Sunday, September 26, 2010

Puff pastry ... to come.

I am in the process of developing my food menu for the week and am super keen because I plan on finally breaking forth into a new and unexplored frontier in Giles cooking - the much sought after, most delectable hero of all pastries: the PUFF. My newest edition of Everyday Food magazine arrived in the mail this week and I am super keen to try their chicken & sweet potato hand pies.

This coming week is going to be a little sad - we`ll be eating at home only THREE of the seven days. One of those days will be a birthday meal out though and we`re going to try out a seasonal kitchen a couple of doors down from us called the `Fraser Café' . It`s come highly recommended by anyone I know who`s been there, so maybe I can shoot a couple of pictures for the blog.

Until then... bon appétit!

Peanut-Crusted Chicken with Corn on the Cob

This post is a big koodos to my most wonderful and very talented husband, Mr. Jeremy Giles. While I worked away on my endless stream of OT-related paperwork, he made dinner. What a lovely gift for a tired girl. Given that he laboured away in the kitchen, I think that it's only fair that he be featured on the blog - I love you honey! 

I decided to try this recipe on a whim when I saw peanut-bits at the bulk-barn. I'd remembered seeing this recipe from, guess guess, Everyday Food, and thought we'd give it a try. In this recipe, the peanuts lend a really nice, golden and crispy crust to the chicken (we used 'chicken tenders' instead of full breasts to save some $) - and, because the dish is baked, there's no need for a frying pan which is always nice. Other nuts, such as pecans or walnuts, can be used instead. For my 50$ a week frugalista food budget though, peanuts it is! Corn on the cob was a really nice side dish. I have yet to figure out a way of eating corn without it getting all smashed up in my teeth though. Bon appétit! 

Ingredients (for 4):
- 1 tbs. olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
- 3/4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
- 3 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 4 pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Serve with:
- side salad & corn on the cob

Directions for the chicken:
1. Preheat oven to 475F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. In a food processor, pulse peanuts and bead until coarsely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl; whisk in the oil, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper
2. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs; season generously with salt and pepper. Add chicken and turn to coat. Working with one piece at a time, lift chicken and let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl; dredge in peanut mixture to coat completely, gently pressing to adhere. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake (without turning) until crust is browned and chicken is just cooked through 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

* Sunshine Salad *

Today I felt like living vicariously through my dinner. This Saturday in Ottawa has been nothing been dark clouds, rain and all-around gloom that I'm not even sure a care-bear stare could break though, but at least dinner is nice and cheery :) Okay, so the name's a little cheesy, I know... but look at how beautiful it is! This is a fun and simple meal to make. If anything, I am happy for yet another outlet for my oodles and oodles of tomatoes. It's hard to tell in the picture, but there's sliced avocado under all of that mess. I took a picture of my husband with an avocado mustache and am debating if I should post it on the blog. Giles' have fun at dinner, what can we say? While I have your ear, I`d like to put a word in about avocado safety. How dangerous can that cute little green vegetable be you may ask? Well, let me tell you. While I was an OT student at a Hand & Upper Limb clinic here in Ottawa, avocado was the only full hand piercing vegetable-related injury I saw over my 6 week rotation. And not only did I see it once, or twice, but THREE times. You'd be surprised at the number of people who use a ridiculously smart knife to try to pry the avocado pit open and end up stabbing themselves through the hand. So, beware. Cut and pit smartly. 

I thought that I'd mention as well that oddly enough, I noticed that I'm posting 2 "toasted nut" variety dishes in a row. Once again, you really shouldn't skip the step of toasting the almonds in this salad. It makes a huge difference in their taste and texture. To make it easy, I just throw in a handful of them into the same pan as the chicken when the later is cooked through. I'm not a huge fan of salad dressing, but you can top this salad off when your favourite. I'm thinking a fruity raspberry or poppyseed might be nice. Bon appétit! 

Really... this is quite `loose`, you can add anything you want, but, to be specific..

- green leaf lettuce
- cherry tomatoes 
- orange, sliced and peeled
- toasted almonds
- avocado, halved and then sliced thinly
- mango, sliced 
- chicken, diced and pan-fried
- 1 greek-style pita 

1. Prepare your chicken by cubing it and then pan frying it with a small amount of olive oil.
2. Prepare your salad fixings... arrange on the middle of the plate
3. Lightly brush both sides of your pita with olive oil. Toast it in your toaster oven or broil it in the oven. Slice in to triangles and arrange around the edge of your dish.
4. When chicken is cooked,  add almonds to frying pan and toast for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat. 
5. Top the salad with the cooked chicken and almonds. Enjoy!

Teehee... here's the picture of Jeremy's avocado mustache .... Shhhhh. Don't tell :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Linguine with Creamy Walnut Sauce

I've decided that I'm going to dedicate this post to my dear friends Simon and Jenna. Before they moved to far-far away land, we would often get together and try really yummy dishes. I really, really miss those days. Simon and Jenna, you guys need to try this recipe. It's delicious, incredibly flavourful and can be made vegetarian. We decided to add some chicken for fun but this meal would pack lots of protein from the nuts. I was delighted to be able to use some fresh red and green onions from our garden for this meal. I have to say that the 1 cup of cream this recipe calls for doesn`t exactly make it a `fat free` or even a `light` dish, so, that said, indulge and enjoy a heavier meal for once. To really enjoy this meal, don't skip the step of toasting the walnuts. It really does make a big difference! The salad is from my first and presently only Kitchen Musings` correspondent, the most lovely Laura Stouffer. Once again, koodos goes to Martha and her Everyday Food crew. Bon Appétit!

- 2 cups toasted walnuts
- 1 clove garlic (I did 2 1/2 and it was very garlicky... good, but very garlicky so go with what you like :)
- linguine for 4 (spinach linguine would be good!)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1-2 pieces boneless skinless chicken, cubed and pan fried with a bit of olive oil (optional)
- 1/2 a red onion, chopped
- 1/2 a red pepper, thinly sliced length-wise
- approx. 1 tbs. olive oil

1. If you're making this meal with chicken, start by browning your chicken. 
2. Prepare your pasta according to the package's directions until al dente. 
3. Toast your walnuts - if you have a toaster oven, lay your walnuts out on the tray and toast for 3-4 minutes until they smell nice and walnutty. If you don't have a toaster oven, you can toast them either in a frying pan by turning every 30 seconds or so on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or on 375F in the oven about 7-10 minutes. Just watch the little guys carefully because I ended up with a lot of burnt walnuts because I felt like I needed to toast mine again. Needless to say the fire alarm went off just as our guests were arriving!
4. When chicken is fully cooked, add chopped red onion, cook until fragrant approx. 3-4 minutes, then add your red pepper and cook another 3-4 minutes until tender. You may need to add a little bit more olive oil to keep everything from sticking.
5. Make your sauce: in a food processor, combine 1 cup of walnuts, the garlic and the 1 cup of heavy cream. Blend! You could probably do this with a hand-blender or one of those magic-bullet thingamagiggies. 
6. Your pasta should be ready by now - strain well and return to the pot. Pour a small amount of sauce on the chicken mixture and the rest on to the pasta. Add your additional 1 cup of walnuts to the chicken mixture.
7. Serve by placing the chicken mixture on top of the pasta (don't mix it in as it usually all goes to the bottom... trust me!). Enjoy!

Salad recipe to follow :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cornmeal Muffins

Yesterday I was in full baking mode. And when I say full baking mode, I really mean full baking mode. I made blueberry muffins, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, Turtle brownies and then, to top it off, these yummy corn bread muffins (or 'moofons' as my sister and I call them). I brought them along to a Birthday/House Warming  Party of a dear friend of mine. Chili was on the menu and these guys go along very nicely with the spice. I was rather pleased with myself I have to say, when I received the compliment not once, but twice (!), that mine was the best corn bread these two different  individuals had ever tried. Jeremy had to burst my bubble by biting in to his own bubble, a baking powder bubble that is, and exclaiming that this was by far not the best cornbread he'd ever had. That said, when you're making these muffins, just make sure that your baking powder is well sifted :) Bon appétit!

- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup softened butter

1. Set oven to 375F, grease your muffin tin. Mix all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle.
2. Mix the eggs, butter and milk in a bowl until well blended. Pour the wet mixture in to the well of the dry ingredients.
3. Mix until just moistened (batter may still be lumpy) for about 10-15 minutes or until your muffins look golden brown along the edges. Again, be careful not to over cook them. This time is pretty loose as my original recipe includes neither time, directions or temperature. 
4. Serve warm! Enjoy :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chicken Quesadillas ... Olé!

Tonight for dinner we had super easy, super yummy chicken quesadillas.  I was a little sad that we didn't have any sour cream or yogurt to accompany them, but hey, what can you do. Quesadillas are also pretty tasty with salsa, pico de galo or guacamolé. We like to make our quesadillas on our griddler which is a super handy little appliance that cooks both sides at once (a la George Forman) and means that you don`t have to master the slightly tricky quesadilla hand flip. You can also serve up your quesadillas as appetizers if you`re feeling keen. I hope that the proportions for the spices are right because this is a hand-made Giles` recipe and I`m more of a `dash of this` and a `dash of that` kind of cook. Bon appétit!

Ingredients (makes 4):
- 1 piece of boneless skinless chicken
- 4 large whole wheat tortillas 
- pepper (either red or green), chopped
- green onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup lentils
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1 tbs. cumin (to taste... not exactly sure on this one)
- 1 tbs. chili  (again, to taste... )
- plain yogurt or sour cream 
- 1 tbs. olive oil

1. Boil lentils until soft and tender, rinse clean.
2. While lentils are boiling, boil your chicken. When cooked through, shred with 2 forks.
3. Combine all of your ingredients (save the tortillas and yogurt/sour cream) in a large bowl. Toss to coat with the spices. 
4. Brush one side of the tortillas with olive oil. Fill one 1/2 of the non-oiled side with approx. 1/2 cup of filling, sprinkle with cheese. 
5. Either cook on a grill or in a frying pan with a light coat of olive oil. If cooking in a frying pan, cook on medium heat and cook each side until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shiitake Fried Rice

I found out today that Jeremy now has classes Monday night, Tuesday night and Wednesday night. I wasn't too happy to hear this. When I'm home alone, I'm very tempted not to cook. I'll either not eat or I'll make myself a bagel or just eat a bowl of cereal. Needless to say, the box of Mini-Wheats still on the table from breakfast this morning was looking pretty darn good. Then I remembered that I'd bought all the ingredients for this yummy dish and told myself that I don't need a husband to eat good, healthy food. Plus he was pretty excited to come home to some yummy fried rice. This homemade version of the Chinese stanby is a great way to use up leftover rice. This recipe is a little different in that, instead of cooking the egg directly with the rice, you prepare it like an omelet and then slice it up and fold it in with the rice. Lots of fresh, clean ingredients in this dish - the vinegar and freshly peeled ginger give it some nice zingy flavours. Happy cooking and bon appétit!

- 1 3/4 cups water
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 tbs. oil 
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced diagonally
- 10 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
- 6 oz. snow peas, stem ends and any strings removed
- 2-3 tbs. soy sauce
- 2 tbs. rice vinegar
- chicken if so desired, diced

1. Make your rice.
2. While rice is cooking, heat 1 tsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggs; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook, without stirring, until set, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, thinly slice into strips.
3. Pan fry chicken with small serving olive oil, add onion and cook until soft and fragrant. Add carrots; cook, stirring until beginning to brown (4-6 minutes). Add mushrooms; cook, stirring until tender (3-5 minutes). Stir in garlic, ginger and snow peas; cook until the peas are bright green and crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add cooked rice rice, soy sauce and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the sliced egg and serve.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mango Chutney Pork Chops with Platanos Fritos

Before I went to university, I spent a couple of months living in the jungle in Panama. I lived in a tiny little village about 8 hours by canoe from any form of civilization. The village was about 15km from the Columbian border. During my stay, I ate a LOT of platanos (ie. plantains). As in, morning, noon and night, platanos. Want a snack? Platanos. Platanos, platanos, platanos. We'd often just see them floating down the river. Platanos are a staple in many countries and they are very yummy. What is often frustrating here in Canada is that when you go to buy them at the grocery store, they are often thrown out just when they start to look good. Unlike their cousin, the everyday banana, platanos are best when they are almost black. They become sweeter as they ripen and really are something that gets better with age. Needless to say, at the Giles' residence, we eat a lot of platanos fritos ("fried plantains"). 

For this particular dinner, I picked up some pre-made mango chutney (I know, I know, I didn't make it myself...) as a fun topper for our pork chops. I served the pork chops with sides of the platanos fritos, a sliced avocado with some lemon juice and salt & pepper and a toasted greek pita brushed with olive oil and then chopped in to wedges. How geometrically pleasing! For the recipe I'm only posting how to make the platanos fritos because I think that the rest is pretty much self explanatory! Bon Appétit!

- very ripe platains, sliced either diagonally, length-wise or in small circles for chips
- vegetable oil 
- salt & pepper

1. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Wait until your oil is shimmering. 
2. Add the plantains, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until lightly browned. Turn and sauté the opposite side. Be very careful not to burn the little guys. Watch your heat carefully!
3. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the rest of the plantains. Sprinkle with a little salt serve hot. If you have a lot of platanos to make, you can keep them warm in the oven.
Here are some more pictures of cooking up the platanos: 
IMG_1151 IMG_1153IMG_1155 IMG_1156

or... from a different time when we made the `chip` cut variety:
Yum. Yum. Yum. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Individual Cream-Cheesiecakes

This past week I decided to get creative with dessert. I wanted to make some kind of cheesecake without all of the fuss. I also only wanted to make a small amount for the 2 of us - not a giant cheesecake that I would probably eat all of if I had the opportunity!  The result: what I call individual cheesiecakes. My husband LOVED them. Just LOVED them.  They turned out to be quite the decadent little treats. Bon appetit! 

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Using an electric mixer, beat your cream cheese and sugar until well softened. Add salt, beat. Add vanilla, beat. Add milk, beat. Add lemon juice, beat.
2. Pour into 4 different individual containers and refrigerate for an hour to 2-3 days. 
3. Top with your choice of toppings - we did blueberries one night and frozen mixed fruit the next. YUM!

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm baking cookies. It's little icky outside from the rain and a little icky inside (my tummy that is) from all of the dough that I've slowly consumed over the afternoon. I thought that I would do up a double-batch of these ever-so delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. My favourite cookie. I picked up 15$ worth of chocolate chips at the Bulk Food store yesterday and needed an outlet. This coming week is my last week of coverage at the hospital for the summer so I'm going to bring in a batch of cookies to share with my colleagues. I buy love and respect with chocolate, what can I say? A little note about these guys: I tried to make giant cookies and ended up burning them - so, if you want to make an XL version of these guys you'll want to turn down the temperature to say, 350F, to prevent that always dreaded 'BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEEEP BEEEEEEP' from the fire alarm, followed always by the `WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF` from the puppy. Alas. I`m now sitting down munching on the first batch with a nice hot cup of Twinnings Lady Grey. Mmmmmm...Bon appétit! 

- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 3 cups rolled oats (not the quick kind)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375F, grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Combine your 3/4 cup shortening, brown sugar, egg, milk and vanilla in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended.
3. Combine your oats, flour, baking soda, and salt (+cinnamon if you`re going the raisin way)
4. Mix the dry mixture in to the wet at low speed just until blended. Stir in your optional ingredients (chocolate chips or the raisins and walnuts)
5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned - DON`T OVER BAKE YOUR COOKIES. They should look just slightly undercooked - they will cook a little more on the pan when you take them out. 
6. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Honey-Soy Grilled Pork Chops

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. And... yum. This was a super easy, super yummy dish that I highly recommend you try. I'm a little sad about one thing when it came to making this recipe though. I actually got sad at the grocery store itself. I was prepared to do something that I had never done before, to venture to a part of the vegetable aisle that I had never explored, to taste a vegetable I'd never tasted ... the ever mysterious baby bok choy. The original recipe had this exciting veggie lightly grilled with sesame oil and served crunchy. Probably standard fare in many parts of the world, but not in the Giles or Hartley James households. Sadly though, when I arrived at the grocery store, they had no baby bok choy.  Not even grown up bok choy! I know the 14 year old produce guy had no idea what I was talking about. His and my loss... his and my loss. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks I will try a different grocery store and a different recipe for my crunchy bok choy recipe. In the mean time, here's the recipe for the pork chops. As I said, they were very good and a fun excuse for using real ginger. We paired them instead with a tasty little avocado salad with mixed greens. Bon Appétit!

- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbs. honey
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger
- 4 bone-in pork rib chops (2-2 1/2 pounds)
- vegetable oil, for grill

1. Heat your grill to high, in the mean time, cook your rice how you like to do it.
2. While the rice is cooking, make your glaze: stir together the honey, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
3. When your grill is hot, lightly oil grates. Season the pork chops with salt & pepper on both sides. Grill pork until cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Brush pork with your glaze, and grill 30 seconds more per side.