Friday, November 30, 2007

This Cheesecake is Wired!

I don't think I've ever met someone who has been to a Caffe Demetre in the GTA and didn't fall immediately in love with at least one of the offerings there. The first time I set foot in there I was with my two best friends James and Heather, and the three of us have gone back several times since. I even spent a few memorable occasions there with my Reach for the Top team at the end of the season, where I almost fell into a sugar coma after trying to eat a slab of Double Chocolate Fudge Cake, complete with their freshly house-made Honey Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Drizzle (known as the Fridges of Madison Cownty on the menu). If you go for nothing else, seriously, go for the ice cream. It is beyond divine. But I digress.

I bring up Caffe Demetre because one of my latest creations was inspired by a specialty coffee drink of theirs: the Chocolaccino. Before getting sick it was beyond a doubt my drink of choice. Espresso, steamed milk and chocolate, with whipped cream, a cherry and chocolate drizzled on top? Thee still my beating heart (and not from a heart attack)!

This creamy wonder combines a crisp mocha-flavoured cookie crust with rich dark chocolate and more espresso. For my mom's peace of mind, and my diabetic stepfather's sugar levels (not that he cares), I went out and bought No Sugar Added semisweet chocolate for this cake. I also used Splenda in place of white sugar, replaced the rest of the white sugar with brown (for flavour depth, and would do again when re-making this) and used two blocks of "lite" cream cheese mixed with one block of the regular type. But don't be fooled... this is by no means diet food (full NI is after the recipe). This is seriously rich, decadent, powerful chocolate-espresso bliss. Don't make the mistake my mom did and cut it into 8ths... she was only able to eat half a slice, so a 16th is plenty for that cheesecake craving! Hopefully I get to save a piece each for my dad and Andrew, if I can wrestle it away from my mom! Caffeine and chocolate is a dangerously addictive combination!

Chocolaccino Cheesecake
Servings: 16
1 ½ cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
1/3 cup cold coffee
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tbsp cold water
1 egg
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
8 oz cream cheese, softened
12 oz low-fat cream cheese, softened
¼ cup Splenda Granular
¼ cup brown sugar
4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (80% or higher), melted
2 tbsp 1% milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the crumbs and coffee until thoroughly moist.
  2. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of a greased 9-inch spring-form pan.
  3. Bake 10 minutes and refrigerate until cold.
  4. Lower oven temperature to 350F.
  5. Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water until blended.
  6. Beat in the egg and instant espresso, and set aside.
  7. Beat the cream cheeses, Splenda and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer or paddle attachment until well blended.
  8. Add the coffee mixture and mix until blended.
  9. Beat in the melted chocolates and milk. Pour the mixture over the crust.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is almost set, in a water bath.
  11. Turn off oven and allow to cool inside, without opening the door, 45 minutes.
  12. Cool the cheesecake completely on a wire rack, then run a knife or metal spatula around sides of pan to loosen cheesecake.
  13. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least overnight before removing sides of pan and serving.
  14. To serve, remove sides of pan and allow to stand out 30 minutes to come to temperature.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (16 Servings)
Calories: 248
Total Fat: 17.1 g
Cholesterol: 45.5 mg
Sodium: 176.1 mg
Total Carbs: 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 5.2 g

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Festive Food Fair 2007

Well, with the end of the year comes a slew of holidays, and that means a slew of food! Christmas cookies, roasted turkey, latkes and samosas aside, for this year's Festive Food Fair at Morsels and Musings I'm focusing on a lesser-known, Italian Catholic celebration: The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

The origins of this holiday vary, but the basic foundation was that meat was not eaten on Christmas Eve since it was the birth of Christ. Like abstaining from meat on Good Friday, one would not eat meat on Christmas Eve. Why 7 types of fish? Some say it is because it took 7 days to create the universe. Others claim it was for the 7 disciples. Here is another take on the holiday from Stephencooks, complete with a menu.

So, as part of our feast this year, I have a recipe that I've playfully named Fishes for Loaves (of course, playing off of the Loaves and Fishes story). Tender cod fillets are poached in a spicy wine, tomato and caper sauce before being garnished with cilantro. All in all, wonderful way to spice up the Catholic Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Fishes for Loaves
Serves 12
1/8 cup olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 28oz cans diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 cup roasted red pepper strips, drained
2 ½ cups dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 cups sliced stuffed green olives
¾ cup drained capers
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 (6 ounce) fillets cod or halibut
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft.
  3. Stir in garlic and sauté 1 minute.
  4. Add tomatoes, red peppers, wine, stock, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Heat to a simmer, cook 5 minutes.
  5. Place fish into sauce.
  6. Cover, and gently simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  7. Transfer fish to a serving plate, and keep warm.
  8. Increase the heat and boil until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  9. Stir in butter and cilantro. Serve sauce over fish.
As far as calories and fat go, it's a holiday! I wouldn't worry about it soooo much, but it isn't actually that bad (come on, this is no deep-fried turkey!).

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 339.3
Total Fat: 12.9 g
Cholesterol: 98.8 mg
Sodium: 1,023.6 mg
Total Carbs: 8.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 40.5 g

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Presto Pasta... or is That Presto Cheese... Nights!

An old favourite of children and adults everywhere is popping up today on this blog's menu, or at least a variation of it. I mean, who hasn't had tuna-macaroni casserole before? I've only ever had it once, mind you, and after that it was all about the day-old Kraft Dinner with tomato sauce, peas and turkey when it came to mixed up noodles. But more on that later. I came up with this absurdly cheesy, whole-wheat and panko variation of the popular comfort food since I know a certain someone who loooooves cheese, and pasta!! Well, actually two certain someones (the second being my little sister), but since she detests tuna in any form (which is such a shame... I mean, a life without Tekka Maki?) and hates any form of mac & cheese aside from the kind from the familiar blue box, none of this will be for her.

Since joining the Presto Pasta Nights fray last week over at Ruth's Once Upon a Kitchen, I've had fun letting my mind wander with lots of future ideas! By the way, if anyone can point me to an Ontario (non-internet) source of whole-wheat jumbo pasta shells (the kind used for stuffing) I would be much much obliged. I have a vegan variant of Valerie's recipe that I would love to try, but the refined, fibre-lacking varieties of anything (I'm talking white bread, rice, pasta, anything) bother my stomach so I'm constantly searching for alternates.

For those of you not in the know, panko are coarse, Japanese breadcrumbs noted for their crunchy texture, which is lighter and crispier than regular breadcrumbs. If you can't find them (and it can be tricky) crush Melba Toasts and use those, it works well too (Cooking Light).

I ran this recipe through a nutrition calculator too, if you care to know the facts. You'll probably begin to notice a lot of my recipes with the NI tacked on the end, I'm putting together a healthy cooking presentation for my mom and have gotten into the habit of analyzing just what and how we eat. Just ignore it if you're not curious or concerned about things like that!

Cheese Casserole with Tuna
Serves 6
1 cup whole-wheat or multigrain elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cans chunk tuna in water, drained
½ pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
½ pound Swiss cheese, shredded
1 cup panko crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  3. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  4. Meanwhile, in a 9x13 inch baking dish, combine soup, tuna and 1/2 of the cheeses; mix well.
  5. Add pasta to baking dish and mix together.
  6. Add remaining cheese to the top of the mixture, then add panko.
  7. Cover dish and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted; serve.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 569.0
Total Fat: 28.0 g
Saturated Fat: 15.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 7.3 g
Cholesterol: 106.2 mg
Sodium: 1,367.8 mg
Potassium: 412.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 25.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Sugars: 1.4 g
Protein: 51.7 g

By the way, Cate from Sweetnick's was kind enough to inform me of the 2007 Food Blog Awards that are coming up. Nominations start this Friday, and voting starts on December 10. Perform your civic blogger duties and vote!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gingery Pears for ARF, and a Musical Interlude

Ahh, yes. I do apologize for the lack of a post yesterday, but I was a little preoccupied. You see, I was busy gearing up for what was quite possibly THE BEST concert ever in downtown Toronto, performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Now if you don't know who these musical performance geniouses are, they are the creators and performers of most incredible Christmas shows I have ever seen. Their music is a blend of heavy rock and beautiful classical music, and the performances are filled with light and laser shows, pyrotechnics and flying fake snow, amongst gospel-esque song performances and the help from local orchestras in addition to the band's drummer, guitarists, bassist (Teaghan's favourite!) and the string conductor (who plays an electric, glowing violin!). I highly suggest you check them out if you haven't already, they truly do make you want to crank up the music, dance and sing along, even if you (like me) are not a fan of Christmas carols!

But onto food matters. Today's the round-up day for Sweetnick's ARF - 5 - A - Day healthy eating event, and I have such a yummy sweet treat for it this go-around! These stuffed pears are a brilliant, colourful mix of an rich orange-ginger cheesecake and warm red pears baked into a small bite of decadence.

Of course, being a fruit dessert, these warm little bites are packed with nutrients - the pear portion alone packs in 11.1% of the daily value for vitamin C along with 9.5% of the daily value for copper, two major antioxidants. They are also the fruits least likely to cause an allergic reaction, hence why they have a presence in the vast majority of baby foods. I've waxed poetic about the health benefits of ginger, but today I discovered that the low-fat cheese portion of these treats is a cancer-fighter too!

Ginger-Orange Stuffed Pears
Makes 4
4 oz. light block cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla
½ tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp finely grated orange peel
4 large, barely ripe red pears (Bartlett or Starkrimson)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Beat until cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Gradually beat in sugar until well mixed, then egg yolks and vanilla. Beat well for about a minute.
  4. Sprinkle in orange peel and stir until evenly mixed.
  5. Slice about a 1” cap from top of each pear and discard.
  6. Trim bottoms of pears so they'll sit flat.
  7. Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard cores, along with enough pear flesh to create hollows.
  8. Spoon in cheese mixture.
  9. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in centre of preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 220.3
Total Fat: 4.6 g
Cholesterol: 59.6 mg
Sodium: 46.5 mg
Total Carbs: 45.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.0 g
Protein: 3.1 g

  1. Pears must be eaten the day they're made, if not fresh from the oven.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Recipe Edition

Mmm, chocolate. Who doesn't love it, at least every now and then? The quintessential chocolate dessert out there would have to be the flourless cake. Descriptions for this rich, eggy fudge dessert range from "the source of many fantasies — and yes, even delirium" (Nathalie Dupree) to "a rich dessert with a soul of pure decadence" (Chesapeake Bay). Most recipes include at least 12 oz of fine chocolate, a whack of butter and at least 5 eggs, so thankfully they are served in thin slivers, usually alongside a cup of strong coffee or fortified wine.

Now, to make things interesting, I thought I would take this seemingly diet-disasterous dessert and attempt at least to make it a bit better for our consciences without sacrificing the richness or decadence of the original. On top of that, I was interested in seeing if I could make a dessert that could be enjoyed by pretty much everyone at a holiday or New Years party (seeing as it's coming into that time of year again!). That would mean taking into account allergies to wheat and gluten, dairy, and eggs, as well as at least thinking about the sugar levels (seeing as the stepfather and my grandfather are both diabetic!) while concocting this. Luckily, I've had a bit of experience playing with egg substitutes in various applications so I had a starting point, from which I tweaked, poked and prodded the French delicacy into a heavily modified (purists would say bastardized) decadent dessert that is, well, shall we say, a wee bit on the Eastern side of the planet!

This is my starting point: a rich, espresso-infused blend of butter and chocolate, bound with a fine protein web of eggs. Delicious, the epitome of a romantic, decadent sweet, and guaranteed to go over well with any group of chocoholics (or women, but some would say they're the same thing).

Original Flourless Chocolate Torte Recipe
Serves 16
12 oz sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 lb unsalted butter, diced
1 cup freshly brewed espresso
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
8 large eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350F; line bottom of 9" spring-form pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper, and wrap outside of pan with a layer of heavy-duty aluminium foil.
  2. Place chocolate in large bowl; set aside.
  3. In medium saucepan bring butter, sugar, and espresso to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar; once melted and blended, add to chocolate, whisking until smooth; cool slightly.
  4. Lightly beat eggs together; whisk in some of chocolate mixture, then add egg mixture into remainder of chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth.
  5. Pour batter into spring-form pan, place pan in a large roasting pan, pouring enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the pan.
  6. Bake for approximately one hour, or until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached; remove cake from pan and chill overnight.
Calories: 329.5
Total Fat: 26.2 g
Saturated Fat: 14.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3.9 g
Cholesterol: 136.8 mg
Sodium: 113.5 mg
Potassium: 41.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 27.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Sugars: 22.6 g
Protein: 5.3 g

And here's the re-modeled, vegan friendly edition of the cake I came up with. No eggs = no 136.8mg of cholesterol to worry about, and a drop in the margarine and sugar contributions = less calories (31%) and fat (38%)! Eight eggs was definitely a challenge to replace, but with the wonderful ingredients of tofu (and light tofu at that) and cornstarch to act as the missing binders and body of this wonderfully rich dessert, you would never be able to tell! As with the original recipe, small slices and good quality chocolate are the keys here. Come on, you didn't really think that you could eat the whole thing now, did you?? This ain't featherweight food here, this is serious, rich chocoholic bliss!

The Vegan Chocoholic’s Flourless Torte
Serves 16
2/3 cup vegan stick margarine
1 lb 70% or higher quality chocolate, chopped
1 cup strong brewed coffee
18.5 oz lite silken tofu (such as Mori-Nu)
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water
¾ cup cane sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and line the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan with parchment, wrap in heavy-duty foil and set aside.
  3. In the top of a double boiler, combine the margarine, chocolate and coffee.
  4. Melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. In a blender or food processor, combine tofu, cornstarch, water and vanilla until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl.
  6. Beat in sugar until well blended, then add chocolate mixture and combine thoroughly, taking care not to beat air into the batter.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and rap sharply on the counter top 4-5 times to dissipate air bubbles.
  8. Bake for 1 hour in a prepared water bath, and cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  9. Remove the sides of the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, before serving.
Calories: 227.9
Total Fat: 16.2 g
Saturated Fat: 6.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 72.6 mg
Potassium: 30.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 24.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Sugars: 19.6 g
Protein: 4.1 g

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vegan Ventures at Tasty Palettes!

With the crazy amount of food allergies and intolerances abounding in today's society, it's no wonder that several mentions are popping up around the internet (both blogs and non-blogs alike) dedicated to "alternative" culinary lifestyles. Whether you live gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian, vegan or some mixture of other habits, there is no lack of information and recipes available. That is very good news for those of us who follow more or less "restricted" lifestyles (such as the amazing gluten-free Shauna, anti - egg and - nut Din, fully raw foodie Dhrumil, Susan the fat-free vegan and Chris who blogs about Kosher Vegan Lasagna) since we have a great network of resources right at our fingertips!

The blog Tasty Palettes is going vegan this month, with a food event to match! Vegan Ventures is focusing on providing information and recipes to new and old vegans alike, which is excellent because many "omnivores" (and some of my family prove this) think that "vegan" = "cardboard-like, bland food, rice and beans, and salad". While I am not denouncing the nutritional qualities of rice and beans or salad (since I like both of those dishes perfectly well) vegan food is by no means limited to boring repetition or tofu as sole means of protein supply! In fact, "Obtaining adequate protein on a vegan diet is not a problem. Nuts & seeds, pulses, wholegrain and grain products and soya products all supply protein" (Vegetarian Society). Sites like the Vegetarian and Vegan Societies are great resources for recipes and nutrition guidelines as well.

So, again from Tasty Palettes, if you are new to veganism, these are the don’ts:
  • Any kind of meat or seafood
  • Dairy products – milk, yogurt, butter, cheese etc
  • Egg
  • Honey
  • Gelatin
  • Any other animal products or derivatives

And these are the dos:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Beans, legumes, lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy products like tofu, tempeh, miso, seitan
  • Non-dairy milks like soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk
  • Sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup or unrefined cane sugar
In general,
[V]egans and vegetarians [have] lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol,
and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium,
potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E and phytochemicals.
Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than
nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease;
vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and
lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. (Vegan

Now, I'm not saying all vegans are stick-thin "Twiggy"-like waifs who don't eat any fat at all! Nuts, seeds, oils and margarines as well as many soy products contribute to healthy, cholesterol-free fats that every system needs to survive. However, the recipes I'm bringing to Vegan Ventures are a little on the lighter side; the main dish being a zesty, veggie-packed slow-cooker stew with Mediterranean flair, the dessert a luscious whole-grain coffee cake brimming with spices, dried cranberries and raisins. Enjoy these treats as part of a veggie week, part of an eat-healthy regime after the holidays, or simply whenever you like!

Slow it Down Mediterranean Stew
Serves 10
1 butternut squash, cubed
2 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
2 cups cubed zucchini
1 (10 ounce) package frozen okra, thawed
1 cup tomato sauce (home-made or store-bought)
2 cups chopped onion
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
½ cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup raisins
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons oregano
  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, stirring well.
  2. Cover, and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

Low-Fat Vegan Coffee Cake

Serves 9
1/4 cup margarine
2 cups applesauce
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran flakes or oat bran
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the margarine and applesauce together until margarine is melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined, then pour into baking pan.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HomeGrown Gourmet 3: Pies and Tarts

As all the foodies and their families in the US chow down on their Thanksgiving feasts, my thoughts are turning to a more, shall we say, Canadian, treat. With the Fall weather comes the longing for rich, sweet treats filled with butter, toffee, caramel and the like. How lucky for me that I happened across the HomeGrown Gourmet event, now in it's third go-around, over at Columbus Foodie. I love excuses to bake yummies!!
According to Becke's breakdown:
Participants will make a dish that follows the theme and that somehow represents their home region- town, state, area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist.

What was excellent about this particular roundup is that the theme was pies and tarts... hmm, but of course I can get covered in flour and sugar for this! What's more Canadian than a buttertart?

Now, Wikipedia says that butter tarts were a staple of pioneer Canadian cooking, and they remain a characteristic pastry of Canada, considered one of only a few recipes of genuinely Canadian origin. One of the earliest known Canadian recipes is from northern Ontario and dates back to 1915. Some believe the butter tart is related to the pecan pie brought to Canada by American slaves, but it's also similar to Quebec's sugar pie and the backwards pie from the East Coast. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ran a radio program on what made a great buttertart, from it's creation to it's eating!

These little gooey pies of bliss are some of my mom's favourites, and though it isn't considered a proper addition in purist circles, both of us love bits of chewy raisins in them. I make the flavour just a little wee bit more Autumnal by soaking the raisins in hot apple cider first. The emergence of these from the oven was always a great event in my Grandma's kitchen too, since they were usually made after a pie-baking spree with the leftover scraps of dough.

Canadian Decadence Tarts
Makes 12 tarts
½ cup raisins
1 cup hot apple cider
¼ cup butter (no substitutes)
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
½ cup golden corn syrup
12 tart shells, unbaked
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Pour hot apple cider over raisins. Let stand 10 minutes and drain.
  3. Cream butter and sugar.
  4. Add egg, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Blend well.
  5. Stir in corn syrup, nuts if using and drained raisins.
  6. Spoon into tart shells.
  7. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Legs and Puppy Dog Tails!

Wow, it's been a while since I've made the rounds at Peanut Butter Étouffee's Food Bloggy Pets of the Month! Mind you, it's been a while since I've had the opportunity to take any cute photos of the fuzzy creatures. This time around, it's just the Shaggy monster himself, hanging out in a biiiig pot my mom just HAD to buy out in Missasauga a few weeks ago. Apparently the fact that it's about 4x bigger than the poor dog meant that the StepFather felt the need to stick him inside. Cute photo? Yes. Animal cruelty? Maybe. At any rate, they're both still with us, whether we like it or not!
This recipe is one I'm sure that both my puppies (Shaggy and Brandy) would love to sink their teeth into. Heck, if meat didn't make me so ill, I would love to sink my teeth into one of these, and they are one of my Dad's all-time favourite treats (hi Dad!!)! If you've been lucky enough to travel to one of THE BEST PLACES ON EARTH (a.k.a. Walt Disney World in Orlando), chances are you've at least seen the massive turkey legs that they sell at establishments like the Toluca Legs Turkey Co.. These things are insanely delicious. The meat is smoked, is pink-coloured (yet totally cooked through, no worries!) and kind of tastes like ham. Delicious, meaty, ham-on-a-stick that is! Well, these smoked turkey legs are close to the real McCoy, though I doubt anything really matches the experience of sitting in the Florida sun with Mickey Mouse and Goofy chowing down on one of these!

Dizney’s Smoked Turkey Legs
Serves 6
1 gallon chicken stock
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, cracked
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1 gallon ice water
6 large turkey legs, bone-in
  1. Heat stock to boil to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  2. Add the peppercorns and allspice, boil 5 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Add to a large pot along with ice water.
  5. Brine turkey legs for 24 hours.
  6. Wash the brine off and heat one side of a gas BBQ to 220 degrees.
  7. Prepare 4 large foil packets of half soaked, half dry hickory chunks.
  8. Place one packet on the heat, close BBQ and wait for smoke to start.
  9. Quickly place turkey on the indirect heat side of the BBQ, close lid.
  10. Cook about 4 hours or until done, changing the smoke packet every hour.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Power Food for the Festivities

Even though, being in Canada, I celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago, I love to get into the festivities with everyone around the world. This week is Thanksgiving day in the US of A, and if those celebrating are anything like my family, you'll know all the prep work takes a toll on your sanity, not to mention your energy! Even if you aren't in charge of the big feast, the family wrangling, the travelling, and even the celebrating takes its toll in a similar fashion!

Ironically, the recipe I have for you today is about as far from turkey as you can get, being vegan, though the fall flavours are still there in all their glory! This smoothie is a delicious, energy and nutrient packed sipper that is a great gearing-up breakfast the day of the feast, or as a snack in the mid-day lull. A glass of this goodness has 7 grams of protein, 33% of the RDA for Vitamin B12 and almost 200% of the RDA of Vitamin A! Couple that with a healthy whack of iron (14%) and you won't be lagging for long! I'm a huge fan of pumpkin (as you can probably tell from my posts!) but I'm sure it won't be out of place in this pre-Thanksgiving ARF / 5-A-Day round-up over at Sweetnicks!

Vegan Thanksgiving Smoothie
Serves 1
1 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ cup vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 cup vanilla soy milk
½ tbsp whole-berry cranberry sauce
  1. Add all ingredients except cranberry sauce to a blender.
  2. Blend until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour into a tall glass.
  4. Stir cranberry sauce through smoothie.
Have a great Thanksgiving on Thursday everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee Beans...

I saw this on the blog Gathering Manna today, and felt the need to share it since I've been having a rough week, dealing with what seems like adversity everywhere.
A young girl's mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In about 20 minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked,
"Tell me what do you see?"
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft and mushy. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What's the point, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: the boiling water. Each item reacted differently to the adversity it faced. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.
"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"
Here is another way to think of it:
Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.
When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
Today, I feel like the biggest of all ostrich eggs. It feels like I've been rolled and throttled and thrown about so much lately that I have no real choice but to ball up and harden to the world around me. It feels like it has always been the best way for me to deal, take myself away from the situation, ignore the blows that follow and battle through.
The problem with eggs though, even hard-boiled ones, is that they can still be cut. Deeply and fully. And though they do not melt to the blade's contact it does not mean that they are not changed or hurt by it's actions.
Though I know that when I do feel down and unable to make things right in my world, sometimes the kitchen can bring about a bit of comfort that seems otherwise absent. Warm bananas with a brown sugar caramel and a hint of espresso can begin the inner healing, whether it's from the cold weather or a different hurt.

Java Bananas
Serves 2 as dessert, 4 as an accompaniment
1 tablespoon butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
6 tablespoons brewed espresso
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet with the vanilla.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar, and add the banana slices.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the bananas begin to sizzle.
  4. Add the coffee and continue to cook until the juices condense to a thick syrup. Avoid stirring the bananas.
  5. Instead, tilt the pan and spoon the sauce over the bananas as they cook.
  6. Serve on it’s own as dessert or over vanilla yogurt or ice cream.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Camera-less Kitchen :-(

Ah, well. I guess this is what happens when I get embroiled in some post-illness cooking! I had been intending to make and freeze a batch of canelloni for my mom but I was knocked sideways by one of my latest downturns yesterday and could barely get off the couch, soooooooo there was no cooking. Luckily, today I'm feeling stronger so I whipped up a pan and stuck it in the deep-freeze, conveniently forgetting to take any photos what so ever! However, if I remember when mom takes the pan out to bake later, I will be sure to take some gratuitous melty cheese photos (since there is a LOT of cheese. Spinach too, but mostly cheese. Come on, I'm catering to the white-bread crowd here!).

So, here's the recipe that I made up as I went along, it's vegetarian, comforting, and enough to feed a small family (unless you have our family, which includes a ravenous yet enviably stick-thin 23-year-old stepbrother). It's the perfect make-ahead meal to put together on the weekend and reheat after work mid-week, too! Next time I make this (provided it isn't for the picky stepbrother) I would add mushrooms, onions, and some zucchini too. More veggies are always better!

So for my first time submitting to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, I give you Camera-Shy Cannelloni!

Camera-Shy Cannelloni
Serves 4
1 250g box Cannelloni pasta
1 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
1 tsp onion powder
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 oz mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
  1. Bring a large, heavily salted pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add noodles and cook 3 minutes, drain and place into a bowl of cold water immediately.
  3. In a food processor, blend cottage cheese, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano and onion powder until creamy and mostly smooth.
  4. Add to spinach, mix to combine well. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
  5. In another bowl, combine crushed tomatoes, parsely, garlic powder and cayenne.
  6. Spread a thin layer of tomatoes on the bottom of a foil-lined 9 x 13" baking pan.
  7. Fill the noodles with the cheese / spinach blend, either using a small spoon (my method) or a pastry / plastic bag (with the corner snipped off) and place on the sauce.
  8. If a second layer is needed, spread a layer of sauce between the noodles.
  9. If you have any leftover cheese mixture, mix it into the tomato sauce.
  10. Top all the noodles with the remaining sauce, followed by the finely shredded Mozzarella.
  11. Cover with foil and place in the fridge for a minimum of one hour, preferably longer. If freezing, place pan in freezer. When noodles and sauce have frozen, remove foil from pan and wrap securely before replacing in freezer. It will store up to 2 months. Thaw completely before baking.
  12. Preheat oven to 350F.
  13. Keeping pasta loosely covered, bake for 40 minutes.
  14. Uncover and bake a further 7-8 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Nutritional Information Per Serving
Calories: 337.0
Total Fat: 15.2 g
Cholesterol: 12.8 mg
Sodium: 567.5 mg
Total Carbs: 50.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g
Protein: 20.6 g

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Because, Baby, it's COLD Outside!

Cold weather is always a mixed group of feelings for me. On one hand, cold means snow, slush, leaky winter boots and head colds circling the neighbouhood faster than my dog can chase his tail. However, the flipside of the situation, cold weather also means the promise of Christmastime, Hanukkah, warm fires and friends coming home from school. Comfort abounds in the Fall and Winter months, bringing delicious smells and tastes to our house. A heads up for everyone reading - December will be bringing baskets of cookies to the blog!! My mom's spectacular shortbread cookies, of course, are on the menu, as are chocolate chippers, and our oven will crank out a hand-kneaded and shaped loaf or two (or four). Thank God we aren't doing the turkey this year, but we are hosting the brunch in the morning which means a whirlwind of activity, some special goodies, and wrapping paper in coffee cups (with luck, an avoided occurrence).
I was fortunate enough to recieve some special goodies of my own in the mail yesterday, too! Marie from A Year From Oak Cottage had sent me a beautiful packet of soaps as my prize for winning her "Show Us Your Sarnie" event way back in October. They look beautiful, and smell even better! Thank you Marie, both for the soaps and for such a wonderful event!

Until December arrives, however, there is no lack of comfort food to fill the gap! Soup and "fake" bread pudding are on the hob today, the chowder being a vegan, wheat-free and low-fat concoction, the "Pharoh's Cake" taking the role of the sweet, easy, guilty comfort food (there won't be too much guilt, I promise!).

Pumpkin And Broccoli Chowder
Serves 6
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 T tamari
4 c vegetable stock
4 c pumpkin puree
1 T pure maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
¼ c pureed silken tofu
2 T soymilk
  1. Cut the tops of the broccoli into small flowerets; julienne the stems.
  2. Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add onion.
  3. Sauté 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add the soy sauce and the tomato.
  5. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato's juice has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the stock to the soup pot. Add the pumpkin or squash puree, the maple syrup, salt, and black pepper. Heat, stirring often.
  7. Separately, steam the broccoli 4 minutes. Stir broccoli into the soup.
  8. Add the tofu puree and the soymilk.
  9. Let the soup cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Do not let the soup boil. Serve hot.
The best part about this dish is that there are only 3 ingredients! It is sweet, tastes a little like a simple bread pudding, and is pretty rich so a small slice is plenty.

Pharaoh’s Cake
Serves 8
10 thick slices hearty artisan white bread (definitely not sandwich bread)
2 cups runny honey
1/3 cup evaporated milk
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Remove the crust from the bread. Soak the slices in honey for at least a half hour.
  3. Lightly grease a small deep baking dish.
  4. Using a spatula, pile the slices of bread evenly, one on top of another, in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Top with evaporated milk and allow it to soak in before serving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Simply... Lasagne

Okay... I'm back in the ring, albeit lying down... :D. I have a bunch of plans for posts coming up though, so I've got my boxing gloves on still, my body won't take me down that easily!

So, this was what I made and saved for my mom and stepdad when they came home from work. They both said it was amazing, which made me happy since the SF never likes what I make haha! The flavours get a chance to blend during the chill time before baking, which is important… and convenient when you're working and want something to pop in the oven! This is also a perfect freezer dish too, so if you pull it out the night before and stick it in the fridge, it will be perfect when you come home from work the next day.

Simply Lasagne
Serves 8
1 250g box lasagne noodles
1 lb ground beef
1 ½ cups no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
½ cup dry red wine
2 red peppers – roasted, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp onion powder
½ tbsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
salt + pepper to taste
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
500g extra creamy ricotta cheese (full-fat)
1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and pressed dry
¼ cup milk
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
½ tbsp dried basil
½ tbsp garlic powder
3 oz Mozzarella, grated
1 oz Asiago, grated (don’t use the pre-grated stuff!)
  1. In a large pot, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook 5 minutes. They will still be firm. Remove from water, spread on cookie sheets in a single layer and allow to cool.
  2. Brown beef in a large skillet, breaking up with a wooden spoon into crumbles.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes, red wine, roasted red peppers and spices. Simmer 10 minutes, then stir in pumpkin puree.
  4. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, milk and remaining spices. Stir until smooth.
  6. Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a greased 9x13” baking dish.
  7. Top with a layer of lasagne noodles, overlapping slightly.
  8. Add a thin layer of the cheese mixture, followed by a thick layer of sauce.
  9. Top with noodles, then layer all remaining cheese mixture but ¼ cup on top.
  10. Top directly with the final layer of noodles.
  11. Combine remaining ricotta and tomato sauces in the skillet. Spread over the top layer of noodles.
  12. Combine the grated Mozzarella and Asiago in a bowl, sprinkle over sauce.
  13. Cover with tin foil and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
  14. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  15. Uncover the lasagne and bake 45 minutes, tenting with foil if cheese starts browning too much.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 560.3
Total Fat: 33.7 g
Cholesterol: 85.9 mg
Sodium: 352.7 mg
Total Carbs: 50.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.4 g
Protein: 29.6 g

I also did some bakery inventory yesterday, as you can see in the photo! For those of you who are interested, here's what I came up with:

  • Yeast
  • Almond meal
  • Oat bran
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • Instant Skim Milk Powder
  • 12 Grain + Gluten flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Poppy seeds
  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • Mincemeat
  • Muffin mix
  • 2 1/3 tubs shortening
  • All-Bran cereal
  • Macadamia nuts (for Andrew's Xmas gift, coming up!)
  • Raisins
  • 2 bags of white sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Chocolate chips (a miniature / regular mix)
  • 20 oz No-Sugar-Added chocolate (for an upcoming cheesecake!)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

Well, I think that's all for today... time to get cookin' again! I have plans for some manicotti coming up, and I need to make a batch of sauce from the contents of the bag in the photo (apples, pears, oranges and bananas). Have fun with your own kitchen treasure hunts!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Forgive me....

I'll try to be back with a lasanga tomorrow. Why not check out some other foodie blogs instead?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

ARF / 5-A-Day: 'Cause Us Vegans Need Thanksgiving Too

Well, it's coming around to that time of year again for those in the USA. With Hallowe'en out of the way and Rememberance Day tomorrow, the next major holiday on the calendar is Thanksgiving. While this means "turkey day" for the majority of Americans, I've heard my share of jokes about the plight of people who do not eat meat, forced to resort to things like the lentil loaf of the 70's or the (more modern) Tofurkey Feast.

Contrary to the marketing boards of products like Tofurkey, vegetarians and vegans are not restricted to these "fake birds" (that to me, are kind of disturbing...) every holiday. Thank goodness there are several helpful sites around nowadays! I decided to tinker around a little bit and come up with a delicious, seasonal and festive meal option for anyone out there, not just us non-meat-eaters, as it is quite good for you!

This meal that I'm submitting to Sweetnick's ARF / 5-A-Day event features a few hit players on the nutritional scene: pumpkin, potatoes, oats and garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas). Now aside from all of these being fibre powerhouses, pumpkin is a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, niacin and copper, oats are an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of selenium, potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, and manganese, and garbanzo beans are an excellent source of molybdenum and manganese. They are also a very good source of folate and a good source of protein, copper, phosphorous and iron. (Thanks to WHFoods for the info!)

Deep Dish Potato and Pumpkin Pie
Serves 10
1 small sugar pumpkin
2 large russet potatoes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
4 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
6 cloves garlic
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans, drained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Split the pumpkin in half, seed and place the pumpkin halves face down on a baking sheet.
  3. Split the potatoes lengthwise and place on the pan with the pumpkin.
  4. Bake the pumpkin and potatoes for 1 hour. Let cool.
  5. Spoon out the pumpkin flesh and put it into a large bowl.
  6. Cut the potato into ½” cubes.
To make the dough:
  1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, put the flour, oats and salt into the bowl.
  2. Add the shortening.
  3. Run the machine in spurts until the shortening is in pea-sized bits.
  4. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, and run the machine in spurts again just enough to bring the dough together.
  5. Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead it with your hands until the dough is soft and smooth.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough, and use it to line the bottom and sides of a large deep dish pie pan. Pierce the dough all over with a fork.
  8. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
  9. Reduce the heat to 350F.
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, and cook them about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  4. Stir in the pumpkin, potato, beans, thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper.
  5. Spoon into pre-baked pie shell.
  6. Bake 30 minutes

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Baking Cookies... Sneeky Sneeky!

Ahh, the smell of chocolate chip cookies, wafting through the house on a freezing cold Fall day. A staple of many a childhood, the classic recipe is one my mom (and I'm sure many many moms around the world) can make from scratch without ever opening a cookbook or recipe box. Flour, butter, eggs, sugar... I'm all for these original cookies and they are a feature on my bakery menu, I mean why mess with a favourite, right?

My little sister Teaghan had been after some chocolate chip cookies for a few days now, and I knew I'd be stuck without them. After leaving her in the cold yesterday (damn construction people on our tiny street with their tractor-trailer trucks!) I decided that there were no more excuses. The great classic, the traditional hallmark of our childhood, had to be made.

Well, this isn't the traditional cookie. In fact, this cookie contains a sneaky, special ingredient, and is lacking in a few of the other "essentials". Call it a new-age, "hippified" chocolate chip cookie. And it wasn't originally what I had planned to do, but hey, it worked! These are still as tasty as ever, chewy yet crisp, studded with chocolate chips - but they are made with partial whole wheat flour, no eggs, and *cover your eyes if you're a traditionalist* TOFU!

The verdict: vegan cookies rock! All I can say is "God, I hope she doesn't read this before she eats them".

Soy Awesome Cookies
Makes 5 dozen BIG cookies
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 cup stick margarine (room temp)
1 cup shortening
1 (12oz) block firm silken tofu (mori nu)
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla
4 cups flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups miniature chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream the sugars, shortening and margarine for 5 minutes.
  3. Puree tofu and vanilla in blender or processor until smooth.
  4. Add pureed tofu to the cream mixture and mix well.
  5. In separate bowl, mix flours, baking soda and salt.
  6. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix until flour just disappears.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. Make cookie dough balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 11 minutes.
  10. Cool completely on sheet.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 164.7
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 1.9 mg
Sodium: 162.0 mg
Total Carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.9 g

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Apples & Thyme - Dad, Pancakes and Me

I stumbled across probably one of the most nostalgic and sweet blogging events I've ever found the other day over at Vanielje Kitchen. Apples & Thyme is a celebration of time spent in the kitchen with our family and what they did or did not pass on to us that influenced how we cook and eat today. Entering simply involves sharing a person and a dish that celebrates your relationship with them! The closing date is 10th November, with the roundup being posted on 15th November, which is the first monthly Apples & Thyme Day. Check with either Jeni (The Passionate Palate) or Vanielje (Vanielje Kitchen) for the rules!

Whenever I think of spending time in the kitchen with my dad, the same dish invariably jumps to mind: pancakes. I don't know why, but even though the ones we made were out of a box, my dad's pancakes were the best! It was always a great treat (especially when we were on our sailboat on Georgian Bay) to have my dad whip up a batch and serve them to us while we were all in our PJs. They were always the perfect start to a summer morning when the dew hadn't burned off the boat's deck yet and most people were just starting to wake up. The smell of the mooring area we always stayed at on Beausoleil Island was enough to convert any city folk - frying bacon or sausage, toast, instant coffee or hot chocolate (each with a shot of Baileys - for everyone on out boat, even us kids!) and of course, the pancakes. Later on the smells around our boat would change to Kraft Dinner, barbequed hot dogs or even pizza pockets, which were wrapped in tin foil and thrown on the propane grill attached to the stern.

While I was growing up, my dad (leftmost in the photo, posing with my uncles!) wasn't the main influence on my cooking and baking life: my mom was my main teacher in that area. However, my dad taught me the importance of experimentation in the kitchen, bravery when it came to new foods and honesty when it came to giving an opinion on the dish. He always believed (and still does) that it wasn't what was on the table that formed the focus but rather who was at the table. He's taught me the importance of hard work and comprimise in all areas of my life, and he's shown me how to have fun and let go of everything once in a while, just because you can.

I wanted to take this moment and just thank him for everything he still does for me... I know I haven't been the easiest person to deal with lately and that we've grown apart over the years, but I still think of you every day and love every second I spend around you. Whether it's going to a movie or Air Farce taping, picking apples, going to Picton, a couple games of golf or bowling or even just being around each other, it means a lot to me that we do have those moments. Hopefully I will be able to make you as proud of me as I am of you. Thanks dad.

This recipe isn't really a recipe at all, and I don't have the secret to my dad's pancakes, but this is all we did, I swear! For everyone out there lucky enough to still have their loved ones within reach, give them a call today, stop by if you can, just say "hi, I'm thinking of you"... anything. Life is too short to leave anyone behind even for a moment.

Makes enough for 3-4 people
1 cup Buttermilk Pancake Mix (not complete)
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
  1. Heat a griddle, frypan or electric skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl, taking care not to beat completely smooth.
  3. Grease pan lightly.
  4. Spoon batter into the prepared pan and cook evenly on both sides.
  5. Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

CLICKing November with Aglio Et Olio

With the theme for November's CLICK event (hosted over at Jugalbandi) being noodles, I figured, hey, what could be simpler than good old garlic and olive oil? I love my garlic, but I can't eat the oil, and I have to confess that even when I could the combination was never a "wow" in my books. I always found it boring! I've zipped up this version a bit with anchovies and red pepper flakes, and used a great buckwheat pasta, for a hearty, flavourful experience that I hope to be able to experience again in the future. The recipe is after the photo.
This photo was taken, like almost all my others, in our kitchen using my trusty Kodak EasyShare C613 Digital Camera on the "close-up" setting. Unlike my previous entry to this event I decided this picture was better in colour, highlighting the yellow egginess of the pasta and the hue of the olive oil against the steel pot lid I used as a background :D. A simple photo, a simple dish, and a simple, yet perfectly descriptive name.
Aglio Et Olio
10 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta (I like this), cooked to al dente
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Coarse salt
  1. Add oil to a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add anchovies, garlic, and pepper flakes.
  3. Break up anchovies until they melt away into the oil and garlic mixture.
  4. Toss pasta in the pan along with the parsley.
  5. Season with a little coarse salt, to your taste, and serve immediately.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Growing My Own in November!

Wow, these blogging events just seem to all pile up on me! I start off with good intentions and then it's a big rush when I realize how many there are! Now that I have my Sugar High Friday entry up for this month, I decided it was now or never to make my entry into November's Grow Your Own event at Andrea's Recipes, since we've experience our first few frosts and our garden for this year is kaput! So, I turned my attention to the latest thing that was simmering on my stove!

So, with the chills of Winter just around the bend, what could be better than a big old bowl of chili? I had so much random junk sitting in our freezer, fridge and pantry, and it would have been a shame to waste them, so I pulled out the trusty Santoku knife and got chopping.

There was so much stuff, in fact, that I wound up transferring the ingredients partway through the cooking process to a larger pot! In the process of struggling to lift and pour the half-created beast of my imagination (I'm small, and not too athletic!) I said “holy Hell this is a lot of chili!”. Thus the somewhat sacrilegious name of this dish was born, along with enough chili to feed both my Dad and Andrew for the next month or so!

This is an easy enough recipe to veganize by leaving out the ham and switching the beef stock to veggie stock, but like I said I was using up what I had on hand, including all the peppers, carrots, beets, squash and tomatoes - all of which were saved out of the garden from the first frost of the year by a single day! I can't wait to see the round-up (to be posted December 1). It should be great!
Holy Hell Chili
Makes 12-15 servings
1 tbsp canola oil
½ large yellow onion, chopped
4 red peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
5 Hungarian wax peppers, chopped
10 medium or 5 large carrots, chopped
2 beets, peeled and chopped
½ small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, chopped
10 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
¼ tsp cayenne powder
4 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
¼ lb cooked, cubed ham
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 cups cooked butter beans, drained
2 cups cooked fava beans, drained
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
2 cups water
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups stewed tomatoes
2 cups dry Textured Vegetable Protein

  1. In a (very) large stockpot, heat oil.
  2. Add onions and begin to brown slowly, when golden add all peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
  3. Add carrots, beets, squash and sweet potatoes, cook a further 10 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high, add plum tomatoes, spices and ham.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes.
  6. Add remaining ingredients, stir well to blend. Cook 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low.
  7. Cover and cook 4 hours, until thick and rich. Stir about once every hour and a half.
  8. Uncover pot and cook 1 more hour.
  9. This freezes very well, which is a very good thing, unless you plan to feed a crowd!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 287.7
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 2.6 mg
Sodium: 337.1 mg
Total Carbs: 47.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 14.5 g
Protein: 18.5 g

Sunday, November 4, 2007

SHF and Carrot Cake: Sweet, Succulent and Sinless!

Whee! It's SHF time again! This go-around is featured at my fellow Ontarian Leslie's blog Definitely Not Martha, and features the Beta Carotene Harvest. Of course, creation credit goes to another Canadian, and one of my favourite inspirations: Jennifer the Domestic Goddess. What perfect timing for the perfect theme! I had just the thing in mind to send along, using up the last little bits of my garden (sigh... it looks so desolate now!): Carrot Cake!

I LOVE carrot cake. I don't know what it is about it, but it is one of my coveted desserts of choice, sometimes (though not always) more so than chocolate. The problem with me always lay in two major elements: nuts and oil. I hate nuts in carrot cake. Actually, in anything. I don't know why, I think it's a texture thing. The oil was both a texture and a health issue, I mean, a cup of vegetable oil in a cake? Even 1 1/2 cups in some cases? I don't think so.

Enter the tweaker! Taking a basic recipe from my mom's files, I added whole spelt flour, rolled oats, soy milk and pumkin puree, along with my awesome purple carrots! I didn't replace all the oil, mind you - it is a very delicate balance when it comes to baking. The result is heavenly. Toothsome, hearty and full of a taste sensation you remember from your childhood with just that edge of grown-up flair. The cake is sweet enough that it doesn't really need an icing, though you can if you would like. Personally, a dusting of icing sugar mixed with cinnamon is the perfect compliment to this cake mid-afternoon!

Beta Booster Cake
Serves 12
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
2 cup coarsely grated carrots
3/4 cup brown sugar
½ cup low-fat soy (or dairy) milk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup canola oil (hazelnut oil would be good in this, but PRICEY!!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9” pans, one loaf pan or one 9x13” pan.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir the brown sugar with the milk, applesauce, pumpkin and oil until runny.
  4. Add the sugar blend with the carrots to the flour mixture. Mix just until blended.
  5. Bake for 40-50 min (for 9x13” pan), 60 min (loaf pan) or 35 min (9” pans) until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a counter for 30 min before turning out of pan and serving.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Vegan Comfort Food: Messy Janes

Ah, the wonders of the vegan kitchen. Whether you do it for economical, health or moral reasons, vegan cooking is one of those worlds that opens up a million different doors for the home cook once you get the hang of it. I myself tend to eat a basically vegan diet because that's all my stomach can handle (with the exception of small amounts of lean fish and seafood, I'm a pescetarian by definition), and recently Andrew has expressed interest in following me down that path. It's wonderful to have another person beside me in the same eating realm, the support and kitchen help is always appreciated in any case!

One of the cheaper staples of my diet is Textured Vegetable Protein (AKA TVP). For those of you who don't usually have this term in your cooking dictionaries (as I didn't until I got sick), TVP is a high-fiber, high-protein meat substitute made from soy flour and available in a variety of flavored and unflavored varieties, as well as different sizes, from large chunks to small flakes. Using textured vegetable protein, one can make vegetarian or vegan versions of traditionally meat-based dishes such as chili, sloppy joes, tacos or burgers. Textured vegetable protein can be found in natural food stores and larger supermarkets, usually in the bulk section (Bob's Red Mill also makes a version). TVP is also very lightweight, and is often used in backpacking recipes (

TVP is also great if you're on a diet, since it is fat free and low in calories compared to ground beef or even turkey! 1/4 cup dry TVP (equal to 1/4 lb raw ground meat when rehydrated) has 80 calories and 4 grams of fibre in it, without a trace of cholesterol, whereas the same measure of 90% lean ground beef has 200 calories, 11.3 g of fat, 73 mg of cholesterol and zippo fibre. Even 99% lean ground turkey breast (while an excellent addition to any menu, and a delicious one!) loses out in the calorie / fat war to TVP, with 120 calories, 1 g of fat and 70 mg of cholesterol without any fibre in 1/4 lb raw meat.

That said, these "Messy Janes" are not lacking in flavour at all, in fact they soak up all the delicious flavour and lock it in, making these some delicious sandwiches! I've provided a nutritional breakdown after the recipe, and some TVP guidelines too if you want them! Even if you can't part with meat for a day, replace the TVP and hot stock with 1 lb of the ground meat of your choice, brown it in the pan before adding the onions, and the taste is still there. It's a great, quick and cheap meal you can throw together on a weeknight (start-finish this took me about 20 minutes) when everything else is just too busy for words!

Messy Janes
Serves 6
1 ½ cups dry TVP granules
1 cup hot vegetable broth or water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup diet cola
2/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard

  1. Place dry TVP in a bowl, pour hot liquid over and let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Cook onion in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir in re-hydrated TVP and remaining ingredients, blending well.
  4. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover and stir, reduce sauce if necessary. Serve immediately.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 127
Total Fat: .5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 302mg
Total Carbohydrates: 17.7g
Dietary Fiber: 4.7g
Sugars: 9.6g
Protein: 13g

Tofu Tip!
General TVP : Ground Beef ratios
3/4 cup dry TVP plus 2/3 cup liquid = 1 cup reconstituted tvp = 1/2 lb ground meat / frozen tofu
1 1/2 cups dry TVP plus 1 1/3 cups liquid = 2 cups reconstituted tvp = 1 lb ground meat / frozen tofu
2 1/4 cups dry TVP plus 2 cups liquid = 3 cups reconstituted tvp = 1 1/2 lbs ground meat / frozen tofu
On a side note, this guy deserves a medal in comfort food.

Friday, November 2, 2007

ARF / 5-A-Day: Real Hallowe'en Candy!

With the candyfest known as Hallowe'en just past, I was thinking about how much fun I have handing out all the sugary junk to the kids in our area, seeing how cute they are dressed up as witches, fairies, superheroes, clowns, and the occasional baby dressed up as a pumpkin. Every year I talk to Andrew and make him promise that for our baby's first Hallowe'en (when we have kids, that is, which now is eons away) we can do the same thing.

Personally, my Hallowe'ens were always marked by my poor, gracious mother sewing my sister's and my costumes on our antique Singer sewing machine (no lie, this thing used to belong to my great-great-grandma). Whatever we desired to be, she would take us to Fabricland and we could pick out the patterns and the fabrics, then spend easily two weeks in the basement sewing away, with mahvelous results. She wasn't limited to costumes, either. Over the years, she's made 14 play costumes for our MLCP productions, 2 flower girl dresses, 2 capes, and 16 years' worth of detailed Hallowe'en garb. Thanks Mom, I wish that sewing gene had passed along to me, since the dang machine stalls every time I try to use it!

This is a more grown-up version of a Hallowe'en candy, still sweet but with a distinct taste from the pumpkin. The maple sugar adds a nice touch and crunchy sparkle to the bright-orange, antioxidant rich pieces of pumpkin. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protect against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging. For a complete nutritional breakdown you can take a look here, but even if you don't it's easy to tell that these gems of Fall are packed with goodness. Heck, even the maple in these candies has antioxidants and nutrients! Whatever your reason for trying this recipe (and I do hope you will, they are tasty!), they are a great addition to your personal candy bowl and an excellent addition to the ARF / 5-A-Day roundup over at Sweetnicks! Hope Nicholas has a great Hallowe'en too!

True Halloween Candy
Serves 8
1 quart pie pumpkin meat; fresh (cut into 1- inch pieces)
2 ½ cups water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup maple sugar

  1. Place the cubed pumpkin in a saucepan and cover it with water, about 2 to 2-1/2 cups.
  2. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, uncovered, until the pumpkin is just tender.
  3. Remove the pumpkin with a slotted spoon. There should be about 1-1/2 cups of liquid remaining.
  4. Add the brown or maple sugar and dissolve over low heat.
  5. Place the pumpkin pieces back in the pan and bring slowly back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Let the pumpkin pieces stand in the syrup overnight.
  7. The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the syrup and spread them out on a wire rack so the pieces are not touching one another.
  9. Let them stand in a 140F oven for 3 to 4 hours to dry.
  10. Roll each piece in the maple sugar, and store them in a dry, cool place.
  11. Do not stack or crowd the candy together.