Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Penne in a Spicy Tuna Sauce & Contest Alert

My pasta-making repertoire has become a bit predictable as of late.  So, I was really excited when Aurora contacted me to see if I would be interested in participating in their Recipideo Roundup.  Aurora is a Canadian-based company that sells quality Italian products in Canada, the United States and other countries.

Recipideos are short videos, developed by Aurora, showing how to make easy Italian recipes.  Keep an eye out (or follow the youtube channel) for future recipideos.  January's recipideo was Pasta with Spicy Tuna Sauce.  You can watch the video here:

Aurora kindly sent me a few of the products used in the recipe, so I could try them out myself.

I was particularly impressed with the diced tomatoes.  They have 10 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup, this is far lower than the diced tomatoes in my cupboard (even the ones that claim that no salt is added).

The La Bomba, an antipasto spread, is something that I would likely never have noticed on my own (I'm generally a creature of habit who sticks to my staples when shopping).  But I was pleasantly surprised by the nice spice it added to the dish and plan to incorporate it in future dishes.

I included about two tablespoons of the La Bomba in the recipe.  But, since we like our food spicy, I'll probably add even more next time.  I think R also has plans to add some to his special sandwich.

The dish has an unexpected depth to it.  Maybe this came from adding strained tomato.  It was similar  to the depth of flavour that comes from adding a wine reduction to your tomato sauce.

Definitely a winning dish!

But here's the exciting part...

Aurora has offered to send one of our readers the six ingredients you see, below:


Here's how to participate:

Go check out the Aurora catalogue and then leave a comment here, before Sunday, January 29th at midnight (EST).  In the comment, let me know which product most interests you.  After doing this, I will put your name in a draw to win the prize.

You can also have your name added to the draw a second time by tweeting the following information:

Enter to win specialty Italian food at http://tinyurl.com/7p26zrv @AuroraImporting @EqualOppKitchen

(you can personalize the tweet, if you'd like)

One more detail:

This contest is open to those living in Canada and the United States.  However, please be aware that if you are located in the US, you will be responsible for covering the cost of border tariffs.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Pulled Pork

When it comes to the pork department, other than bacon, I haven't experimented much with different cuts of meat. I've admitted it before and I'll say it again, I seem to have this FOP (fear of pork). I've always been curious about pulled pork. Yes dear readers, I've never made it before now. I had to go to a couple of grocery stores before I could find Canadian Pork; I'm strange that way. I believe grocery stores make a choice about what to buy; why not local??? I'd pay more for a local product and will leave a store that doesn't carry it. Support your local farmers!!!
OK enough ranting for one day.

I found a Bonnie Stern recipe and I really haven't met one of her recipes that I didn't like. I appreciate her sense of healthy eating and always works to take recipes and makes them more calorie friendly.

- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp each paprika, pepper and cumin
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 lb boneless pork shoulder (pork butt roast)

Cooking liquid:
- 2 cups apple juice
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 6 whole cloves garlic
- 2 onions, thickly sliced

Maple barbecue sauce:

- 2 cups favourite barbecue sauce
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp each Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1. Combine brown sugar, salt, paprika, pepper, cumin, mustard and garlic. Rub into roast. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Combine apple juice, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Place garlic and onions in the bottom of a Dutch oven and set roast on top. Add liquid. Cover roast with a piece of parchment paper and then cover pan tightly. Cook in a preheated 325F/160C oven for 3 to 4 hours or longer, until pork is so tender it falls apart when pierced with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan whisk barbecue sauce with maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and mustard. Bring to a boil. Cook gently 5 minutes. Reserve.
4. When roast is ready, remove from pan. Slice thickly and chop. Combine with half the barbecue sauce, adding some of the strained cooking juices if meat is too dry.

Reheat meat just before serving in a 325F oven for about 30 minutes.
5. Make sandwiches on the soft buns with meat, extra barbecue sauce, coleslaw, chipotle mayo and guacamole (if using).

Makes 12 sandwiches

Verdict: Absolutely delicious and the maple bar b que sauce is just wonderful. I wouldn't hesitate to make this again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Seolnal (Korean New Year) Eat Your Kimchi

I swim every morning with Kim Li who came from Korea only a couple of years ago. We have the best time, even more entertaining because she speaks no English and I don't speak Korean. Somehow, we manage to laugh and exchange ideas. We've taught her to say "see you tomorrow" and she's got it down pat. One day I asked her for her recipe for Kimchi (kim-chee). It took a couple of minutes but then she said, in her most outgoing voice "Ahhhh, Kimchi". I did the smile and nod thinking she didn't really understand but sure enough, the next morning she showed up with a recipe, hand printed, exactly as follows.

A Korean superfood eaten with every meal, it's said that Kimchi is part of a low fat, high fibre diet that keeps Koreans slim and trim. AND, since it's a fermented condiment, it has health benefits that both aid digestion and even helps to prevent yeast infections. There are many different recipes; this one is one of the simpler ones I've seen. Fellow blogger Kevin, from Closet Cooking has done alot of experimentation with many different recipes for Kimchi and I know he's hooked on it.

1 whole head Napa cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup*red pepper paste (ko-choo-kah-rhoo)(*quantity depends on your heat tolerance)
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp ginger, minced
3-4 sliced green onions
2 Tbsp fish sauce
A pair of kitchen gloves

1. Separate leaves of napa cabbage and chop into bite sized pieces (no need to clean them yet, we'll be giving them a good rinse in a bit)

2. Add sea salt to warm water, stir to dissolve
3. Add salt water to cabbage and give a light toss to distribute the salt water. Set aside at room temperature for 4-5 hours, stirring at the 2 hour mark.
4. Wash and strain the cabbage 2-3 times. After rinsing off all the salt water, return cabbage to a large bowl.

5. Add red pepper paste, garlic, ginger, green onions, fish sauce. Put on your gloves and give the kimchi a good mix massaging in the flavours.

6. Kimchi should sit at room temperature for 1-2 days and then transferred into capped jars. You can eat it with just about anything.

* The 1/3 cup of red pepper paste gave the kimchi a good amount of heat. If you're not a fan of spicy food, put in less.

Here's a great video that walks you through the steps.


History of Kimchi
Korean New Year 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Muffins

Bonanza this week at the supermarket. Both meyer lemons and blueberries were on sale. While shopping I remembered seeing an interesting looking lower fat muffin recipe so I picked up both ingredients, checked back in my saved file and found them again at Heather's Dish .

First time trying a recipe I generally stick to the recipe as written and I did just that. Muffins are generally pretty simple and the results usually predictable. For some reason that I'm still trying to figure out, mine didn't really resemble Heather's.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yogurt
1 egg
4 Tbsp canola oil
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1/4 cup juice from Meyer lemons
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a muffin pan or line with muffin cups. In a large bowl combine the sugar, sour cream, yogurt, egg, oil, and lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients and gently stir till just combined. Fold in the zest and the blueberries.

Scoop into a standard muffin pan, about 1/4 cup of batter per muffin cup.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

The taste is really good and I didn't feel at all guilty having 1 or 2. The texture seemed heavier than I expected so I'm convinced I missed something along the way.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baked Chicken Thighs

My mother always encouraged us to have chicken breasts over thighs because of the fat content. What she didn't tell us is that the dark meat holds moisture more efficiently and has more flavour. I feel somehow liberated knowing that I can cook thighs and not have my mom standing over me shaking her finger.

I recently found thighs on sale at my local grocery store and wanted something to go with mushroom brown rice that would have a bit of a gravy with it without it being a high calorie gravy.

8 to 10 chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks
1 pkg. Knorr Vegetable Soup (or Onion Soup mix)
1 c. water or chicken broth
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I used tomato, basil and oregano dressing)
8 oz. apricot or peach jam
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Remove skin from chicken and arrange in a shallow baking pan or casserole.
Blend the remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
Bake in a preheated 375°F for 45 minutes. Turn pieces half way through cooking and continue until tender and juices run clear.

Another easy recipe that is really forgiving and quick enough for week night dinner. If you don't care for the ingredients I used, make it your own. The jam/preserve is a great addition because it adds a bit of a sticky sweetness to it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Benefits of Dragonfruit

If you watch Dr. Oz you know that he's always giving out great tips on good nutritional habits. One of the sources he recommended that was low in sugar and high in omega 3's is Dragonfruit or also known as Pitaya. Go figure that a few weeks later I was contacted by Pitaya Plus who manufacture pitaya in drink form asking if I wanted to sample it. A low calorie, healthy cleansing drink is high in nutrients and recommended for diabetics.

This would generally have been one that I would have said no to only because there's no distribution in Canada but when I thought twice I knew that so many of our readers are American and could benefit from the product. It also doesn't hurt that I travel to California for two months in the winter and can get it there. AND for those who have interest, you can order it on their online store. For our readers in the U.S., if you've had some experience with Dragonfruit, I'd love to hear about it.

For those like me who really didn't know much about Dragonfruit, here's our own charming Chef Richardo giving just a brief demo.

I shared the samples with my doctor who validated the claims made by the product manufacturers. That was good enough for me.

Nutritional Facts:
• Particularly red-skinned pitayas are a good source of Vitamin C.
• Pitayas are rich in fiber and minerals, notably phosphorus and calcium. Red pitayas seem to be richer in the former, yellow ones in the latter.
• The seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, and in particular Red Pitayas contain very little saturated fat.
• Pitahayas also contain significant quantities of phytoalbumin antioxidants, which prevent the formation of cancer-causing free radicals.
• In Taiwan, diabetics use the fruit as a food substitute for rice and as a source of dietary fiber.
• Pitaya supposedly increases excretion of heavy metal toxins and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Eaten regularly, it is credited with alleviating chronic respiratory tract ailments.

Diabetic Diet
Benefits of Dragon Fruit

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas in Saskatchewan

Flights in Canada can be ridiculously expensive.  Depending on where you're flying, there are pretty much two main airlines, which doesn't really inspire competitive pricing.  When flying to the States, it's fairly common for Canadians to drive a few hours across the border, to catch a flight for a more reasonable price.

For that reason, R and I haven't been to visit his family in Saskatchewan for a couple of years.  But, we decided that we couldn't skip Christmas in Saskatchewan for three years in a row and bit the bullet.  

Shortly after arriving, we made our way north to spend the holidays with the whole family in a cottage in the Wapiti Valley.  If you're familiar with Saskatchewan, it's about 30 minutes from Melfort.  

We stayed in a 16 person cabin at The Outerbanks.  The cabin was nicely laid out, with ample space for everyone and a hot tub on the deck.  

The view from balcony:

It was a bit of a shock to the system to spend 3 days with six kids, all under the age of seven.  It made me wish that there was more insulation between the floors of the cottage, because when we were downstairs, it sounded like a herd of elephants running through the house.

Thankfully, there were lots of winter activities to keep the kids busy.   Nearby, there's tobogganing, sleighrides, skidooing, etc.

Skiing was a highlight for those that went.  Even Grandpa had a good time.  Maybe too good of a time:

I guess it's all fun and games until someone breaks a limb and needs to have surgery.  Thankfully, it happened on the last day and it was time to return home and pick up my buddies from the "puppy jail."

It was also time to spend some time with R's friends and take pictures of one of the oddities of Saskatchewan: superfluous Saskatchewan Roughrider merchandise.  Apparently the Riders sell more merchandise than all other CFL teams combined.  Their merchandise sales are 3rd highest as far as sports teams in Canada go, after the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadians.  Here's just a selection of what you can buy.    

Everyone needs a Rider birdhouse, right?

R and I had several "discussions" where I've flat out refused to have a Rider BBQ cover:

Co-marketing with Pilsner:

I'm sure the fish in Saskatchewan won't be able to resist a Rider fishing lure:

A must have to go with the BBQ cover:

Don't blame the Riders if your drink isn't cold:

Seriously - it's your own fault!  They even provide the ice:

Someone turned this poor stuffed monkey into a green monster:

Even the dog can't escape the Riders:

I think I offended a few Rider fans when they realized that I was taking pictures of Rider merchandise because I think it's over the top.  So, after wearing out my welcome in the province, it was time to leave the Prairies and head back to Ottawa.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Fancy Food Show & Tate's Cookies

This post is long overdue and I must apologize. As bloggers we often have opportunity to either win something really cool or sample a product that really fits with our values. Admittedly both Psychgrad and I have turned down our share of offers simply because we felt that the product was just not a good fit for us for whatever reason.

Today I'm sharing a "Martha" moment with you to share a product that to me, is really worthy of mention and sharing with our readers. I was lucky enough to win a contest at More Than Burnt Toast in celebration of National Cookie Month. The cookies are from the artisan baker in Southampton called Tate's Bake Shop. I had no idea what to expect but was pretty excited when they arrived together with the Tate's Bakeshop Cookbook

My first impression when I sampled the cookies I received was "WOW, I had no idea" (I seemed to say that a lot when it came to these cookies) How is it that I never heard of them before.  Plus, the cookbook has a preamble from Ina Garten and for those who know me, anything Ina has got to be good. Not only did the cookies get a yummy award from me, I started doing some research and found that their whole wheat dark chocolate cookies took the gold award at the 2011 sofi Awards.  The sofi Awards from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) are the highest honour in the specialty food industry. They recognize the outstanding foods and beverages of the year that demonstrate top quality, taste and overall appeal.

That leads us to some exciting news! NASFT's Winter Fancy Food Show is kicking off  in less than a week, inviting approximately 60 countries to San Francisco displaying, 80,000 new products looking to trade in and out of North America. Can you just imagine a show of this magnitude and being let loose to be one of the first to see all the new offerings? Totally awesome.

What's even more awesome is that Psychgrad will be attending the show and representing Equal Opportunity Kitchen, while combing the floors for the most interesting new products to blog about.
She plans to tweet all about her favourite products and interactions with various exhibitors.  If you're not already following her on twitter, you can find her here:  @EqualOppKitchen.

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