Friday, November 20, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a cold-weather classic. I've bumped it up a notch using roasted plum tomatoes, basil and chili flakes. The result is a spicy soup with complex flavour. This soup is so thick it could easily double as pasta sauce - I can totally picture this paired with Italian sausage for a smashing lasagna! Try it, it's comfort in a bowl!

Roasted Tomato Soup
Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa

2 lbs plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 tablespoons dried basil
4 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 450oF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the tomato halves face up. Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast in oven for approximately 45 minutes.

Once tomatoes are roasted, heat remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for about 10 minutes, until golden-brown. Add canned tomatoes, dried basil, chicken stock and roasted tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.

Cool in fridge overnight or bring to room temparature. Working in small batches purée soup using blender of food processor.

*Warning: Do not blend hot liquids! Built up steam can blow the lid right of the blender making a nasty mess, not to mention the burns that would result!

Yield: 8 cups

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grandma's Macaroni

This is my grandma's recipe for macaroni; it's certainly nothing fancy but it's my favorite. Of course, despite using the same ingredients, mine doesn't taste as good as hers... Where can I buy bottled grandma love? I suspect that's her secret...

2 cups macaroni
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup onion, small dice
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, small dice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Combine macaroni, tomato soup, onion, cheese, salt and pepper. Pour in greased 13x9 baking dish. Heat oven to 375oF.

In separate bowl, combine breadcrumbs, butter and Italian seasonings. Sprinkle on top of macaroni.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until heated through and topping is slightly browned.

Yield: 8 portions

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nooschi's Grandma's Steamed Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms

I know I've mentioned this recipe before but it truly deserves a post all it's own and I finally got around to taking a picture so there you have it! This recipe is yummy, healthy and a welcomed alternative to the dismal Chinese restaurants in my neighbourhood. Served with wonton soup or potstickers, rice and stir-fried veggies - you've got a meal that's 10 000 times better than take-out (and way healthier too). A few instructions: a) Make sure to cut the ginger in teeny-tiny matchsticks as fresh ginger has a very strong taste and you wouldn't want a big bite (I wouldn't anyway). b) Dried shiitake mushrooms impart a particular flavour. Though I'm sure this recipe would be good with plain mushrooms, the dried shiitake make the dish.

Please be sure to check Nooschi's original recipe here. Nooschi is a food blogger extraordinaire! Also from O-town, she often showcases local restaurants but also restaurants abroad (she often travels to Australia, New Zealand and the United States) as well as interviews and delectable recipes. Not to mention her beautiful photography!

Nooschi's Grandma's Steamed Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms
by Nooschi

3 chicken thighs
8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 1/2 teaspoons of corn starch
4 teaspoons of oyster sauce
1 teaspoons of soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons ginger, cut into matchsticks
2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon of sesame oil

Prep ingredients: I buy pre-sliced shiitake mushrooms and follow box instructions to rehydrate - soak in boiling water for 20 minutes. Wring water out of mushrooms (but keep the juices to make soup). Remove the excess fat from the chicken thighs, and cut in small pieces.

In a bowl, combine the chicken pieces, corn starch, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Mix well. Add in olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and continue mixing until the oil is evenly distributed. Finally, add in the shiitake mushrooms and ginger, and mix gently. As per Nooschi, adding the mushrooms and ginger at the end will ensure that the two will not absorb too much oil.

Place the chicken mixture in a dish that is about 9 inches in diameter and 1 inch high (I use a foil pie plate). Place the plate in a Chinese steaming basket, and steam for 20 minutes. Right before serving, add 1/8 teaspoon of sesame oil to the chicken, mix well and serve.

Yield: 2 portions

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blueberry-Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

As with most Sundays, I made pancakes for breakfast yesterday. These blueberry-lemon-ricotta pancakes had been on my "to do" list for a while so I was happy to finally give them a try. They were extremely light and sweet, almost like angel food cake. In my opinion, syrup would have distracted from the blueberries so I enjoyed mine with butter only - perfection!

I must admit I was cursing these pancakes as they were cooking and vowed this was the first and last time I would make this recipe but looking back, I think I was simply too impatient (I was starving!) and I flipped them before the batter was properly set so they fell apart. Once I had a bit of food in my belly, I was able to stop messing with them and let them cook longer and wouldn't you know, no more broken pancakes! Also, I recommend smaller pancakes (about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake) as anything more is difficult to manage since the batter is so light.

Blueberry-Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Judy's recipe at Judy in Her Natural Habitat: The Kitchen and Williams-Sonoma.

1 cup ricotta cheese (I used light ricotta cheese)
1 cup milk
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries (I used frozen blueberries)

Whisk together the ricotta, milk, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and 1/8 tsp. of the salt over the ricotta mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Using a whisk (or, if you're feeling lazy like me, a stand-mixer) beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt and continue beating until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites and the blueberries.

Wipe a bit of oil on griddle and heat to medium/high. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form on top and the pancakes are golden underneath, approximately 4 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook for about 3 minutes more. Top with butter and enjoy!

Yield: 24 pancakes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Random Act of Kindness

A while back, Psychgrad at Equal Opportunity Kitchen blogged about random acts of kindness. She had been on the receiving end of such a lovely gesture from Julia at Grow. Cook. Eat. and she was passing on the favor. The only requirement was to post a comment and be willing to pay it forward.

Psychgrad randomly chose 3 lucky recipients for a random act of kindness of her choosing and you guessed it, my name was picked! I received a lovely basket of goodies: Williams-Sonoma Spicy Chipotle Rub, artisanal mustard, artisanal jam, Saskatoon berry tea, Back to Nature Sea Salt Roasted Almonds, gum, apples and a lovely lavendar soap.

One of several goodies I received from Psychgrad at Equal Opportunity Kitchen...

Now it's my turn to keep giving! The rules are simple:

1. Leave a comment on this post no later than 8:00 pm Eastern Time Friday, November 20th. I'll pick 3 comments randomly, on whose authors I'll bestow an act of kindness. I’ll announce the winners shortly after.

2. Having some experience with shipping overseas, I'm going to have to limit my kindness to bloggers from North America. Sorry! :(

3. My kindness can be anything of my choosing. It might be handmade and it might be purchased, but it will be selected just for you. I make no guarantees that you’ll love it (or not find it odd or quirky), but I guarantee that it will be heartfelt on my part.

4. All you have to do, dear readers, is have a blog and be willing to pass on the kindness by creating a similar post. If you don’t blog, play the game the old-fashioned way: find a neighbour, stranger or friend in need and fill it.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes

I've been a tad pumpkin obsessed these days. I can't help it, fall = pumpkins! My latest pumpkin recipe has been delicious pumpkin pancakes as showcased on Joy the Baker's Blog. Joy knows her stuff - if you haven't already, you need to check out her blog.

The only snafu I encountered as I made these was that my pancakes didn't seem to cook all the way through, no matter how long I left them on the griddle. Seriously, I left them on for a really long time so they had to be cooked but the middle still seemed doughy. I chalked it up to the pumpkin purée. Whatever, they were delicious and moist.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Inspired by Joy the Baker and Martha Stewart

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil

Whisk together flours, salt, spices, sugar and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients in the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you heat the griddle. Once griddle is hot, pour about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake into the griddle. When pancake starts to bubble slightly, carefully flip over.

Once browned and cooked through butter pancakes and serve with your preferred topping. Brown sugar/cinnamon combo is yummy as are maple syrup or applesauce.

Yield: 6-8 pancakes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Spice Muffins

As you all know by now, I'm a big fan of The Pioneer Woman. I've been following her blog for about two years now and I can't get enough of her witty writing and yummy recipes.

I recently purchased her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. As part of my 101 in 1001 list, I will attempt to cook all the recipes in her cookbook. Yes, I am aware that represents a lot of butter. But I figure one or two recipes a week won't kill me.

I kicked it off tonight with a steak and Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Cream Sauce. No pictures but you'll have to take my word for it that it was tasty! In an attempt to make it "healthier", I used fat-free sour cream instead of light cream and it was still delicious. Still not an every day treat but perfect for a special occasion.

But back to the muffins. This is another Pioneer Woman recipe I recently made though not one featured in her cookbook, this one is straight from the web. Here actually.

I made them sans frosting to make them more healthy and more breakfast-like (as opposed to dessert-like). These little gems were comforting, filling and yummy! I like their somewhat dense texture - hate when muffins crumble everywhere! Will definitely make again and at 3 points each, a reasonable indulgence.

Before baking. See... the tops are sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg... You know that's gonna be good!

Fresh out of the oven!

Hope you give these a try!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 cup flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
1 cup (heaping) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep muffin tins with liners. Sift dry ingredients. Cut in butter until fully incorporated and mixture is crumbly. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture. Fold gently until just combined. Pour into lined muffin tins. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg topping over the top of each unbaked muffin. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stars of the Week (October 29 - November 4)

I know, I know, I should just change the title of this blog to Stars of the Week, haven't done much else lately. Please pardon me! I've been feeling under the weather for the past couple of weeks but now I'm feeling better and I've been working on new recipes. Coming soon!!!

Before I start my weekly recap, I just want to mention that my wonderful hubby, Steve, woke me up with a delicious breakfast this morning - coffee, bacon and Cinnamon Roll Pancakes by Elly Says Opa! (featured two weeks ago on Stars of the Week). He didn't make the filling (which I'm sure is the best part) because he knows I'm on Weight Watchers and weekday pancakes and bacon were already pushing the envelope! But no regrets, these pancakes were well worth the points! They are stiff competition to our current favourites, Buttermilk Chai-Spiced Pancakes and Yogurt Pancakes, thanks to their comforting cinnamon taste and their velvety texture. YUM!

Now on with the show:

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Walnuts and Balsamic Vinegar by Daily Unadventures in Cooking

Yes, I'm featuring brussel sprouts. They sound delish. And besides, veggies are good for you. So there. (Don't mind me, I'm feeling petulant.)

Caramel Walnut Brownies by Sassafras Cafe

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad with Warm Goat Cheese & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette by Luna Cafe

I'm not a big fan of goat cheese (okay, let's be honest, I hate it) but if I did like it, this recipe would be a winner. I love the idea of roasted vegetables in a salad and I will try that concept shortly. Perfect for fall!

Lobster Mac and Cheese by Time in the Kitchen

Lobster + Mac and Cheese = JOY and angels singing

Crayon Cookies by Beach Vintage

Warning! Do not eat these cookies!!! Seriously, how cool are these?! I wish I knew a kid I could make these for!