Sunday, January 26, 2020

Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice

Bring some exoticism to your kitchen with these Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice! A hearty medley of artichokes, peppers, kale and tomatoes are spiced with an aromatic spice blend and studded with dried fruit. Brown basmati rice soaks up the rest of the broth making this a one-dish meal perfect for chilly winter days.

It's well known by now that I love Moroccan food - the spice blends and combination of savoury and sweet flavours, along with the abundance of vegetables, grains and legumes are enough to make me want to book a trip this instant! While boarding a plane may be a bit out of reach for me, I can travel there with food, and this braised tofu, vegetable and rice dish is a great place to start!

Apparently I am really into braising this winter - and for good reason. It is the perfect way to set yourself up for a hearty, warming meal with minimum effort, as long as you have a good heavy pot to do it in! I was inspired by a chicken dish by Only Gluten Free Recipes that popped up on my timeline the other day, and since it was time for me to make more lunches for mom this week it made it to the immediate "must make" list. I changed it up a bit from the original for our tastes, making the recipe vegan (mom prefers meatless meals a few times a week) and bumping up the veggies a ton. The best part about the recipe is after the initial chopping and sauteing is done, it really is a "set it and forget it" type of meal cooking all in one pot. While it bakes away in the oven, your house will start smelling like the most fragrant spice market - I suggest you go do something (clean the basement, mop the floor, take a shower) so that you won't be tempted to lift the lid till it's done - the wait is worth it, I promise!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Doenjang Braised Chicken and Vegetables

This ain't your mommas braised chicken - this pot of comfort (also containing sweet potatoes, carrots and long beans) gets a boost of rich flavour from Korean doenjang (soybean paste) and sriracha. Spicy and savoury, its perfect alongside rice for a warming hearty and healthy meal!

Winter is definitely time for braising, and today is no exception! There really is not much simpler, or more comforting, than browning some proteins and vegetables, pouring in some stock and letting everything simmer away for a few hours. One of my favourite things about braising is that the flavour combinations are infinite - I made a more traditional one earlier this month with a whole bird, but when I was putting groceries away I came across a half-tub of Korean bean paste that I had used for soup a few months ago and knew I needed to do something to use it up. A browse of the local store flyers found chicken legs on for a great price, and with some hearty, low-cost winter vegetables on hand already I had the basis for a great meal. After just over an hour, the chicken was cooked along with the veggies, and the broth thickened to coat everything in a luscious gravy perfect for the sticky rice I cooked up alongside. The best part? It used up all the leftover doenjang as well as the last of the Sriracha and veggies left over from the holidays!

I had never cooked anything with doenjang besides soup - and even that was cheating because I used a recipe for miso broth using it. However, the beauty of the Internet led me to the blog With a Glass, where I found the basis for this braised chicken legs dish. Of course, I had to triple the recipe and add a boatload of vegetables to satisfy mom's love of them (I am her daughter in every respect - I love veggies too!), and since I had just cooked down a big batch of turkey stock from the holidays I used a bunch of that too. The mixture of flavours - which were otherwise somewhat foreign to me - was absolutely insane in the best of ways. We had company for dinner that night too, and even though they didn't get to taste it (mom hoarded it for her lunches) commented on how lovely the house The skin and backbones were saved and added to (separate) pots to make schmaltz and more stock, respectively - I can't waste a thing! 

If you can get your hands on this funky (literally) bean paste, I strongly recommend giving it a try. I detest the poppy words like "flavour bomb" but this is really it in every sense, as well as being healthy, hearty and a new twist on your standard fare.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies are filled with decadence - heavy cream, dark cocoa, toasted sugar and Nutella with a smattering of chocolate chips! A touch of tapioca flour makes them chewy and soft for days - if they last that long!

Some days require chocolate - and a lot of it. The whole of last week screamed a need for comfort everything, as not only did I have exams (the last for my undergrad, though not the last of the last) but we lost two pets as well. Even though neither animal's passing was unexpected, it's never easy saying goodbye and my sister (who is a vet tech) took it particularly hard. When I am under stress, I turn to the kitchen for comfort, and this time was no different. Chocolate needed to be involved, and fast!

Cookies are always an easy sell to my sister, especially packed full of chocolate, and these ones are so rich they're like eating baked truffles. Not only are they sinfully rich, but they are fast to whip up, meaning I had a batch cooling in under an hour that would be enough to last us at least a few days. The addition of the tapioca starch - a trick I believed I picked up from Alton Brown years ago - made the cookies chewy and almost brownie-like and kept them that way for ages. Even my sister commented that she was shocked they stayed soft even 4 days later (and they were on a plate covered with a towel, that's it!). Since we are not only chocolate, but Nutella lovers (well I was until my allergies developed) a hearty dose of the spread made their way into the batter too.

While the circumstances surrounding the baking of these sweet treats were unfortunate, to say the least, I'm still glad they could bring a dose of comfort to my sister during a no-good week. Chocolate may not have all the answers, but my answer will always be more please!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Buttermilk Candy

This crumbly, melt in your mouth Buttermilk Candy tastes just like Werthers and is a great way to use up the last of the buttermilk from baking!

If you're like me, when you buy a carton of buttermilk you never use it all in one shot. Often, it's three quarters of a cup for biscuits, or a cup for cake. The rest of the quart sits languishing in the fridge until I come up with something! Not needing to expand the baked good stash in our freezer, I looked around to see if there were any other alternatives and came across a recipe for crumbly, caramelly candy using the dairy in one of my old cookbooks. Interested, and seeing as I had all the ingredients on hand, I gave it a shot.

I soon discovered that buttermilk can be finicky to work with in a candy, especially since the acidity doesn't always react as you'd expect. However, with careful watching and stirring, the whole process was well worth it! If you know Werthers caramels, a taste of this will bring you right back to your grandma's house (if you're like me, my grandparents hoarded those caramels!). The candy is made like fudge, but the texture is crumbly and somewhat sandy instead of creamy and smooth (maybe due to the acid?) and melts in your mouth. The tang of the buttermilk also cuts the cloying sweetness usually found in candy like this, meaning that it's just a little bit easier to eat a little bit more (hey, I never said I was one for New Years resolutions!).

So, if you've got that carton of rich, tangy goodness hanging out in the back of your fridge, give this candy a shot. You'll fall in love with it too, and since sharing is caring you can spread the love (and calories) to everyone!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chicken in a Pot (Braised Chicken)

Is there anything more comforting than chicken in a pot? Even though it was slightly freezer-burnt (my fault for throwing a whole bird in without wrapping it properly) the moist cooking process makes the meat fall apart tender and a perfect accompaniment to the carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. Of course, a glug of white wine doesn't hurt either!

I know - it's only been a few weeks since turkey day and I'm sure everyone has just finished eating the leftovers (I know we have). That said, it's always nice to have a hearty, warm meal after a long week back to work and school, especially when the weather is cold and dreary like today. My hand was somewhat forced with this method of cooking (although it is still fully appropriate for these days) since when I went into my freezer to find something (probably cookie dough) I came across this bird, still in the original packaging, and looking slightly freezer-burned. Not one to waste food, I decided that I would try a low, slow and moist cooking method to try and re-invigorate the meat. With a pantry full of heart vegetables on hand, I got to work figuring that at the very least I'd have a good soup even if the meat wasn't overly palatable.

When I pulled the dish out of the oven, I was pleasantly shocked to discover that the meat was falling off the bone, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the skin of the chicken was a perfectly burnished gold. I portioned the meat into individual containers with the veggies and gravy for mom to enjoy throughout the week, which was a welcome treat even after the poultry-geddon we just got through. While I won't make the mistake of freezing the bird in it's original wrapping again (at least not for an 8 month stretch), I will be making this again. The aromas alone are worth it, and the meal isn't half bad either!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sourdough Cinnamon English Muffins

Sourdough Cinnamon English Muffins are easy to whip up and freeze beautifully too. Split one up and drizzle with honey (or maple syrup!) for a breakfast worth waking up for.

I have fond memories going grocery shopping with mom as a kid. When we would stop by the bakery section, I always got a cookie (there was always free coffee too) and we would stock up for the week. When mom picked up a pack of English muffins, I always knew I hit the jackpot - essentially delivery vehicles for butter, honey or Nutella, they would quickly disappear, and because they were an occasional indulgence they were always coveted.

These days, I've become the baker at home, and with a couple households of sourdough lovers to cater for I was excited to find a recipe for naturally leavened English muffins! Rye anything is always a hit when paired with sourdough, so that was a given addition (not to mention it helped keep them tender), and I used an extra dose of whole grains with whole wheat to make these condiment vessels a bit more wholesome. Since you can never go wrong with cinnamon (at least in my book), a dash of the spice and a sprinkling of raw sugar upped the ante.

Now, being sourdough, these aren't a quick project - plan for at least a 24 hour turnaround time. However, as a weekend project there really isn't much "busy work" to do, and the recipe doubles and triples easily so you can stock up and freeze them at the beginning of the month for homemade treats any time!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sugar Free Cherry Ginger Jam - Toast Topper #86

This sugar free cherry jam is spiked with ginger and a hint of gold leaf for an elegant Toast Topper perfect for company...or just yourself!

One of the things I knew I wanted to make my future mother in law for Christmas was a sugar free jam. While she loves to put jam on her toast, the no-sugar-added jams currently available on the market can be prohibitively expensive and limited in the range of flavours. Since I make Toast Topper for most of my giftees at holiday time, I decided to put up a small batch for her.

As for the flavours, I had a stash of local cherries in my freezer and knew that would be my base. Not wanting to leave it at just that (although it is delicious), I added a dose of ginger for a seasonal zing. Finally, just to be fancy, I sprinkled in a touch of edible gold flakes - everyone needs a bit of sparkle every day!

I know that a lot of people are leery about artificial sweeteners like Splenda, and I say to each their own (I use it in my cooking if I'm looking to cut the sugar or if I'm cooking for diabetics). You can certainly use sugar or another sweetener of your choice in place of it here, just make sure it is heat stable since it has to go through the cooking and canning process. Stevia blends like Truvia will likely work but I have not tested with those. Happy jamming!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Orange Sauce for Roast Duck

Orange Sauce for Roast Duck is a decadent accompaniment to the fowl, and much less fussy than the traditional Duck a l'Orange. The secret? Duck fat as a finisher and extra orange zest!

The end of December was the season of duck! It's been a relatively novel culinary experience for me - cooking it at least (N got to eat it!). I had never tried duck until I moved to Ottawa for university, but that was a restaurant. I only had the chance to cook the poultry this summer, when N picked up a plump breast from White House Meats and I gave it the cast iron skillet treatment. Apparently I didn't do a half-bad job, because for his birthday I was specifically asked to make a whole (slow) roasted bird, and then for kicks I picked up another breast as his second celebration meal!

Of course, while duck itself doesn't really need an accompaniment, there is the little matter of a traditional dish called Duck a l'Orange - my mom introduced me to it's concept when I was young, and commented that it, along with Crepes Suzette, were some of her favourites. Inspired, but not willing to over-complicate an already tricky (to me) roast process, I made an orange sauce to drizzle over the meat after it was cooked to perfection. I had leftover duck fat (from the breast) sitting in my freezer, so instead of the butter in the original recipe, I whisked that in. For extra flavour, I used raw sugar and raspberry wine vinegar which played off the fresh orange juice beautifully. All that was required was a touch of salt and pepper at the end - although rosemary or thyme would also be a perfect addition at serving time!

If you love sweet and savoury along with your meats, this sauce is right up your alley! It would work with other types of orange too - blood orange would really pop colour wise and add an exotic flavour, while clementines puree into a sweet juice and the peels are thin and mince-able with no need for a zester.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Peppermint Meringue Christmas Trees

Meringue trees - the perfect use for all the leftover egg whites from shortbread baking!

If there was ever a feel-good holiday cookie for the dieter, the meringue is it. The egg white foam cookies are lighter than air, come in all sorts of colours and whatever flavour you can basically dream of - making them versatile and the perfect sweet treat.

Now that January has rolled around and the gym is packed (as is the natural foods aisle of the grocery store), these cookies are in their element. We're still not ready to swear off sweets entirely, but one or two meringues never hurt anyone, and the minty flavour of these also staves you off from polishing off the whole tray. While these are obviously in the shape of Christmas trees, you could also just make swirls or even "snowy" trees dusted with a touch of icing sugar. The possibilities are endless, and I look forward to making more meringues since the shortbreads aren't quite done yet!