Saturday, December 25, 2010

My favourite pie crust recipe

It's Christmas day and I have been home for a week now and have already made 2 pies - the first was a QUICHE and the 2nd was a heavenly (but pain in the be-hind) coconut cream pie, which, I must add, was my first ever experience toasting coconut! Christmas at the Hartley James home is definitely a time for baking ... as I type, I can hear my sister working away at the stove making her famous butter tarts. We just finished off another dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert tonight and, over the course of the past couple of days, have consumed an embarrasing number of cheese biscuits (recipe to follow soon, I promise) and cinnamon buns. Somehow, as a family, we have gone through two and a half 1L cartons of heavy whipping cream. Hmmm.

I now introduce - trumpets abound - the most flawless, flakiest, ... fantastikest pie crust around. Thank you Ms. Martha (of course!). I have cut and pasted from her:
tutorial which I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend. It has really nice, clear pictures that show you what your crust should look like along the way. To note is that this recipe uses a food processor which, now that I own one, I strongly recommend any good cook pick up. Everyone knows that you make the best pie crust in a food processor. Hey, anything other than having to use a pastry cutter or, worse yet, 2 knives. These are options though ladies if you find yourself poor in kitchen appliances. Bon appétit all and have a most wonderful Christmas - a celebration of our Saviour's birth! I'll eat pie to that :)

Ingredients and Equipment:
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
• 1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed (I found that adding an extra tbs 1/2 was helpful)
• Food processor
• Rolling pin
• Glass pie plate or metal pie tins


Step 1: Making the Pie Dough
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. After the dry ingredients are pulsed together, the butter pieces are added all at once. The mixture is pulsed again until it has clumps ranging in size from coarse crumbs to 1/2 inch. This usually requires only a few pulses and takes about 10 seconds; it's very important not to overprocess the dough. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)


Step 2
Ice water is added (with the machine running) until the texture of the dough is crumbly and just holds together; the dough should not be wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Step 3
The crumbly dough is transferred to a work surface and divided in half. Each portion is placed on a sheet of plastic wrap; the wrap is gathered around the dough and pulled toward the center to form a ball. The dough is then flattened into a disk and chilled. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using
 
Step 4: Rolling the Pie Dough
Roll dough back to its proper dimension. Start rolling, working from center. If dough loses circular shape, place end of pin near the crooked edge and roll, working that area by pressing with one hand while holding the pin loosely with the other. Keep the work surface floured so the dough doesn't lose its shape, stick, or tear. Every few passes, release the dough by running a long offset spatula underneath, then throw more flour under it. As you go, run your fingers around the edges of the dough to feel if the thickness is even (and if not, to find where you need to roll more).
 
Step 5: Fitting the Pie Dough
After the pie dough is rolled out to its proper dimension, it's then rolled back up over the pin and gently draped over the pie plate. The dough is then fitted into it.

Step 6: Trimming the Pie Dough
Once the dough is fit properly into the pie plate, kitchen shears are used to trim the dough, leaving an even overhang along the perimeter of the plate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baked Penné Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Jeremy finished his 4th/5 exams today. Poor guy has had 4 exams in the past 5 days. To decompress, he helped me make dinner tonight while Georgie looked on ... sniffing the air :) I have to say that for this meal, it's very nice to have a helper on hand - one person whisking the sauce while the other runs around getting all of the ingredients ready! If you don`t have a helper on hand, I`d recommend you really prepare the garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes etc. all before hand so that things run smoothly. This dish was pretty darn yummy. You can make it before hand and freeze it for later, which is always nice on a day that things are going to be pretty crazy around dinner time! Bon appétit!


Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound penne rigate
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, halved horizontally
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded provolone (3 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (2 ounces)


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.

3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Off heat, gradually stir in provolone and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

4. Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper. Add pasta mixture to your baking dish; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.

5. Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My famous Lemon-Poppy Seed Cookies

All I`ll say is that, right now, at this very instant, my house smells delicious. Like heaven. Lemon scented heaven. Tomorrow we`re having a little cookie exchange in the OT department at the hospital so I`ll be coming home with lots and lots of yummy cookies. These lemon poppy seed cookies are famous at the Giles`. They`re from Martha`s 2006 Christmas Cookie magazine that I just adore. One year I made 18 dozen of them for another cookie exchange. Now that was just plain crazy. Our wedding cake was lemon-poppy seed too... the flavour is, hands down, just one of my favourite things. Bon appétit! 

Ingredients:
(Makes about 30)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter; stir until melted.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream remaining stick butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and 2 teaspoons zest. Mix in flour mixture and poppy seeds.
3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest. Roll spoonfuls of dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with seeds.
4. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I was out with some lovely colleagues of mine this past week to the hospital's most visited coffee joint - Ideal Coffee. If you are around the area of Bruyere and Dalhousie, you must, and I mean must check this little joint out. It comes highly recommended by all Bruyere Hospital OT staff and by my very own husband who is quite the coffee snob. Ideal grounds their own coffee beans (making it smell exactly like our basement!) and have a wonderful, quirky staff. Their drinks/eats are remarkably well priced (cookie + chai latté was about 3.00$) and each of their mugs is different. It`s not your regular Starbucks, let me tell you. I write about Ideal because they have the BEST ginger cookies. As I was downing my cookie over lunch, I thought to myself that I could really go for a few more of these mega, soft ginger cookies with the crackled tops. That night I went home, checked to see if I had any molasses and went to town. Bon appétit! 


Ingredients
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon 1/2 ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses
- granulated sugar (for coating cookie dough before baking)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon pan liners. Set aside.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. With mixer on medium speed, beat in the egg and molasses, then increase the speed to high and beat about 1 minute longer, until the mixture no longer looks curdled. Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula several times while mixing.

4. Mix in the flour mixture on low speed. The batter will be rather stiff. Place some granulated sugar on a small plate or saucer. Use a tablespoon to form 1 tbs portions of dough. (Spray the spoon with the optional non-stick vegetable spray to make it easier to release the dough.) Transfer the dough to your hands and roll each portion into a rough ball, then roll each ball into the sugar. Place 9-12 sugared balls on each baking sheet, spacing them evenly, because they will spread during baking.

5. Use a slightly damp bottom of a cup or measuring cup and press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it a little and dampen the top. Refrigerate one filled baking sheet while the other bakes. **Just remember the flatter you make your cookies and the longer you bake it, the crispier the cookie will be. So don't over do it.***


6. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are firm to the touch. Rotate the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. Remember to remove your cookies slightly before they look totally cooked. They will cook a little more on the baking sheet. Watch your cookies really well during the last few minutes so that they do not burn - nobody likes a burnt crispy cookie!

Note: This dough can be frozen for slice-and- bake cookies. Just roll into a log 2-1/2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. Can be stored in the freezer up to 6 months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thai One On Chicken

A few months ago I cut this recipe out of my Clean Eating magazine. I know I've mentioned this magazine on the blog before - it's a magazine that essentially devoted to raw, clean cooking. As in, nothing from a box. Green cooking. Good for you cooking. Cutting down on fat (I recently finished reading an article on common dishes they`d 'scaled' ... I laughed when I read their comparisons between LIGHT and RICH dishes). And yada yada yada. Needless to say, I've been meaning to try this recipe for some little while now. 

Once again, all I can say is YUM. The coconut milk (in the article it calls for 'light'... come on' now... LIGHT coconut milk??) is so incredibly rich and tasty. We did our grilling on our Griddler - one of our favourite cooking appliances - but you could do this right on your BBQ, George Forman etc. I have to admit that after making dinner tonight our whole apartment smelled like Thai food, but it was a small price to pay! As you can guess, I must give photo creds to Clean Eating ... sadly Jerms and I didn't actually have any skewers when we came to threading our meat and veggies. Ours looked something like the picture except our skewer bits were all over our rice :)
Bon appétit!


INGREDIENTS (for 4):
- 13.5 oz light coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each), cubed into skewer-size pieces
- 1 cup dry basmati rice
- 1 orange bell pepper (or bell pepper of your choice)
- 2 green zucchini
- 10 to 12 small white button mushrooms

EQUIPMENT:
Metal, bamboo or wooden skewers (soak your bamboo or wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes prior to use)


INSTRUCTIONS:1. In a saucepot, bring coconut milk to a boil. Add curry paste, whisking it in, and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until it thickens a bit. Remove from heat and let mixture cool. Place chicken in a resealable container. Reserve some coconut-milk mixture to brush over your vegetables and chicken while they cook. Pour remaining coconut-milk mixture over top of chicken, cover and put in refrigerator to marinate.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. (NOTE: Amy uses this covered-pot method: Bring 1 3/4 cup water to a boil, add rice and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Then add 1 grind sea salt.)

3. Cut pepper and zucchini into chunks that are the same size as your chicken to ensure even grilling. Thread vegetables, including mushrooms, and chicken onto skewers – each skewer should be one-third chicken and two-thirds vegetables.

4. You can use a grill pan over the stovetop, indoor contact grill or outdoor grill. Keep heat moderate so chicken doesn’t burn before it cooks through. Grill your skewers over medium to medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender-crisp, turning halfway through and brushing reserved coconut-milk mixture over top of skewers as they cook.


5. Serve chicken-vegetable skewers over shallow bed of rice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New tunes.


The new winter tunes list is up.
Do enjoy some new sounds by some great artists :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm Chocolate Lava Puddings

All I can say about these little guys is yum, yum, yum, yum, YUM. And... did I mention... Yum?
A most lovely friend of mine and I made up a batch of these little lava cakes and were so darn pleased with ourselves. I think that I will make up another recipe (x 2, or 3) for our next round of Yums & Yarns (my monthly craft and chocolate night). The important thing is to have a set of ramekins on hand, otherwise you could probably make these in a muffin tin as well. Very bon appétit! 

Ingredients
Serves 4
- 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Ice cream (any flavor), for serving (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.

4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 20 to 25 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes if puddings were previously refrigerated. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Spaghetti and Meatballs


    Because I have to...

    On top of spaghetti,

    All covered with cheese,
    I lost my poor meatball
    When somebody sneezed.
    It rolled off the table
    And onto the floor,
    And then my poor meatball
    Rolled right out the door!

    It rolled in a garden
    And under a bush
    Now my poor meatball
    Was nothing but mush

    The mush was as tasty
    As tasty could be
    Early next summer
    It grew into a tree

    The tree was all covered
    With beautiful moss
    It grew lovely meatballs
    In a tomato sauce

    So if you like spaghetti
    All covered with cheese
    Hold on to your meatballs
    And DON'T EVER SNEEZE!

    A-A-A-CHOO !!

    Bon appétit! 

    Ingredients:
    1 large egg
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    6 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
    3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
    8 ounces ground pork (I`m sure this would work fine with just pork, just beef, just turkey...)
    8 ounces ground beef
    1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
    3/4 pound spaghetti

    Directions
    1. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in half the onion and half the garlic. Add breadcrumbs, cheese, pork, ground beef, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Mix gently. Form into 16 balls.

    2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Cook remaining meatballs in remaining tablespoon oil; remove meatballs.


    3. Add remaining onion; cook over medium-low until soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning; cook 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes and 3/4 cup water. Return meatballs; cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove meatballs.

    4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti according to package direction until al dente. Drain; return to pot. Toss with sauce; serve meatballs on top, sprinkled with more cheese.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Orecchiette with Sausage & Roasted Red Peppers

    I decided to make this dish for my husband because he loves sausage so much. Before, when we weren't planning out our meals, I'd often ask him, so... what do you think we should make for dinner tonight? And the answer... most often was, you guessed it, "Umm... Hmm... Oh, I know! How about sausages?". I love him so much :) 


    I think that the most exciting part about making this dish was roasting the red peppers. I'd never roasted my own pepper before (it's surprisingly easy!). They really did contribute to the taste - I was quite surprised. This dish was pretty mellow tasting - good, but mellow. If I were to make it again, I think that I'd add some garlic and freshly cracked black pepper to give it a little bit more oomph. I decided to take some pictures of what your peppers should look like. Don`t worry, they`re supposed to look charred and beyond reconsiliation but underneath that crispy black exterior is a delicious, perfectly roasted red pepper.   Bon appétit!

    Ingredients:
    2 medium red bell peppers, four flat sides sliced off core, ribs and seeds discarded
    2 medium yellow bell peppers, four flat sides sliced off core, ribs and seeds discarded
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    1 pound orecchiette or other short pasta
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
    1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
    1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Directions
    1. Heat broiler. Place peppers, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 4 inches from heat until charred, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; steam 2 to 3 minutes. Using a paper towel, rub off pepper skins, reserving any juices in bowl. Thinly slice peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; return to bowl. Set aside.



    2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.


    3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Add roasted peppers; cook until heated through.


    4. Transfer sausage mixture to bowl; add pasta, butter, reserved pasta water, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

    Chicken Enchiladas

    Jeremy and I have a most favourite Mexican restaurant that we like to frequent down on Elgin Street in Ottawa called Poncho Villa. If you`ve never been, it`s probably because you`ve never seen it - you really have to be looking for it as it`s tucked down in a little courtyard. It's almost directly across from Jack Purcell park. They serve, in my opinionin my opinion, quite possibly the best Mexican fare in the city. I love sitting on their little cobblestone patio in the summer and watching all of the folks walk by. I think that what Jeremy really likes is this hot sauce they have that he puts on practically everything (not really a Venezuelan in his choice of heat!). When we were living on Gilmore St. and Panchos was right around the corner... well, all I can say is that we frequented our little restaurante mexicano pretty often. All that to say, everytime we sit down at Ponchos, I have to explain to Jeremy what an enchilada is, what a tostada is, quesadillas... (thankfully he's got the burrito and taco down). I just don`t understand how he can eat this food so often and always forget what`s what. I guess I can never remember how to program the VCR, so there you go! 

    This recipe is pretty yummy. It`s no Panchos, but pretty yummy. A little warning - they take a little bit of preparation. Not crazy, but a little bit. They're nice to make for one dinner and then freeze the rest for a night when things are a little hectic and you can just pull them out of the oven. These serve up really nicely with a side salad with AVOCADO (of course!). Bon appétit!

    For the sauce
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup tomato paste
    1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
    3/4 cup water
    salt and fresh ground pepper

    For the enchiladas12 (3) ounces shredded Mexican blended cheeses or pepper Jack cheese
    2 cups cooked black beans
    10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    1 large piece of chicken (boiled and then shredded)
    6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
    1/2 cup corn (optional)
    salt and fresh ground pepper
    8 large white corn tortillas

    To make the sauce
    In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Stir in 1 teaspoon cumin, flour and tomato paste - cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in broth and water - bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper - set aside.

    To make the enchiladas
    Start by boiling your chicken in a medium pot. Cutting the chicken up in to smaller chunks will help it cook faster. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 8 ounces cheese (2 cups - not all of your cheese!), beans, spinach, corn, and scallion whites. Shred your chicken by pulling it apart with 2 forks and at it and your remaining 1 teaspoon cumin - season with salt and pepper.

    Preheat oven to 400

    Stack tortillas and wrap in damp paper towel - microwave on high for 1 minute to warm them. Top each tortilla with about a heaping 1/3 cup of filling - roll up tightly and arrange, seam side down, in 2 9" x 9" or 2 7" x 11" baking dishes coated with nonstick spray. You will want 8 rolled tortillas in each one.

    Dividing evenly, sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 4 ounces cheese (1 cup) and evenly spoon the sauce over the top. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving - garnished with the reserved scallion greens.

    Makes 8 servings.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Mango Blueberry Smoothies

    A couple of years ago, some dear friends of ours gave us a 'Party Blender' set (aka the Magic Bullet). Sadly, it sat in our closet until about a month and a half ago, when, late one night, Jeremy decided that he wanted to make himself a cookie and cream milk shake (this entails loading up the blender with about a dozen cookies, some ice cream and milk...). Needless to say, out came the party blender. Our lives have been a non-stop smoothie jamboree ever since. So yummy and so darn good for you. We decided to pick up some mango at the grocery store this week to feed to the blender and came up with this yummy concoction. Bon appétit! 


    Ingredients (2 smoothies):
    - 1 mango, chopped
    - handful of blueberries
    - 1 banana, split
    - dollup of plain yoghurt


    Directions: BLEND.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Homemade Pizza Puffios

    As much of an extrovert that I am, I still consider myself to be a real homebody. I love cuddling up on the couch with my husband and puppy to watch a movie or read a book. I have this special blanket from Jesse & Kavi that feels like you`re being bundled up in a big, soft, warm and cuddly sheep (without the sheepie smell!). It`s amazing. 


    Once a month, Jeremy and I have `pizza and a movie` night where we toss our pizza dough ingredients in to the bread maker, take Georgie out for our nightly trip to the puppy park and then return home to freshly made, ready to go pizza dough. It's fantastic. If you have a bread maker, I highly recommend you try making your own pizza dough - it's so incredibly easy, inexpensive and so much better than buying store bought. On our last 'pizza & a movie' night, we decided to do things a little differently and made ourselves some 'puffios' instead, mostly so that I could have something to bring in my lunches this week. "What the heck is a 'puffio'?" you might be asking. If you are from Corunna or Sarnia you should be ashamed of yourself if you don't know (Antonio's Pizza... ), but if not, I believe they're also called "calzones" - essentially, pizza folded in on itself. Puffios are typically deep fried so that they, yup, you guessed it - PUFF up, but, having just finished a shift on Stroke Rehab, I decided to save my arteries the unnecessary punishment and baked em' instead. These guys are a little bit of work, but fun if you have little ones because they can each decorate their own. You can use whatever pizza dough recipe you typically use, but in case you need a good one, here's my favourite from my most wonderful friend Lyndsay who is getting married in less than a week. Remember that the dough takes a good hour to rise so start that ahead of time. Bon appétit! 


    Ingredients:


    Dough
    1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
    2 tsp sugar
    2/3 cup warm water
    2 cups flour (if you want to do a 'whole wheat crust', use 1 1/2 cups white four and 1/2 cup whole wheat or 12 grain flour)
    1 tbs corn meal
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tbs. olive oil 
    Optional: any herbs to season your dough - dash of oregano, pinch of rosemary, pinch of red pepper flakes etc.


    Filling
    Really... this is what you want, but I've included a few ideas that are always good... I did not add any quantities of ingredients. Go with what you'd like... 
    1 can pizza sauce
    Sprinkle of garlic powder
    Different meats: Pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham (all pre-cooked...)
    Different vegetables: Olives, red or green pepper, pineapple, broccoli, onion
    Different cheeses: mozzarella, feta, goat, parmesean



    Directions:


    TO MAKE THE DOUGH
    For the bread maker: 
    Toss er' all in and set your bread maker to 'pizza dough' ... if you don't have that kind of setting, I'm sure just the 'dough' setting would work too. This usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.


    For the hands:
    1. Combine your yeast, 1 tsp. sugar and the water in a large bowl for approx. 10 minutes (until mixture becomes frothy)
    2. In a separate bowl, combine your flour, 1 tsp. sugar, corn meal and salt
    3. Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture
    4. Add 1 3/4 cups of your dry mixture to the wet and knead until a rough ball forms
    5. Transfer your dough to a floured surface and knead 3-4 minutes
    6. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or butter, add the dough and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm, dry and draft-free place for 1 hour (I like to turn the oven on for 20 seconds just to warm it up a little bit, turn off the heat and then place the bowl in the oven).
    7. Once the dough his risen, PUNCH it down and fold in on itself to make another ball. Transfer this to your floured surface. 


    TO MAKE THE PUFFIOS 
    - Once your dough is ready, place it on a floured surface and ensure that it is in a nice, uniform ball. Cut the ball in half, then cut each of these 1/2 in to 3 pieces each (you should end up with 6 pieces of dough).
    - Form each of the individual pieces in to a ball and then roll out to about the size of a salad plate (I'm thinking about 6-7" in diameter). Do not make them too thin though or they can rip when you try to fold them over.
    - Pre-Heat your oven to 375F and prepare 2 baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray or butter and lightly sprinkled with corn meal
    - Add your ingredients.  Be sure to leave a good 3/4" space around the outside. Start by adding a good tbs of pizza sauce toward the middle (but not right in the middle...), then your toppings, followed by the cheese(s) and finished with a sprinkle of onion and/or garlic powder. Warning: You do not want to have sauce hanging over the edge or it wont seal correctly and, as tough as it is, try your hardest not to over stuff :)
    - Lightly brush the outside edge of the circle with water. Fold the top over and seal with a fork. Punch 3-4 holes in the top of each to let the steam escape. 
    - Bake at 375F for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Coconut Red Lentil Soup

    I just adore a nice, warm, comfort to the soul bowl of soup. Absolutely adore it.  Once I cooked up the this delicious fall`ish soup in my little white kitchen*, I couldn't in good conscience hold back. Its got slivered green onions sauteed in butter and yummy golden raisins that plump up the coconut milk. And back notes of ginger... and toasted curry powder. Mmmm. All things that make this soup too good not to share. We've been enjoying big ladles of this soup over ~1/2 cup of warm barley - brown rice or farro would be good as well. Sprinkle each bowl generously with cilantro and the remaining green onions. I hope that you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

    ps* - yes, I know, it`s awful, my whole kitchen is WHITE ... WHITE! Including the floor - the floor! I know! I wouldn`t wish a white kitchen floor on my worst enemy! I sweep that thing six times a day and STILL it looks like a weekly chore. When we move and eventually... eventually ... buy our own home I am planning on having a beautiful dark wood kitchen with wood floors.... mmmm... it`ll be beautiful.

    Ingredients:

    1 cup / 7 oz / 200g yellow split peas
    1 cup 7 oz / 200g red split lentils (masoor dal)
    7 cups / 1.6 liters water
    1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
    2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
    2 tablespoons curry powder
    2 tablespoons butter or ghee
    8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
    1/3 cup / 1.5 oz / 45g golden raisins
    1/3 / 80 ml cup tomato paste
    1 14-ounce can coconut milk
    2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
    one small handful cilantro, chopped
    cooked brown rice, barley or farro, for serving (optional)


    Directions:
    1. Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse - until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.

    2. In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don't want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside. 

    3. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions, the remaining ginger, and raisins. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two more.

    4. Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, if you like. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency. The thicker this soup got, the more I liked it.

     Serves 6.
    If you`re wondering: these are the kind of lentils that you should be looking for:
    Coconut Red Lentil Soup

    Butter-Pecan Sweet Potatoes


    As many of you know, I am a Martha lover. Her website currently has a wonderful 'seasonal produce guide' for all of the 4 seasons. A couple of weeks ago, I posted the butternut-squash guide. This recipe comes from, well, the sweet potato bank. It was DELICIOUS. I think that it is going to be added to the Giles' Thanksgiving repertoire from now on. Personally I am really, truly not keen on the usual plain mashed sweet potatoes that you generally see around this time of year. Ick.  I don't know, maybe its a sensory, texture thing. I've just never been keen. But these guys... oh boy. You're in for a treat! As you can see, we served them up with a side salad & pork chops. Bon appétit!

    Ingredients (for 4 servings):
    - 4 medium sweet potatoes (2.5 pounds)
    - 1 tablespoon olive oil
    - Coarse salt
    - 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
    - 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
    - 1/4 cup pecan pieces
    - dash of cayenne pepper

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel potatoes and halve lengthwise; slice crosswise 1/2 inch thick. On a baking sheet, toss potatoes with olive oil; season with coarse salt.

    2. Transfer half the potatoes to a second baking sheet; cook both sheets until potatoes are tender, tossing occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes.

    3. Sprinkle with butter, brown sugar, pecan pieces, and cayenne pepper, dividing evenly. Bake until sugar is caramelized and hard, about 10 minutes. Gently toss; serve immediately.

    Spaghetti with Pecorino & Black Pepper


    Now who doesn't love a good spaghetti? This is a pretty bold dish with lots of intense flavours. First off, for those who are wondering, pecorino variety of Romano cheese - think saltier Parmesan with a kick. It is very easy to find at the grocery store, no worries! 


    The romano cheese in this recipe made me reminisce to the first Christmas Jeremy and I were married (4 years ago!). For Christmas, my cheese-loving mumma had given us this GIANT, and I'm talking GIANT block of romano cheese.  At first we didn't really know what to do with it! Then, that cheese started going on EVERYTHING. We sure did live the high cheese life for a couple of months. And that is the really nice thing with romano, it lives on for ages. Sadly though, we ended up breaking our grater we were grating so much romano :) Not surprisingly, that winter was also the winter of pirogies for Jeremy. Lots and lots of cheesy pirogies.   But this post isn't about pirogies, it's about spaghettis so lets get on with it. Bon appétit!! 

    Ingredients:
    Coarse salt
    12 ounces spaghetti
    1 1/2 cups finely shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (4 ounces)
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1 piece of boneless skinless chicken, cut into cubes
    1 red pepper, sliced in long spears
    1/2 red onion, chopped

    Directions:
    1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water. 



    2. While pasta is cooking, cook your chicken with a little bit of olive oil. When chicken is cooked, add onions and then red pepper. Red pepper should only cook for 1-2 minutes so that it is still relatively firm. 


    3. Drain pasta; return to pot.

    4. To pasta in pot, add 1 cup reserved pasta water. Gradually add 1 cup Pecorino, tossing constantly with tongs until cheese is melted; add pepper. Toss to coat pasta lightly; if desired, gradually add a little more pasta water to thin.


    5. Top pasta with serving of chicken & red pepper dish and sprinkle each dish with a portion of your remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Enjoy! 

    Pear and Granola Muffins

    Mmmm. Muffin. Yummy, yummy pear muffin. Yummy, yummy HEALTHY pear muffin. This particular yummy yummy pear muffin has a crunchy granola topping that is a perfect foil to the soft and juicy pears inside. The low-fat yogurt that this recipe uses replaces much of the usual butter and makes the muffins super moist with a subtle tang. Whole-wheat flour is also a nice addition to make them even more wholesome. All around, some good stuff.


    I've been enjoying these little guys in my lunches and for breakfast ... both of which are most often in the car, running to and from schools!  My community OT buddies know what I mean - sitting down to eat? What's that? I also brought 1/2 a dozen of these yummy little guys in to the hospital when I was doing some casual coverage and they got snapped up (doesn't that always make you feel so good?) with lots of requests for recipes. Bon appétit! 


    Ingredients (Makes 12):
    FOR MUFFINS
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 large eggs
    3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
    1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 cup plain granola
    1 cup of pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces



    FOR GRANOLA CRISP TOPPING
    (or use an additional 3/4 cup plain granola)
    1/2 cup granola
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter

    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.


    2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, and butter. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add egg mixture to well, and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the granola and pears.


    3. Make Granola Crisp Topping: In a bowl, toss together 1/2 cup granola, 1/4 cup each all-purpose flour and packed light-brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter into pieces; add to granola mixture, and rub in with fingertips until clumps form.


    4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Sprinkle with granola topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.



    Peach & Plum Crumble

    For our special Friday dessert, I decided to do a little spin on the peach crisp post that I put together earlier last week ... introducing, PLUM and peach crisp. It's a little different from my earlier post, this time with plenty of extra crisp, or crumble, or whatever you call the topping part. I suspect I'm like many of you in liking a high crisp to fruit ratio. When it comes down to it, I'm after a spoonful of oat-flecked crumbly crust, some deliciously warm and fragrant fruit, paired with a dollop of cold, creamy vanilla ice cream. I'm not sure it gets much better. Jeremy felt it didn`t have enough fruit, but I loved it. So there you go...

    In my mind a good crisp recipe incorporates a few other considerations as well. First off, I don't like overcooked, un-textured fruit. I like that this cooking time is relatively short compared to other crumble or crisp recipes. Just enough to get the topping nice and golden. Also along these lines, use fruit that is ripe, but not overly ripe. You`ll want the fruit to retain shape and texture. Too ripe it goes to mush. Not ripe enough, you'll fight the stone fruits through the entire slicing and pitting process. They let you know when they are ready.

    A couple other notes about this recipe: In addition to being very sweet, most crisp/crumble/ cobbler-type toppings are big-time butter bombs - unnecessarily so. This recipe tries to scale back a bit here without sacrificing taste or texture, and uses yogurt to keep things moist. Also, you can sweeten the fruit part to taste with whatever sweetener you prefer (white sugar, honey etc.)

    So my wonderful cooking family, do enjoy this crisp recipe, and feel free to swap in your favourite stone fruits and berries. You could also do individual versions in ramekins as well. Bon appétit! .


    Fruit:
    1 pound ripe peaches
    1 pound ripe plums
    1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
    a scant 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice (to prevent the fruit from browning) 

    Crisp:
    3/4 cup rolled oats
    3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour)
    1/2 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    big pinch of salt
    1/3 cup butter, melted
    1/3 cup yogurt

    1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.

    2. Cut the peaches and plums into bite-sized, 1-inch pieces. I cut relatively chubby slices and then cut them again in quarters or thirds. Place the chopped fruit in a medium-sized bowl.

    3. In a separate small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup sugar and the arrowroot. Sprinkle over the fruit, toss gently (but well), add the dash of lemon juice, toss again, and transfer the fruit to an 8-inch square baking dish (or your favorite equivalent-sized, deep-sided, solid-bottomed tart pan).

    4. To make the topping combine the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the plum and peach mixture.

    5. Place the baking dish in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Sprinkle a bit more sugar on top as it comes out of the ovens, and if you have a lemon onhand, grate a bit of zest on top (optional). Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Fresh Peach Crisp

    Last night for dinner I made a surprise special dessert for my husband. He knew that something was in the oven and that it smelled like a world of delicious deliciousness, but I wouldn't let him look until I pulled it out and had my "tada!" moment. I decided to make this dish on the fly because I thought it`d be fun to have something a little different for dessert other than yogurt & berries with our coffee & tea. I had all of the ingredients on hand anyways and the peaches were on their last breath, so what a perfect way to use em` up! All I can say is... Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm. We poured a little bit of fresh cream on top to really sweeten the deal. Another old favourite of course is to serve with vanilla ice cream. Bon appétit! 


    Ingredients (for 4-5):
    - 1 cup rolled oats
    - 1 cup brown sugar
    - 1/2 cup flour
    - 1 tsp. cinnamon
    - 1/2 c. butter
    - 7-8 med. peaches or apples
    - splash of lemon juice
    - dash of white sugar

    Directions:
    1. In a mixing bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. 

    2. Core peaches (or you could use apples); slice and put into a baking dish. Cover with a light splash of lemon juice (this prevents the fruit from browning) and a light sprinkling of sugar.

    3. Sprinkle oat mixture on top of fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Lemon Roasted Chicken with Salad & Dilled Orzo

    Is it just me or did anybody else not know that Orzo is actually a variety of pasta and not rice? For some reason or another (hmm... maybe because it looks a whole heck of a lot like rice), I was always under the impression that orzo was one of those hipster, upper-class kinda rices. Like say, arborio... or, I don't know ... risotto :) 
    While shopping with a lovely colleague of mine in the Byward Market last week, we popped in to the ever-so-wonderful La Bottega (I just love the guy with the huge pipes cutting that massive block of cheese ...). She was looking for dried spanish sausage for one of her famous Philippino dishes and I just wanted to go for a walk and get out of the hospital for a few minutes. Needless to say, lo and behold, there it was in there - smiling back at us from the pastas from around the world aisle. Only 2.00$.  I thought to myself, "I'm going for it." And so did my friend. She too had never dived in to the exciting world of Orzo.  I managed to scrounge my delightful neighbour Karen`s last dregs of her fresh dill before she tore up her garden for the summer. We frequently share veggies and herbs over our fence - it`s a great system we`ve got going! 


    The end result: This recipe was pretty yummy. The dill in the Orzo was a really different, kind of zingy taste that went along pretty well with the lemon. I have to say though that the two of us enjoyed the lemon chicken a whole lot more than the orzo and dill. Jeremy thinks that it might have been better if maybe if there was a `garlic infused` oil or something to spice up the orzo a bit more. That or you could just serve up the chicken with a nice veggie side dish. Up to you. It`s still very good, just maybe lacking a little something in the orzo. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Bon appétite!



    Ingredients (to serve 4):
    - chicken (about 6 1/2 pounds), cut into 10 pieces
    - 4 garlic cloves, smashed
    - 2 lemon, quartered
    - 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    - 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
    - Coarse salt and ground pepper
    - 1 cup orzo
    - 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
    - 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
    - greens for your salad


    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a large saucepan of water to boil.
    2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, garlic, lemons, oregano, and 1 teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast chicken, skin side up, until golden and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, generously salt boiling water. Add orzo, and cook until al dente; drain well, and return to saucepan. Add dill and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper, and mix gently to combine.
    4. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. When chicken and orzo are ready, add arugula to bowl; toss to coat. Drizzle chicken with pan juices, and serve with lemon wedges, orzo, and your salad.