favourite sides set up so that when it comes to assembly, everything is ready. Oh! Don’t forget about the Guacamole.

Guacamole

  • 1 Avocado (ripe)
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice up the avocado and add every ingredient in a bowl. I find that if it’s a nice ripe avocado, a potato masher works best to mush everything together until combined.

When the fajitas are ready to cook, in a skillet or frying pan heat a bit of oil. Add the chicken with the marinade. Cook until browned on high.

Add sliced peppers and onion and stir until the veggies are tender, but still crisp (2-5 mins). If the sauce needs thickening, add a bit of cornstarch, diluted in water (I added 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1 tbps water).

Serve with a glass of red wine and you have yourself a delicious fiesta (and a sunnier spirit)!  This was just as easy as the store-bought option and tasted so much more authentic.

Now lets play a game of “Can you spot the cat in the dryer”?

Say Cheese!

January 11, 2010

Hello Monday…we meet again! I must say that I’m very much looking forward to saying goodbye (well…at least until next week). 

I guess that I was feeling a little cheesy yesterday. I went to visit with some family that I haven’t seen in a few years and my mom asked me to bring an appetizer. I had a late night the night before and woke up craving something delicious. At this point I had no idea what that would be, but knew it wasn’t going to be a “low cal” type of treat.

I wanted cheese!

As you can probably tell by now, I consider cheese  a very special food group. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out one of my favourite posts so far: mac and cheese.

Anyways, I decided to make my first ever cheese ball by combining ingredients that I thought would go well together (and did they ever!). This is something that I’ll definitely be making again (and sooner than later).

In moderation, I really don’t think that this recipe is that bad for you. I did try to use low-fat (or light) substitutions, which should count for something…right?

Cheese Ball

  • 2 Containers light cream cheese
  • 2 Cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 Cups swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Light mayo
  • 2 tbsp Light sour cream
  • 3/4 Cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp (or less) Garlic powder
  • 1 Cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*About 10 drops of Worcestershire sauce adds great flavour as well. I omitted it this time, so that the vegetarians can still enjoy the cheese

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature for easy mixing. In a frying pan or in the oven, gently toast the pecans or walnuts to bring out the nutty favours. Once you can smell them, they are ready!

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, mayo, sour cream, onion, parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Mix until everything looks smooth and combined.

Transfer mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the cheese and green onion (I like to do it this way, as opposed to in the food processor so that these ingredients stay whole…I think it looks nicer).

Once mixed, line a small bowl (that will fit all the mixture) with plastic wrap. Transfer the mixture to this lined bowl and refrigerate overnight. I didn’t have time for this, but did find that 1-2 hours in the freezer worked just as well and allowed enough time for the cheese ball to set.

Flip on a serving plate and garnish with the toasted walnuts or pecans (or both!). I think that candied nuts and added chopped herbs would be great too!

Say cheese!

Vichyssoise

January 5, 2010

Vichyssoise: (pronounced /viːʃiːˈswɑːz/) is a thick soup made of puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock. It is traditionally served cold, but can also be eaten hot.

It’s Tuesday, the second day back to work after the holidays and I was craving a little warmth (I’m still having a hard time adjusting to this winter business). Soup always seems to do the trick so I decided to pick up a few ingredients to make my all time favourite…Vichyssoise. To be honest, I never actually call it Vichyssoise. For whatever reason, the name actually reminds me of some sort of fish (not that I’m against fish). Potato and Leek soup works just fine for me, especially since I’ve altered the recipe a bit from the traditional one.

My mom taught me how to make this when I was probably 10 years old and I have been making it ever since (thanks mom!). I’m not really happy with the photo below, so please don’t judge the book by its cover. It’s guaranteed to be good every time, or your money back!

Potato Leek Soup

  • 1 bunch leeks, sliced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, sliced the same size as the leeks
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, cut into cubes (I use Yukon Gold)
  • 1 tbsp butter (you can use oil if you prefer)
  • 1 cup milk (I use 2%, but silken tofu also works well  for a vegan alternative)
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the chicken or vegetable broth to a simmer.

In the meantime, melt the tbsp of butter in a frying pan and sautée the leeks and onions gently on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add a little bit of salt and pepper to this mixture. Be careful with the salt, as many chicken and vegetable broths can be high in sodium already. While that’s going, peel and cube the potatoes.

Add the softened leeks and onions to the simmering broth. Add the potatoes. Simmer mixture for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth (an emulsifier or food processor also works). Pour back into the saucepan and stir in the milk. If you prefer the soup to be extra creamy, add more milk or a splash of heavy cream.

As Julia Child would say Bon Appétit!

Spaghetti Night

January 3, 2010

Who doesn’t love pasta?

As a kid, I always remember eating spaghetti when my brothers had soccer. Carbs = energy. It was also a meal that I think we all enjoyed and quick and easy to make. I think that almost everyone can think of a childhood memory eating spaghetti with family or friends.

A few months ago, I saw one of Jamie Oliver’s most recent tv specials that revealed a few harsh realities about store-bought spaghetti sauce. Most of the sauces on the market are full of preservatives and copious amounts of sodium. This combination of ingredients is really not good for anyone.

Since its January and the beginning of a new year, I’m going to try to make a few positive (and easy) changes with the food that I eat and make. My spaghetti tonight was inspired by Jamie’s 20 minute tomato sauce, which I encourage everyone to try. It is super easy, delicious and much healthier for you. It also provides you with the opportunity to customize it the way you like it. http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetarian-recipes/the-quickest-tomato-sauce

Here’s how I did mine tonight. I had the time to simmer it for a while, which isn’t necessary, but does help reduce down the flavours a bit more.

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 pkg lean ground beef
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (whole plum tomatoes work better…I just didn’t have any on hand)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned  
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes (use less if you don’t want the heat)
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender or food processor, blend the can of diced tomatoes until smooth. In a saucepan heat about 1 tbsp olive oil and gently sautee the onion and garlic to release the flavour. Add blended tomatoes. Add all the spices and tomato paste and simmer gently.

In the meantime, brown the ground beef and drain off any excess fat. When ready, add the ground beef to the tomato sauce. Simmer on medium low for 1-2 hours (or longer if you want).

About 5 minutes before serving, add the bell peppers. This will ensure that they stay crisp and delicious.

Serve with garlic bread and pasta of your choice. I used whole wheat spaghetti tonight. 

Well it’s back to work tomorrow…with some great leftovers!

Opa!

January 2, 2010

It may be minus 20 degrees out there today, but it was a summer inspired dinner chez moi tonight!

You see…winter and I don’t always see eye to eye.  Today, I got really angry at the cold winds, salt stained roads and bitter air. Yes, I am Canadian, and yes we have had a pretty “mild” winter (so far), but I’d be lying if I said I don’t complain about it. I do.

How long until summer again?

My day started off with my mom dropping off my kitty cat (she’s been vacationing at my dad’s for the past month) and also brought us a bag of fresh chicken. I packed and froze most of it, but did set some aside for dinner. I decided to whip up a quick and easy Greek inspired marinade so that I could grill up some souvlaki later on. Living in a condo, I don’t really have a grill, or a bbq, but improvised a summer fresh meal quite easily. This brought us a little bit of sunshine on this beautiful winter day (I write this with a bit of sarcasm).

Chicken Souvlaki

  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt (sour cream also works well)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and coat cubed chicken. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. The longer the better.

Soak wooden skewers in hot water for 20 minutes and then skewer the marinated chicken. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a frying pan, heat a bit of olive oil on high. When hot, add chicken skewers and turn to brown all sides. Finish cooking in the oven (about 10 minutes). Be careful not to overcook. Dry chicken is the worst!

I also marinated some chopped bell peppers and onion in our favourite salad dressing, mixed with a bit of bbq sauce for sweetness. I skewered and cooked these in the oven with the chicken and finished them off by putting them under the broiler for a few minutes to get some extra colour.

I cooked my rice in chicken broth, instead of water and added about a tbsp of lemon juice for extra freshness.

Opa!