Monday, March 31, 2008

Spanikopita


Peter, please forgive me...

This is the easier version of Spanikopita. If store-bought phyllo dough is not your cup of tea, please refer to Peter's recipe (see link above) or invite Peter to your home to make the phyllo for/with you.

My brother was kind enough to inform us that his girlfriend wasn't eating meat lately....3 hours before they came over for dinner. ARGH! That is so typical Actorboy.

For this recipe, we turned to Noreen Gilletz's MealLeaniYumm! cookbook. This version is out of print and the newer version of this cookbook is called Healthy Helpings. Here's a link to all of Noreen's cookbooks.



This version is a reduced fat version that has only 127 calories per serving.

Ingredients:

4 green onions
2 tbsp. fresh dill &/or basil
10 oz. pkg (300 g) fresh or frozen spinach, cooked & squeezed dry
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and drained
1 lb. (500 g) no-fat pressed cottage cheese or low-fat Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 egg whites
8 sheets of phyllo dough

Process:

1. In the processor, mince green onions, dill &/or basil.
2. Add spinach, process until minced
3. Add sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, eggs and pepper; mix well
4. In a small bowl, mix oil and egg whites.
5. Spray a 9x13 casserole with non-stick spray
6. Line casserole with 4 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet lightly with egg white mixture as you layer it in the pan. Let edges of dough hang over pan.



7. Spread filling evenly over dough.



8. Quickly cover with remaining 4 sheets of phyllo, brushing each layer with egg white mixture.



9. Fold overhanging edges over the top and brush with egg white mixture once again.



10. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until golden



Note: The egg white and oil mixture is the lower fat version of melted butter being brushed on each layer of phyllo. There is a difference in the final texture of the phyllo but it is lower fat.

Spanikopita freezes well and heat up well in the oven (don't microwave it). I happen to like my spanikopita with hot sauce (she says while ducking from flying sheets of homemade phyllo dough). StumbleUpon

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Heavenly Salad




I know, I know it's a bit of a cheesey name and the picture really doesn't do it justice, but, I'm telling you - this salad really is heavenly. It's not so much because of the greens, it's all in the dressing. I got this idea from a dear friend who's threatening patent rights on the dressing but before she makes it to the patent office, I thought it would be good to share it with the immediate world.

The Salad:

Field greens
1 cup pea pods
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
3 roasted red peppers in thin slices
2 small tins of mandarin oranges
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup unsalted sesame seeds (I'm sure I used more)

You can be creative and add whatever else you like. Because I prepared the salad in advance, I just put all of the ingredients underneath the field greens. It prevents the tsalad from getting soggy.



The Dressing:

Juice of 1/2 lemon
10 tbsp oil (either grapeseed or canola but not olive oil)
4 tbsp vinegar (I may have added another tbsp or 2)
2 tbsp liquid honey
salt and pepper

Just before serving emulsify the dressing with either an emersion blender or in a closed container and shake the heck out of it. Dress (salad) and enjoy.

This salad passed the "grandmother seal of approval" from a gramma who eats nothing, likes nothing and gives everything the stink eye before it even touches her lips.

Although a little late getting out of the gate, we've decided to enter this salad to
the Nutriferia roundup featuring yummy spring salads.

Nutriferia badge StumbleUpon

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Our First Event: Tried, Tested and True


Equal Opportunity Kitchen is hosting a blogging event!!!




Giz and I have been talking about this for a while and have decided to take the plunge. We're hosting our first blogging event. It's not a competition, just a roundup.

Here's the premise:

We all have a recipes that are tried, tested and true. A true crowd pleaser that never fails to get good reviews from your guests or family. Wouldn't life be easier with an accessible roundup of these recipes?

Here are the "rules":

Post a dish that fits this theme on your blog anytime from now until April 14. Link to this post (feel free to use the picture, above), send me the details once you’ve posted your dish with "tried, tested and true" in the subject line at: bloggingwagon(at)hotmail(dot)com by April 14 with the following information:

Your name:
The name of your blog and its url:
The name of your dish and a link to the relevant post:

The roundup will follow shortly after the deadline. Looking forward to your entries! StumbleUpon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Farfalle with Sausage, Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Slowly, but surely, I am making my way through the list at the bottom of the sidebar. I have another 50 or so recipes starred in my Google. At this rate, I'll need 3 lifetimes to get through all of the amazing recipes I see on your blogs on a daily basis.

The inspiration for my submission for this week's Presto Pasta Roundup comes from Confections of a Foodie Bride. It is originally a Giada recipe.



Farfalle with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage (I used spicy)
8 oz artichoke hearts, quartered
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 oz farfalle pasta
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
8 oz mozzarella, cubed (optional - I didn't include)
Salt and freshly ground pepper (with the sausage, artichoke and parmesan cheese, I don't think this recipe needs more salt)

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork (I cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces to begin with), about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes (I also added sliced mushrooms at this stage). Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, sausage, parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture.



Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve, passing the additional parmesan cheese alongside.



Verdict: This recipe is great! I used artichokes packed in oil. I'd like to try this with fresh artichokes in the future. I find that pasta dishes aren't always well-proportioned with the sauce recipe. This wasn't a problem for this recipe. The chicken soup and white wine base combined with the other ingredients make for a perfect combination, consistent flavour but not greasy. As someone who doesn't tolerate cream sauces well and is getting tired of tomato-based sauces, this combination is a great option. StumbleUpon

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hamentaschen




Purim is a happy Jewish holiday. No somber fasting, no denial of breads, no mourning - just joy and jubilation. Purim (pronouned poo-rim) celebrates a time when Jews living in Persia were saved from extinction. There is a biblical story that tells the tale of the freedom and it's told throughout the Jewish world each year. It's called the Megillah which literally translated from Hebrew means story.

There is a villan in the Megillah - his name is Haman. He was an evil advisor to the king who was on a mission to destroy the Jews. So the theme starts Hamen - the first part of hamentaschen and "taschen" a German word for purse. Hamentashen are, therefore, a three cornered cookie (representing the three corners of Hamen's hat) with a filling on the inside of the purse.

The tradition of making hamentaschen each year is a fun one. Not only are these cookies delicious, they also become a part of a tradition of giving gifts of charity which are called shalach manot (literally translated means to send gifts).

In larger families, in the midst of all the fun, there are also challenges. For the person who can't have wheat, we use spelt flour, for the people with allergies we change the fillings around, and for people who simple don't like one filling or another, we create a multitude of different fillings and everybody is happy.

If I'm looking for a sure fire recipe for anything Jewish, I always refer to one of Noreen Gilletz's cookbooks





For the Dough:

1 medium seedless orange (quartered but don't peel)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour

Process:

1. In food processor, process the quartered orange until really fine but not mush
2. Add eggs, sugar and oil and process for about 10 seconds
3. Add flour and baking powder and pulse just until blended - don't overprocess
4. Empty from processor bowl to a lightly floured surface.
5. Divide into quarters to roll out - much easier to work with
6. Roll to 1/4" thickness. Depending on the size of cookies you'd like to create, cut circles with either a glass or bisquit cutter.

This dough freezes well and will also stay in the fridge wrapped in parchment paper for a couple of days.


Fillings:

There are so many different choices for fillings. I happen to like poppyseed - I think I may be the only one in my family who does.

Poppyseed Filling

1 cup poppyseeds
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp liquid honey
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp raisins
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

Process:

1. Simmer poppyseeds in milk stirring often until milk is nearly completely absorbed. This step will ensure that the poppyseeds lose most of their crunch.
2. Add honey, sugar, raisins and simmer for another 5-10 minutes
3. Add lemon zest and butter, stir until butter is melted.





Prune Filling:

1 medium orange
12 oz. pkg pitted prunes
1 1/2 cup raisins

In processor - process half of the ingredients at a time emptying bowl in between.

Other suggested fillings:

Apricot, cherry, date, nutella - it's all good

To assemble the hamentaschen

1. Roll out dough to approximately 1/4 inch
2. Cut circles as close together as possible so as not to have to overwork the dough more than necessary



3. Put 1 tablespoon of filling in centre of circle



4. Bring sides up and together pinching together to form a triangle shape. The cookie doesn't have to be completely closed, but the dough should hold together. It's nice to be able to see the filling - especially if you make several different fillings.






I'm not entirely sure what I did to the first batch but this is what happens when your dough doesn't hold together well.



5. Place cookies on greased or sprayed cookie sheet or on silpat
6. Brush with a combination of an egg yolk plus 2 tblsp of water (not entirely necessary but gives it a nicer sheen)



7. Bake in 350 F oven for 25 - 30 minutes

Share with friends and family. Everybody makes a different dough recipe and the variations are numerous. We did three different types of dough in our home and this one is the favourite by far - at least my favourite by far.

Since we used a microplane in this recipe, we'll be submitting this post to a tasty tool event hosted by Joelen's Culinary Adventures. StumbleUpon

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blueberry Muffins


Thanks to everyone who participated in our first quiz. I was not expecting nearly 40 voters. Good to see though. The most popular vote, by a large but not statistically significant (yes, I'm that much of a geek that I tested it) number, is "Only very few are welcome". In hindsight, this response option is not a very good one because it could either mean only a small number of people are allowed in the kitchen to help or only a select small group of people are allowed in the kitchen. I'll take it to mean the latter, that's how I intended it.



I've been wanting to make these blueberry muffins for a while. Randi's blueberry muffin recipe is really quick and easy to follow. The muffins are great! Here is another recipe too.



Blueberry Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add sugar and combine. Whisk sour cream, eggs, lemon rind, and oil together in a bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the blueberries. To make muffins: fill a dozen 1/2 cup muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake for 25-30 minutes or until your toothpick comes out clean.



They are not very sweet. They're nice and light.



Have a happy Easter everyone! I expect that large amounts of food will be created in our households this weekend. I'm sure we'll blog all about it.



StumbleUpon

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie


When deciding what to make for dinner, pot pies were never something that just jumped out at me. Maybe I just felt like it fell into the "too much like work" category. When I noticed that there was a Mini Pie Revolution event happening and our blogging partner Ann from Redacted Recipes was one of the hosts, I thought why not. I might even learn something.



I did a little reading and then decided to just invent my own recipe. Here's what I did.

Ingredients:

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts cubed





I created a marinade for the chicken of:

juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cracked pepper



Put the chicken pieces into a ziplock bag and add the marinade, distribute evenly. Leave in the fridge for about an hour.





3 tblsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced cauliflower
1/2 cup green pepper
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup butter
1/3 - 1/2 cup flour

Process:

1. Add olive oil to skillet bringing to medium heat
2. Add marinated chicken until the pink is almost gone from the chicken
3. Add onion, carrots and cauliflower until vegetables begin to soften (about 10 minutes). I had a small amount of leftover chopped leeks and mushrooms so I threw them in too.



4. In a second skillet, melt butter, add flour and mix to create a roux (long enough for the flour taste to disappear. Add about a cup of chicken broth to the roux and stir til smooth. This should be quite thick in consistency.
5. Add the roux to the cooking chicken and vegetables
6. Add green pepper and frozen peas as well as the remainder of the chicken broth. As it comes up in temperature, the mixture will thicken.



7. Fill ramekins about 2/3 full.



8. I was curious about what it would be like to have a puff pastry top so that's what I used.
9. Bake in 350 F oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour. When the dough is done, you can be sure the inside is too since it was already partially cooked before it even went in.



WOW - for a first attempt, I was pretty okay with the result. Being okay meant I wasn't going to be forced to throw it in the garbage. The real test was going to be in the tasting.



Impressive!!! It was thick, rich, meaty and extremely tasty. The best of it was that what I learned was that it's not as daunting as I thought it was going to be. This may be the beginning of a whole new culinary adventure. I'm sure there's a much smarter way of doing it all - one that cuts time and mess. I'm looking forward to learning more about it. StumbleUpon

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hot Sauce - The Perfect Condiment




An absolutely easy peasy recipe. All you need is a blender and some mason jars. I like to use the jam size jars. I tend to give alot of hot sauce away as gifts and have earned a good following of neighbours who let me know when their supply is getting low.

For One Batch - about 4-5 jars

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup regular mustard
4 cloves garlic
1 tblsp salt
1 cup vinegar
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp dry chili peppers
1/4 - 1/3 cup lemon juice
1 heaping tblsp parsley flakes

Put everything into the blender - mix for a couple of minutes until well blended.

Wipe your brow - you worked hard.
Fill jars.

Note: I generally make about 20 jars at a time so I make sure to buy the large tin of ketchup and the large container of mustard.
The longer the sauce sits, the hotter it becomes
If you like things really spicy, add more chili peppers StumbleUpon

Friday, March 14, 2008

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins





I'm such a sucker for a bargain. While out in one of my favourite fresh markets, I noticed a very lonely bag of bananas nearing the end of their existence. After a quick mental calculation, I figured this $0.99 bag of bananas would probably generate enough baked goods to either fill a freezer or feed a small mission. I had initially thought of labelling this post "Bananas Gone Wild" but then on second thought realized that it was really me going wild and not the bananas.



I've been hearing about this new flour (well new to me anyways) called Nutri Flour Blend. It's a blend of wheat bran and all purpose and looks like all purpose flour. I really wondered how that would affect the texture of the final product so I picked up a small bag of it and decided to give it a try.



Because I'm unfamiliar with this new flour, I decided to go and do some looking around the Robin Hood website . That always prompts me to start bookmarking a whole host of new recipes to try, not to mention contests to enter. This recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Muffins seemed like the perfect way to use up the bananas.

Ingredients


1/2 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 medium bananas)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used chunky and loved what it added to the texture)
2 cups Nutri Flour Blend
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I didn't have enough chocolate chips so I did a combination of chocolate chips and dried cranberries)

Process:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper liners



2. Combine wet ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir just until combined.



3. Add chocolate chips, mixing lightly. Divide evenly amount the prepared muffin cups.






4. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan.



I love when people put creative effort into muffins and decorate them so beautifully that they become a piece of art. On the other side of the spectrum, I also love that rustic looking home cooking look. These muffins - I know - it's really hard to distinguish which category they are - ha ha ha - but they are delicious and surprisingly substantial. They're not your light and fluffy type muffin, but rather a heavy satisfying treat with a great cup of brewed tea.





StumbleUpon

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Out for dinner & Calzones


Friday night, we went out for dinner with our curling team. I've been having a hard time finding the best restaurants for two of my favourite foods: Chinese and Italian. I've had some good meals here and there - but never a consistently great place that feels like a place I could adopt as a favourite. Maybe part of that comes with moving to a new city.

The Italian restaurant we went to seemed to have potential. I wasn't overly impressed with the decor, but often times the best food comes from places that leave something to be desired in the style department.

I had plans to get to a point of mild numbness with a bottle of wine. Ended up sharing this bottle with the other 3 at the table.



R ordered bruschetta as a starter. Although it's kind of sloppy, it was really tasty. Lots of garlic and acidity.



For the main, R ordered a prosciutto tortellini. He seemed to enjoy it, but the piece I tried tasted pretty starchy.



I ordered a shrimp and goat cheese farfalle with a pesto base. I was not impressed. The dish came with 5 pieces of shrimp, which seems pretty minimal to me. Plus, I did not expect that the goat cheese would be added in big dollops on top of the dish. The goat cheese was cold and after blending it in, my dish was not very warm. I like my food steaming hot. Overall, the taste just wasn't great.



The hunt continues for a great Italian restaurant. Maybe the reality is that Italian food is best made at home. Which, conveniently, leads me to the 2nd goal of this entry: Posting one of my favourite Italian meals.



Marie of Proud Italian Cook and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita have come together to host Festa Italiana. This blogging event calls upon food bloggers to create a post featuring their favorite dish or drink.

I am submitting calzones. I don't know if it is my favourite Italian dish, but it's up there.

Calzones



I always use the Canadian Living recipe for handmade whole wheat dough.

Dough

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or multigrain flour
1.5 tsp quick-rising (instant) dry yeast
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot water (120F/50C)
2 tsp olive oil

In a bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. With wooden spoon, gradually stir in water and oil undil dough forms, using hands if necessary.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface, knead for 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap.



Let rise in warm draft-free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk



NOTE: these pictures are from a triple recipe. In the past, I have tripled the recipe and frozen 2/3 for future meals. However, I find that the dough is not as good after being frozen.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half and shape into discs.

I add a tomato ragout (all over the calzone) and then add whatever ingredients I desire on to half of the dough.

R likes pepperoni, green pepper, mushroom, onion and cheese





I like pepperoni, mushroom, artichokes and cheese. Fold over the dough to create calzone shape. From there, I fold the edges of the bottom layer of dough over the top layer -- so that the cheese won't seap out while it's cooking. But, I recently watched Jamie Oliver make calzones. He showed proper folding technique that essentially involves alternating thumbfuls of dough over each other. I looked for a video on how to do this because describing the method with words will probably be confusing. However, I wasn't successful - so if anyone knows of a video or photos that explains this technique, feel free to let me know.

If you like a nice brown dough, you can wisk an egg white and lightly spread it on the dough with a pastry brush.

Cook it in the oven at 350 for approximately 20-25 minutes (until dough is a light brown).



Sorry, I don't have any pictures of the inside of the calzone after it's cooked. I usually just eat it without cutting it in half and then save whatever is left for lunch the next day. StumbleUpon
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