Friday, July 4, 2014

A summery salmon dinner for kids

We visited my parents over the long weekend and my dad made this summer salmon menu for the kids. Salmon baked from frozen on a bed of yellow zucchini, parboiled carrots and butterfly pasta cooked with cheese and tomato.

A lovely summery meal for kids! They ate it outside on the patio. Of course they did not appreciate it as much as they should have, but I know for a fact it was a great meal because I ate the leftovers!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tagliatelle with pancetta, gorgonzola and leeks

Here's another tasty recipe by Simply Italian. Pasta del Papa. Who knew that just a few ingredients — tagliatelle, pancetta, leeks, gorgonzola cheese — could taste so delicious together. And this recipe's really quick!

The recipe's published on the Chiappa sisters' website.

But what really inspired me to try it was watching them make it on YouTube (Jamie Oliver's Food Tube channel). 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Farfalle with tomatoes, olives and spinach

I recently discovered a cooking show called Simply Italian starring the Chiappa sisters, who are based in Wales. I have to say that I love their recipes. I've only tried two so far, but they've tasted fantastic and it's so convenient that they're only a few ingredients each. That makes shopping for them very easy. Here's the first I want to share with you:

Farfalle with tomatoes, olives and spinach. 

The base for the sauce is the Chiappa family's tomato sauce, which is lovely and easy to make. This recipe's oozy and gooey because of the addition of mozzarella cheese. The olives give it a nice, salty kick, and the spinach makes it super healthy.

Please click here to find the recipe on Channel 4's website.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Roasted pepper, goat cheese and chicken salad

This refreshing salad was perfect for lunch this week. Start with a couple of fistfuls of baby arugula in a salad bowl. Top with roasted red and yellow peppers, knobs of soft unripened goat's cheese and shredded rotisserie-roasted chicken meat. Dress with your favourite olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cashew chicken korma with coriander, peas and rice

This is my take on the great Indian classic that is chicken korma. The coriander, peas, cashews and raisins make it a sweet and fresh dinner for summer.

Cashew chicken korma

1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, grated or finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 black cardamom pod (optional)
pinch green cardamom seeds (optional)
canola oil for frying
fresh coriander leaves for garnish (optional)
1 cup toasted cashews for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and brown the chicken pieces until golden. They do not have to be cooked all the way. Lift the chicken pieces out of the pot, leaving the oil behind, and set them aside.

Toast the spices in a frying pan until aromatic and slightly "tanned." Grind them in a food processor or spice grinder. If you do not have whole spices, just use equivalent amounts of ground spices and don't toast them.

In the same pot in the same oil, saute the onion and tomato for five minutes or until they form a thick paste. Add the ginger, garlic and spices, and stir for another three minutes. Add half of the yoghurt, stirring in a tablespoon at a time. Do not allow to boil.

Return the chicken pieces to the pot. At this point, try not to bring the curry to a rolling boil because the yoghurt will curdle. Cover and simmer slowly for six minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the rest of the yoghurt. Simmer again for another six minutes.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and toasted cashews, if you have them.

Coriander, peas and rice

1.5 cups jasmine rice
1 Tbsp butter
2 star anise
handful chopped coriander
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup peas

Pour the rice into your rice cooker and rinse it in cold water four times or until the water runs clear. Add the butter and star anise. Turn the rice cooker on.

While the rice is cooking, boil the peas for five minutes and soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes to plump up. Drain both and mix the peas and raisins into the rice once the rice is cooked.

Garnish with raisins and coriander.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cinnamon rhubarb muffins

I'm not usually a muffin fan, but these are the best! They are light, fluffy and full of sweet melted fruit. The crunchy sugary topping complements the rhubarb really well. A great recipe from Fine Cooking.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Broccoli and cauliflower soup with cheesy croutes

This is a lovely, creamy soup and a great way to get a variety of vegetables into your diet. I often take this soup to work for lunch, and then feel good about having eaten broccoli that day :) Even my vegetable-averse daughter has been inclined to take a few bites of this soup. The recipe is adapted from The Complete Book of 400 Soups.

Broccoli and cauliflower soup with cheesy croutes
Serves four

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 russet potato, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 head broccoli
1 head cauliflower
2/3 cup homo milk
1 small baguette
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onion, stirring for five minutes until softened.

Bring a second large pot of salted water to the boil.

Cut the cauliflower into florets. Add half of the cauliflower florets and all of the potato to the onions. Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.

Cook the rest of the cauliflower in the pot of boiling salted water for six minutes or until tender. Keeping the pot of water intact, remove with a slotted spoon in batches and place in a colander. Refresh the florets under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Cut the broccoli into florets and add all to the boiling salted water. Cook for about four minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Set aside with the cauliflower florets.

Let the soup cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and salt and pepper to taste. Heat gently until very hot. Add the blanched cauliflower and broccoli florets, but do not boil.

Preheat the broiler. Slice the baguette into croutes and top each croute with grated cheddar cheese. Place the croutes on a baking tray. Broil for two minutes or until the cheese is melty and bubbly.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve topped with two croutes.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Salmon patties with roasted pepper and goat cheese salad

This was a nice weekday supper and it used up my leftover mashed potatoes. We had enough patties to give some to the babies for dinner the next day. I roughly followed this recipe for salmon patties, adding about a cup of mashed potato. The salad was just torn red lettuce, and roasted red and yellow peppers made in the oven on the weekend. I dotted creamy goat cheese over the top and tossed it with Stonewall Kitchen's Olive Oil and Balsamic Dressing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Broccoli au gratin

Melt cheese on anything, and it is elevated to the delicious status of "au gratin." I usually eat broccoli blanched until just bright green because it's so quick and easy. But with a little more effort, this is an even better way to serve it.

Broccoli au gratin

1 head broccoli
handful dry bread crumbs (I use Panko)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
dots of butter (1-2 Tbsp)
1 cup grated cheddar and parmesan cheese combined

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Trim the broccoli and cut into florets. Blanch the broccoli florets for four minutes, or until tender. Drain them and refresh under running cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to a casserole dish.

Completely cover the broccoli with the bread crumbs, paprika, dots of butter and grated cheese. Depending on the size of your casserole dish, these amounts will vary. Place under the broiler of your oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts into a golden crust.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roasted squash soup with potato and apple

I swirled in some sour cream for the photo, but it's delicious unadorned as well. 
Saturday morning I spent a good hour peeling a big squash (a job in itself), a potato and an apple, then mixed them in spices and oil in a large casserole dish, and roasted them in the oven. Then, 20 minutes away from doneness, after feeding the babies, putting them down for a nap, cleaning up, and making and eating our own lunch, tiredness overcame me and I succumbed to a three-hour nap. (My body is now programmed to nap when the babies do — it's the only way I get through the weekend!). I woke up with a start and rushed to the oven, only to find black lava cakes, which were the remnants of my lovely squash cubes. The next day I tried again despite feeling discouraged. I used the much easier method outlined below and came to realization that the weekend is too darn short to spend peeling squashes, especially if it's likely you are going to burn them. Much quicker and easier to bake them in their skins. Anyway, this soup was worth the effort, trust me!

Roasted squash soup with potato and apple

1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and stringy bits removed
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water (optional)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Arrange the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a basting brush, brush the butter mixture all over the tops and insides of the squash. Reserve the remaining butter mixture for later.

Put the squash in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until tender and golden. Take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool for five minutes. Scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl. Discard the skins.

In a stock pot, heat the remaining butter mixture. Saute the onion, shallot and apple in the pot for six minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, for one more minute. Add the diced potato and the cooked squash. Pour in the chicken stock and enough water to cover. (I add more water than necessary to increase the volume of soup so it lasts through several lunches.) Add the bay leaf. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potato is cooked. Remove the bay leaf.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender until silky and smooth.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Instant ramen all dressed up

Our favourite instant ramen is Sapporo Ichiban. For lunch, I sometimes "dress it up" with toppings similar to those you'd find in the authentic ramen shops in Japan.

I cook the ramen noodles, which takes three minutes, and ladle the cooked noodles and broth evenly among two bowls. Then I add toppings, such as chopped fresh spring onion, nori strips, hard boiled egg, peas, corn or shredded roasted chicken.

There is a wonderful movie about ramen called Tampopo. It's a Japanese movie about a woman's struggle to turn her downtrodden roadside ramen shop into the best in the business. It's really funny, a "ramen western" as the director describes it. It's also full of delightful subplots of the different ways people enjoy food. For example, a grocery store owner tormented by a customer who loves to squeeze food (especially in the soft cheese aisle). I highly recommend this movie, and so do others — it rates 100 on the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spaghetti carbonara

I made spaghetti carbonara for the first time ever and everybody loved it, even my toddler twins, despite me using whole wheat pasta and adding some peas to make it healthy. I make pasta once a week, and this will be making a regular appearance at our dinner table from now on!

Spaghetti carbonara
(recipe adapted from Tyler's Ultimate)

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
8 bacon slices, cut into thin strips
1 onion, minced
4 eggs
6 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil for frying

Boil a large pot of salted water for the spaghetti. Cook it according to package directions, about 12 minutes. While it's cooking, reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set it aside for adding to the sauce later.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil for the peas. Add the frozen peas and cook them for three minutes until they are bright green, plump and tender. Drain the peas and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the bacon and onion for seven to eight minutes, until the onion is soft and the bacon crunchy. 

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them together with the cream and cheese. Add the onion and bacon mixture, including the pan drippings, to the bowl. Add the reserved pasta water. Then drain the spaghetti and add it too. 

Toss everything well and then invert a plate on top of the bowl. Let everything rest for five minutes. Remove the plate and mix in the peas, salt, pepper and parsley. You are ready to eat!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lemony chicken, orzo and dill soup

This is a great take on chicken noodle soup from Bon Appétit. The leek, lemon and dill are really refreshing and I love the use of orzo because it makes the recipe very baby-friendly. It inspired me to add some of these flavours to my own chicken noodle soup recipe.

I'll blog about that later, but in brief I saute a mirepoix (a mixture of chopped onion, celery and carrot), sear some chicken thighs, simmer them in stock with bay leaves and parmesan rind, and add cooked orzo, fresh dill, lemon juice and chopped celery leaves at the end.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roasted cauliflower soup

The crispy topping of roasted cauliflower and croutons really makes this velvety soup unique. This is Tyler Florence's recipe for roasted cauliflower soup from his cookbook Tyler's Ultimate, which has a lot of great classics. Tyler calls for copious amounts of butter (3/4 cup!) and I'm sure that tastes lovely and very restaurant-like. To lighten things up, I reduced the butter content to four tablespoons in total and I thought the soup still tasted nice and creamy. I used two tablespoons of butter in the soup (instead of the recommended half cup/one stick!). For the topping, I used two tablespoons each of olive oil and butter instead of four tablespoons of butter. Lastly, I made my topping with baguette instead of brioche because that's what I had on hand.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cheesy any-time-of-the-day hash with fried egg

This is a great breakfast but I've enjoyed it for lunch and dinner too. It satisfies my urge for the holy trinity of potatoes, melted cheese and runny eggs that can strike at any time of the day!

Cheesy hash with fried egg
(serves two)

4 eggs
2 cups frozen traditional breakfast-style hash browns (McCain or Cavendish)
half an onion, diced
half a red pepper, diced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp herbes de Provence (or substitute chopped fresh thyme if you have it)
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper for seasoning
half a cup of grated cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-low heat. Add the onion and red pepper and fry for five minutes until softened. Add the frozen hash browns and mix well. Add the paprika, herbes de Provence or fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Then let sit and allow to brown for a few minutes without stirring. Stir and repeat. Stir and repeat again if needed. The idea is to get a nice brown crispy crust on at least two sides of the potato cube.

In the meantime, fry the four eggs in olive oil sunnyside up in a separate skillet.

Once the hash has browned to your liking, take the skillet off the heat and set aside on a cold element. Scatter the cheese over the hash browns and cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid for two minutes or until the cheese has melted. Then remove the cover so that the potatoes don't get soggy.

Scoop some potato hash on a plate and top with two fried eggs.

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