Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Free" Stovetop Muesli

Today, a guest post from my sister-in-law, Kim. She is my husband's sister and one of my favourite people. She and her family are currently waiting on paperwork before returning to international work and are living with Mom and Dad. 

There are lots of challenges that come with cooking for three generations and individuals with very specific dietary needs.


Our lives changed drastically last May with my dad's leukemia diagnosis, and we quickly learned a new lifestyle: vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and avoiding a number of foods that my dad had allergies to.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grilled Salad with Cream Cheese

It's lunch time. There are no leftovers for me from dinner last night. What should I make?

There are half an onion, half a green pepper, and half a red pepper all staring at me in the fridge.

And cream cheese... and fresh tomatoes... hmmm...

RECIPE: Grilled Salad with Cream Cheese

half a small onion, sliced
one bell pepper, sliced or chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 dollop low fat cream cheese

> sauté the onion and pepper in a skillet
> once caramelized, pour into bowl
> add tomatoes, cream cheese, and parsley or cilantro garnish
> season to taste and enjoy!!

There are many variation options for this recipe; here are a few that popped to mind:

This would also be amazing with leftover grilled chicken, fish, or beef in place of the cream cheese.

Add to a bun with leftover steak, melt some mozzarella over the top, and drizzle with garlic mayo, hello Philly Cheese Steak!!

Without the cream cheese, this is a great vegetable side dish with very little work - fresh and grilled!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Garlic Confit: easier to make (and use) than pronounce

Garlic confit (say con-FEE) is simply garlic slowly poached in oil. 

Here are the steps:
1. skin garlic
2. poach in oil
3. enjoy

Step 1
- smash the garlic head to break up all the cloves
- place garlic into a metal bowl
- cover bowl with inverted metal bowl
- hold tightly and shake it for all you're worth

Here's how it is done...

Step 2

- place the peeled garlic into a pot and pour oil to just cover the garlic (you can use olive oil for this or any other oil you would like infused with garlic)

- turn the pot on LOW or 2 and allow to bubble away for 40 to 50 minutes or until they are golden and soft like warm butter; stir occasionally

Step 3

Enjoying this treat is the best part! How can you use it? Here are a few ideas:

For the oil...
- use the oil for a vinaigrette salad dressing
- roasted garlic vegetables - use the oil to toss the veggies before broiling to perfection
- for frying eggs in the morning
- lightly garlic toast for two - oil a cast iron skillet with garlic oil, then toast the bread on both sides
- for a lighter pizza, brush the shell with garlic oil instead of pizza sauce
- use in place of butter or oil - the options are almost limitless

For the garlic cloves...
- salad dressing - smash the cloves and mix with mayo and water to thin then salt to taste
- use in cream pasta sauces
- garlic bread - smash the garlic together with butter (and a little salt if your butter is unsalted) and spread on bread to be toasted in the oven
- use whole in recipes that call for a smaller amount of fresh minced garlic, for example, spaghetti sauce, homestyle chowder, or in stir-fries
- in mashed potatoes; pop them into the milk and butter (or garlic oil) while you are warming them before adding the potatoes and mashing the works; is wonderful this way with fresh goat chèvre


Keep in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. Keeps for about a month in the fridge as long as the garlic oil stays above the level of the garlic. If the garlic cloves are exposed to air, they are able to spoil more quickly.

When I make this, I use it up before it has a chance to go bad. Once you have made and used this garlic confit, I am sure you will find it disappears fairly quickly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guatemalan Banana Bread

RECIPE: Guatemalan Banana Bread
(serves 6)

5 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons allspice
2.5 cups smashed bananas
0.5 cups milk
1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp lime juice

> heat oven to 350ºF; grease bottom of the pan
> mix all ingredients; beat 30 seconds
> pour into pan
> bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (30-45 minutes)
> cool before slicing

And when you bake one that is THIS huge, you bake it a little longer!!

To see a list of what else was made for the Guatemalan lunch, go here

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding

- 1 cup of rice
- 2 cups water
- 20 beans coffee
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 10 cloves
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- 1 small lime, whole and washed
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk

> put the rice, water, coffee beans, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan with a tight lid; bring to a boil, then simmer until the water is gone and the rice is cooked
> add the coconut milk and the lime (whole); cook over low heat until it reduces again
> remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and lime
> add the sweetened condensed milk and stir over low heat until the mixture thickens
> decorate with a shake of cinnamon and a few raisins if you like

To see a full menu created for the Guatemalan lunch, go here

Frijoles a la Huacha / Dirty Beans

RECIPE: Frijoles a la Huacha / Dirty Beans
(serves 6)

- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño chile, diced (use gloves)
- 2 cans red kidney beans
- 500 ml chicken broth
- 1 large bunch of mint

> fry the onion and chile in the oil until soft but not brown
> blend the beans with broth until smooth
> add beans to the fry pan with onion and peppers
> fry until beans reduce to a thick paste (about 10 minutes)
> add chopped mint leaves toward end of cooking time

To see the full menu created for the Guatemalan lunch, go here

Subanik / Roasted Aubergine & Mushroom Stew

Subanik / Roasted Aubergine & Mushroom Stew
(serves 6)


For the sauce
- 4 medium red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, then stemmed and seeded
- 9 roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- 4 tomatillos, husks removed
- 1 dried ancho chili pepper, washed inside and out, seeds and stem removed
- 1 dried red chili pepper, such as chili de arbol
- 1 or 2 Thai red chili peppers

For the mushroom and aubergine (eggplant)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1.25 pounds mushrooms
- 1.5 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- water, as needed
- 1.25 pounds aubergine, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 to 4 sprigs thyme


For the sauce
> preheat the oven to 500ºF
> place the red bell peppers on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning them once or twice, until their skins are blistered with black spots all around
> foil another baking sheet and place the tomatoes and onion cut side down on the sheet, along with the whole tomatillos, dried chili peppers and Thai red chili pepper; roast for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are quite tender, with blistered skins

> working in several batches, transfer the roasted peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and Thai red chili pepper to a blender; pulse for 1 to 2 minutes for each batch, until a fairly smooth sauce forms; do not over-process the mixture
> break off pieces of the dried chili peppers and add them through the top of the blender while the motor is running; stop to taste, and add more of the dried chili peppers to achieve the desired level of spiciness

For the mushroom and aubergine:
> toss the cleaned mushrooms and cubed aubergine in the oil with thyme and gently salt and pepper
> place on an unlined baking sheet and place into the broiling hot oven
> broil until golden all over, turning a few times

> add a little water to the baking sheet to scrape up the browned on bits from broiling the mushrooms and aubergine; pour over the vegetables
> in a large pot, add together the puréed vegetables, roasted mushroom and eggplant, and the bay leaves
> cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have blended
> salt and pepper to taste

For the full menu of what was served at the Guatemala lunch, go here.  

Kaq Ik / Roasted Pepper Turkey Stew

Kaq Ik / Roasted Pepper Turkey Stew
(serves 6)

- 1/4 turkey (hind quarter, breast "roast")
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 head of garlic
- 1/2 pound of tomatoes
- 1 onions
- salt
- 1 large tomatillo
- 1 onion
- 1 fresh sweet red pepper
- 1 dried chile guajilla
- 1 dried chile pasilla
- half to 1 tbsp chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp achiote
- 3 corn tortillas
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- salt

> place the turkey and the whole garlic head in the chicken stock; salt to taste.
> in a separate pan, cook tomato, onion, sweet red pepper, chile guajillo, and chile pasilla, chipotle pepper until soft; once fully cooked, puree in blender; partial vegetable chunks also work
> once the turkey is cooked, add the vegetable mix to the stew
> place achiote in a small bowl and add some of the “soup” to it and stir until it is a smooth paste; stir into soup pot with adobo chipotle
> to thicken the soup, tear up corn tortillas into small pieces and add to soup pot; stir well
> bring to boil for about ten minutes, or until tortillas have dissolved and soup has thickened
> add cilantro and mint and season with salt to taste.

Served with rice on the side to be added to the bowl. Garnish with lime wedges and avocado slices.

- add corn (fresh or frozen) for the last 10 minutes of cooking

For a full menu of what was served at the Guatemalan lunch, go here.  

Jocón / Guatemalan Chicken in Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce

RECIPE: Jocón / Guatemalan Chicken in Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce
(serves 6)

- 3 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 4 cups water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 2 corn tortillas, chopped, soaked in water, drained
- 1 cup tomatillos, hulled and chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1-5 jalapeño or serrano chile peppers, chopped

> place the chicken, water, and salt into a large pot over medium-high
> bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour
> heat a dry skillet over medium; add the pumpkin and sesame seeds and toast, stirring, until lightly browned; remove to a coffee grinder or food processor and grind to a fine powder

> add the sesame and pumpkin seeds, tortillas, tomatillos, cilantro, scallions, and chile peppers to a food processor or blender; add 6 cups of the broth from the chicken and process until smooth; you may have to do this step in batches
> pour pureed sauce into the pot with the chicken pieces
> heat over medium-low and simmer for an additional 15-25 minutes; adjust seasoning and serve

For a full view of the menu served at the Guatemalan lunch, go here

Hilachas / Guatemalan Beef Stew

RECIPE: Hilachas / Guatemalan Beef Stew
(serves 6)

- 2 pounds beef, cubed
- 5 cups water
- 2-3 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped tomatillos
- 2 to 3 guajillo (say 'gua-HE-yo') chiles, warmed over a flame, deseeded and chopped
- salt and pepper - to season
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

> place the beef, water, and a big pinch of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat
> reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender
> while the beef is simmering, place the onion, tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles in a food processor or blender and puree, adding a little water if necessary
> heat the oil in a large pot over medium; add the onion-tomato puree and simmer until the puree is cooked down and darkens somewhat in color, about 10 minutes; do not burn
> add the shredded beef and about 3 cups of the broth to the onion-tomato puree and season with salt and pepper; reserve the rest of the broth
> stir in the potatoes, onions and a little more broth if necessary
> simmer until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes
> stir in the breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce (optional)
> stir in the chopped cilantro, adjust seasoning and serve hot with corn tortillas or rice with shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro to garnish

- add 2 teaspoons achiote seasoning to the onion-tomato puree for added flavour; bricks of achiote seasoning can be found at many Latin markets
- the potatoes and carrots can be eliminated if you like
- canned tomatoes and tomatillos work just fine in this recipe
- tomatoes can be used if you would like to eliminate the tomatillos
- if you can't find guajillo chiles, use anchos or pasillas (say 'pa-SEE-yas') or substitute with 1 tablespoon of paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

To see the full menu for the Guatemalan lunch, go here.  

Guatemalan Guacamole

RECIPE: Guatemalan Guacamole
(serves 6)

- 4 ripe but not mushy avocados, diced in large cubes
- 2 small tomatoes, diced
- 0.5 (1/2) cup finely chopped red onions
- 1 fresh green chilli, chopped
- 1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced

> put avocados into bowl and mix with lime juice
> mix in other ingredients gently; serve as soon as possible

If you plan to prepare this ahead for a party or gathering later, put diced veggies into the bowl in the order they are listed. Make sure the tomatoes cover the top of the avocado and drizzle the lime juice over top of the works; this prevents the avocado from browning. Do not stir until ready to serve. 

To see the rest of what we did for the Guatemalan lunch, check here

Guatemalan Vegetable Salad / Potato & Green Bean

RECIPE: Guatemalan Vegetable Salad / Potato & Green Bean
(serves 6)

- 1.5 cups shelled squash or pumpkin seeds
- 4 medium tomatillos, husked and quartered
- 0.5 cups roughly chopped yellow onions
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound green beans, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

> in a medium pot, combine the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt with enough water, to cover; bring to a boil and simmer until tender; drain; set aside
> combine the green beans and remaining teaspoon of salt in water to cover; bring to a boil and simmer until tender; drain; set aside

For the sauce:
> in a large, dry skillet, the pumpkin seeds over medium-low heat until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally; remove and let cool
> add the tomatillos, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the skins are slightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; remove from the heat and let cool slightly
> pulse the roasted squash seeds in a blender or food processor; add the tomatillo mixture and 0.25 (1/4) cup water; puree on high speed until smooth, adding more water as needed
> season to taste
> combine the cooked potatoes and green beans in a bowl; toss with the sauce and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving
> serve chilled

For a full run-down of the Guatemalan lunch and how things went, go here.

Picado de Rábano / Guatemalan Radish Salad

Picado de Rábano / Guatemalan Radish Salad
(serves 6) 

- 1 pound radishes, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 bunch mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (one large lemon)
- salt & pepper to taste

> slice radishes with a food processor or knife
> mix all ingredients into bowl
> chill for a few hours (or overnight) before serving

For the full posting about the Guatemalan lunch, go here

Guatemalan Lunch

In case you were not aware, my husband and I are a little crazy. And we love food.

About a year ago, we stepped in to help out with a lasagna lunch at the church we attend. We brought garlic toast, traditional lasagna, mushroom vegetarian lasagne, and butter chicken lasagna. The full post can be read here.

Since then, we have helped with several lunches. One was a rice bowl Sunday, with options of Korean bul-go-gi, butter chicken, and satay chicken. We also did Christmas dinner, with vegetarian quinoa and cranberry stuffing, turkey and ham, goat cheese mashed potatoes, red and green salad, and gravy, among other things. And there were a few parenting seminars, for which we did Mexican food.

The most recent church lunch was focused on fundraising for a humanitarian project in Guatemala, so we decided to make Guatemalan food. We have never made anything Guatemalan. We have never even eaten anything specifically Guatemalan. This was a first.

See? I told you so... crazy!

We researched, planned, and chose various dishes based on their apparent authenticity, having no first-hand knowledge to rest on.

Armed with recipes adjusted to feed 140 people, $550 worth of ingredients, a car load of kitchen tools, and three volunteers, we set to work.

Here are the recipes, all adjusted to feed 6:

Picado de Rábano / Guatemalan Radish Salad

Guatemalan Vegetable Salad / Potato & Green Bean

Guatemalan Guacamole

Hilachas / Guatemalan Beef Stew

Jocón / Guatemalan Chicken in Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce

Kaq Ik / Roasted Pepper Turkey Stew

Subanik / Roasted Aubergine & Mushroom Stew

Frijoles a la Huacha / Dirty Beans

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding

Guatemalan Banana Bread

Overall, the lunch was a huge success, which is always nice.  At the end of this month, we will visit Mexico for the culinary adventure after church.  And I am certain the food will be amazing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring Radish Slaw

Nothing says "Springtime" like those classic spring fruit, vegetables, and bright colours.  For me, radishes take me back to childhood - tromping through the garden, on the hunt for a stem large enough to indicate it was time to eat!

I always find the first radishes of the year are mildest, and everything about them returns me to the early '80's, adventuring in the raised garden at the back of our small yard, searching through the marigolds and rhubarb for the first fruits of our gardening work.

I have made this salad several times this week and my kids cannot get enough of it.  The salt, vinegar, and sugar in the dressing gently pickle any "spice" out of the radishes, mellowing them down to their basic flavour.

Seconds and even thirds have been fully consumed before I hear, "Mommy, what else is for dinner?  I don't think I have room..."  Success!

RECIPE: Radish Slaw
(feeds 4-6)

2 pounds radishes, trimmed
1-2 bunches cilantro or italian parsley
3/4 cup craisins
2 tbsp rice, white wine, cider, or champagne vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 tsp salt (or so)

> mix together the craisins, vinegar, sugar, mayo, and salt in your salad bowl
> slice the radishes with a food processor or mandolin if you have either; if not, it's the old fashioned way with a knife and cutting board
> rough chop the cilantro and/or parsley (this salad would also love spring onions)
> toss with the dressing; can be made ahead or to serve; if made ahead, it all turns a gorgeous pink