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Monday, April 30, 2007

Pork Chops Stuffed with Barley and Apricot

This is another recipe from one of my most dog-eared cookbooks. The New Dieter's Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. One of the reasons I love this recipe is because the pork stays so tender and juicy. I made a few small changes to the original recipe. It called for 2 tbsp of quick cooking barley. I can never find that in my grocery store, so I use regular pearl barley. This means you have to cook it in advance and it took a little trial and error to arrive at the right amount. A half cup of cooked barley is about perfect. To get a half cup of cooked barley, simmer 1/4 cup of barley in 3/4 cup of water for about 30 minutes (taste a bit to make sure its nearly tender). This will result in a little more than the required 1/2 cup, but just save the rest and add it to soup another day. Another change I made was the addition of apricot. The recipe called for "mixed dried fruit" but I liked the idea of just one fruit flavour, and chose apricot. This would also be really good with dried apples, and I'm going to try that sometime. In this picture the chops are served with mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots, baby zucchini and yellow sunbursts.

Pork Chops Stuffed with Barley and Apricot

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cooked barley
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 tbsp dried apricots, chopped
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp fine dry breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless pork loin chops (cut 3/4" thick)
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp honey

1. In saucepan mix cooked barley, 1/4 cup water, onion, apricot, lemon zest and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 more minutes.

2. Stir in breadcrumbs, thyme, pepper and garlic.

3. With a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket into each pork chop (almost through to the other side).

4. Divide the stuffing between the chops and fill the pockets. Seal with a metal skewer or toothpick.

5. Mix 2 tbsp orange juice with 1 tbsp honey and set aside.

6. Preheat broiler and spray the rack of a broiler pan with cooking spray. Broil for 6 minutes per side.

6. Paint pork chops with orange juice and honey mixture and broil one more minute per side. Remove skewers prior to serving.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Potato Pancakes

I was just scrolling through my blog and I noticed that the last 4 recipes I posted had rice in them. I wouldn't want anyone to think that's all we eat around here, so to prove it, here is a potato recipe. I love potato pancakes. We often have them on the side if I am making a big "weekend" breakfast. Or, on occasion, I make them as a side dish with dinner. Sometimes I even take them to work for lunch and I eat them cold with light cream cheese and apple sauce on them. For some strange inexplicable reason, my kids don't eat these well. I keep telling them, "they are just like the ones you get at McDonald's for breakfast". Yeah, they ain't buying THAT! Anyway, I am sure it just a phase and if I keep making them, eventually my kids will come around.

Sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of finely diced onions, which makes them even better but exponentially reduces the odds that my kids might eat them. In the past I have fried these in oil, but lately I've been baking them with a little bit of cooking spray to be healthier. They are nearly as good baked (but let's face it, EVERYTHING is better fried - obviously).

Potato Pancakes

4 medium potatoes, peeled
1 heaping tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp flour
1 egg
salt and pepper

1. Grate potatoes on a cheese grater and squeeze out the excess liquid.

2. Mix with sour cream, flour, egg, and salt and pepper.

3. Either (a) heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat and add potatoes by large spoonfuls. Flatten them out with the back of your spatula and fry until browned on each side, or (b) drop by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Flatten them out and bake at 400F for about 10 minutes per side (when I flip them I spray a little more cooking spray underneath each one).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Lemon

No, you didn't read the recipe wrong and it isn't a typo. There are twenty cloves of garlic in this meal. Don't let that turn you off, I suffered no ill effects. In fact, after I had dinner I went to the gym and huffed and puffed in my personal trainer's face and she didn't even keel over. My kids picked the garlic cloves out, but that was fine, I was happy to eat the extras.

I have no idea whether Mario really liked this recipe or not, because I didn't ask him. He usually needs to be asked "so, honey, what'd you think?" If I don't ask, I get nothing. Last night I got stubborn and refused to ask, instead I got up and start banging things around while I was doing the dishes. Then I noticed Mario slinking out of the kitchen with that "what on earth did I do wrong this time?" look on his face.... (just read the blog sweetie)

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Lemon
(serves 4)

8 chicken thighs (I prefer to use boneless and skinless)
2 1/2 cups chicken bouillon
20 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp flour
2/3 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

1. Simmer the garlic cloves in the chicken bouillon, covered for 40 minutes.

2. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet and brown the chicken thighs on all sides. Transfer chicken thighs to a casserole dish.

3. Remove the garlic cloves from the chicken stock and arrange them around the chicken thighs. Add the lemon slices on top.

4. Add the flour to the drippings remaining in the skillet from the chicken and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the wine, stirring constantly. Add the broth. Bring to a boil and stir until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Cover and bake at 375F for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve over rice or boiled potatoes.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hawaiian Meatballs

This is an old family favorite of ours. I originally got this recipe from my Mother-in-Law (a source of many of my best recipes). It is quick and tasty. I usually try to keep all the ingredients for this recipe on hand, so I can make it when I can't figure out what else to make. I also sometimes make a whole bunch of the meatballs in advance and freeze them. Then all I have to do is prepare the veggies and the sauce and put the casserole in the oven. I always serve this dish over rice. The kids are OK with this one.... Claire picks out the green pepper and Marco picks out the pineapple, mandarins, green pepper, mushrooms and almonds (that's right- he basically will only eat the meatballs and the rice, but he's only 4 and all that other stuff is just too exotic for him).

Hawaiian Meatballs

1 lb ground beef, lean
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Heinz 57 sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup rolled oats.

Remaining Ingredients:
19 oz can pineapple tidbits
1 can mandarin sections
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 green pepper chopped
1 package blanched almonds

1. For meatballs: Mix all ingredients and shape into 1" balls. Spread on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Place meatballs in casserole dish that has a cover.

2. For sauce: In a saucepan, mix juice from the pineapples, juice from the mandarins, vinegar, soy sauce, vinegar and cornstarch. Whisk and bring to a boil. Stir until thickened.

3. To the meatballs in the casserole dish, add mushrooms (drain the mushrooms and discard the liquid first), green pepper, pineapple, mandarins and almonds (don't mix just layer it all up).

4. Pour sauce over casserole and bake covered at 350F for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Saffron Risotto

I love saffron. The reason I love saffron probably has something to do with the cost. I am inexplicably attracted to expensive things. The last bottle of saffron I bought was $10, and it contained 1 gram of saffron. About enough to make this recipe twice. It's worth it though.

I also love risotto. People think that risotto is hard to make, but its not. It takes about a half an hour, and you need to pay attention to it, but it is not hard. It is also low in fat, because the creaminess comes from the starch in the rice, not added fats. This entire recipe only has 2 tbsp of butter, and it serves about 6 people as a side dish. For dinner I served the risotto with a panko crusted oven-baked chicken breast and steamed broccoli. When my daughter, Claire sat down for dinner, she was all excited because she thought I had served macaroni and cheese... and then she realized it was rice. She wasn't overly impressed. As I was scraping her uneaten dinner into the garbage, I was mentally calculating the cost of the saffron I was chucking out.

Saffron Risotto

5 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring 5 cups of vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot, turn burner off. Remove 1/2 cup of hot stock to a small bowl and add saffron threads. Set aside to allow saffron to steep.

2. In a large non-stick skillet, sauté onion in 1 tbsp of butter. Add rice and stir around until coated. Add 1/2 cup of wine and stir and simmer until wine is absorbed. Start adding hot broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until liquid is fully absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Continue until all broth has been absorbed by the rice (this entire process should not take more than 20 minutes).

3. Add the 1/2 cup of reserved broth with saffron (note: you can strain out the saffron threads or leave them in for added colour. I like to leave them in). Stir until this last 1/2 cup of liquid is absorbed.

4. Make ahead tip. You can prepare the risotto ahead of time, but leave the last 1 cup of liquid to be added when you are ready to serve the risotto. Turn the burner back on, add the last cup of liquid and stir until absorbed.

5. Right before serving stir in 1 tbsp butter and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cranberry Apple Dessert Risotto

I am in Toronto on business, but I whipped up a few new little recipes on the weekend, so I would have something to post while I'm away. I wouldn't want to disappoint my loyal blog readers (all six of you - and yes, I had to count my Mom and Dad separately to get to six!).

This recipe really appealed to me when I saw it for the first time. Dinner for dessert type dishes really appeal to me... dessert pizza, dessert sushi, dessert lasagna. OK I made that last one up, but I bet you could make one!

I started this recipe before dinner, then just put the pan back on the burner and added the last cup of liquid right before we were ready for dessert.

Cranberry Apple Dessert Risotto

1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1 tsp cinnamon
salt to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. In small bowl cover cranberries with boiling water for 30 minutes to plump.

2. Heat milk and cinnamon in saucepan. Set aside.

3. In a non stick skillet, heat butter and add apple to cook until tender (1 to 2 minutes).

4. Add rice and cook for 30 seconds.

5. Add 3/4 cup of apple juice and stir. When liquid is absorbed, add remaining apple juice and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Add sugar and stir well.

6. Begin adding hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring each addition until absorbed.

7. Stir in cranberries and vanilla. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Asparagus and Strawberry Pizza

A few weeks ago, I was reading the food section of the Ottawa Citizen and they had a recipe for "Asparagus Strawberry Pizza". I thought that was a great idea, then I read further and realized that the recipe actually called for "Strawberry Tomatoes" (never heard of em, must be from the same family as Grape Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes?). I became stuck on the idea of an Asparagus Pizza with actual Strawberries, so I created my own. I also added some Proscuitto (because my husband balked at the idea of a pizza with no meat) and some sliced red onion.

I have decided that this recipe will also be my entry for this month's Monthly Mingle, "Spring is in the Air", hosted by Meeta at What's for Lunch Honey?.

We grilled our pizza on the charcoal BBQ. I'm not sure I would try this on a gas BBQ, the heat may be too high, and burn the bottom of the crust before the topping is even warmed up. So if you don't have a charcoal grill, put your pizzas in the oven on a cookie sheet at 475F for about 15 minutes.

I would also like to stick my tongue out at my friend Bill, who says that "fruit does not belong on a Pizza" :-P

Asparagus and Strawberry Pizza

Pizza Dough:
3/4 cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup olive oil
20 asparagus spears
1/2 large red onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
4 slices proscuitto (about 2-3 oz)
2 cups cheese blend (I used mozarrella, provolone and Parmersan)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1. Prepare Dough: dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water for about 5 minutes. Mix dry ingredients. Add yeast mixture and oil to flour mixture. Mix until dough forms a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Cover and let rise for 1 hour (until double in bulk).

2. Punch down dough. Let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into two and roll out into two free form pizzas (about 13" by 8" each).

3. Prepare toppings: Cut off the asparagus tips (I only used the top 3"). Poach asparagus in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain. Sauté onion in a tiny bit of olive oil for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft. Add proscuitto to onion for the last 1 minute.

4. Place pizza dough directly on the grill. Brush with oil, and add onion, proscuitto, asparagus, strawberries and cheese. Sprinkle with cilantro. Close BBQ lid and grill for 10-15 minutes until toppings are bubbly hot. If you are doing this in the oven, you can go ahead and arrange all the toppings on top of the dough on cookie sheets before you put the pizzas in the oven.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Walnut Mocha Torte

Well, when I figured out I was having 20 or so people to the house for cake on Mario's birthday, I realized that one cake wouldn't be enough. Hooray! An excuse to try a new cake. I found the recipe for this cake in the May 2007 issue of Canadian Living Magazine. I loved it, and the finished product looked very polished.

This cake used mostly ground walnuts and only a little bit of flour. I couldn't find ground walnuts in the store so I made my own. Since I don't have a nut grinder, I used my food processor and this worked fine. In order to prevent the walnuts from turning into "walnut butter" I added a tbsp of sugar from the 1 cup needed for the cake to the nuts when I processed them. The sugar absorbs some of the oils from the nuts. I did the nuts in three batches and I only used the "pulse" button. It took one 400g bag of walnut pieces to make enough ground walnuts.

Warning: This recipe dirts a LOT of dishes!

Mocha Walnut Torte

1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp vanilla
8 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon rind, grated
2 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Sugar Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cold strong coffee

5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups butter
4 tsp instant coffee granules
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

16 chocolate coffee beans
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

1. For cake: Grease and line the bottom and sides of two 9 " cake pans.

2. In small bowl, dissolve coffee in vanilla. Set aside.

3. In large bowl beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar until light. Beat in coffee and vanilla, and lemon rind.

4. In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in remaining sugar, 2 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form.

5. In yet ANOTHER bowl, whisk together walnuts, flour and bread crumbs. Fold into egg yolk mixture, alternating with egg whites. Make 3 additions of walnut mixture and 2 of egg whites. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325F for 35 to 40 minutes.

6. For sugar syrup: Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil until clear (about 1 minute). Stir in coffee and let cool.

7. For buttercream: In large heatproof bowl, whisk egg whites with sugar. Place over saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking often until opaque and mixture reaches a temperature of 110 degrees. Remove from heat and beat with electric mixer until cool (about 10 minutes). Beat in butter, 2 tbsp at a time until satiny (will curdle a bit at first).

8. In small bowl, dissolve coffee in vanilla; beat into buttercream. Transfer 1 3/4 cups of buttercream to another bowl and beat in melted chocolate until smooth.

9. Cut cake into layers horizontally. Place one layer on cake plate and slide strips of wax paper around edges to avoid getting icing on the plate. Brush cake with syrup. Spread with 3/4 cup of buttercream. Add another cake layer, brush with syrup and spread with 3/4 cup of buttercream. Repeat again, and then top with last layer. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over entire cake. Chill for 30 minutes.

10. Transfer 1/3 cup of chocolate buttercream to a piping bag, and set aside. Spread the remaining chocolate buttercream over top and sides of cake. Pipe 16 rosettes on top and place a chocolate coffee bean on each one.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chocolate Banana Cake

The first time I made this cake was 15 years ago. I remember because it was for my Dad's 50th birthday. I made it again for my husband when we started dating. He says it was the reason he married me. So I made it last night for his birthday (never hurts to remind your husband why he married you). I had about 20 people over last night for cake, so I made two cakes, the other was a walnut mocha cake. I will post the walnut mocha cake tomorrow, but the chocolate banana was by far the more popular with our guests.

I won't lie. This cake is labour intensive. I got the recipe originally from an issue of Canadian Living Magazine, and I have never changed a thing.

Chocolate Banana Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/t tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas

White Chocolate Icing:
3 cups whipping cream
10 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

4 bananas, sliced
1 oz melted chocolate

1. For cake: Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Beat in sour cream and banana. Combine flour, baking soda and chocolate. Add in 3 additions to creamed mixture. Mix until wet.

2. Spoon into two greased 8 1/2 inch cake pans. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

3. For white chocolate icing: In sauce pan, bring half of cream to a boil, pour over chocolate in bowl, whisking until melted. Add vanilla. Chill until cooled (1 hour, whisking often).

4. Beat chocolate and cream just until ridges hold shape. Beat remaining cream just until soft peaks form. Gently fold cream into chocolate cream.

5. Slice cakes in half horizontally. Spread each layer with about 3/4 cup of white chocolate icing and a layer of sliced bananas. Using a palette knife cover cake with a remaining icing and chill until firm (about 1 1/2 hours).

6. For ganache: bring 1/2 cup cream to a boil, pour over chocolate. Whisk until melted and let cool 20 minutes until room temperature but still pourable. Pour over cake, letting some run down the sides.

7. Drizzle melted chocolate over remaining banana slices and arrange on top of cake.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Baked Beans

My husband, Mario made dinner last night. He has a few meals in his repertoire and this is one of them, the other is spaghetti. The general rule is this: all the beans and spaghetti consumed in our house are prepared by Mario, all other food consumed in our house, is prepared by me. Sounds fair, eh? Since he made dinner, I let him take the picture too. He got my elbow in the shot, but I decided to leave it in after I noticed that it adds a new angle.

Here is Mario's secret recipe for baked beans (which can also be found on the outside of the bag of "Thompson's White Pea Beans"). He follows it exactly, except that I ask him to substitute Canadian Back Bacon for regular bacon, to cut down the fat.

Baked Beans

2 cups white pea beans
5 cups cold water
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
pinch pepper
1/4 lb bacon, sliced

1. Soak beans overnight in cold water.

2. Drain. Add 5 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Drain. Reserve cooking liquid.

3. Add all ingredients to pot, stirring gently to combine. Then transfer entire mixture to a crockpot. Add enough of the reserved water to cover mixture.

4. Cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Beer Bread

This loaf is a nice savoury compliment to baked beans or chili. It can be whipped up quickly without having to worry about yeast and rising time. The original recipe called for 1 cup of cheddar cheese, but I changed it to 1/2 cup of Parmesan because I think its a better flavour combination with the beer and Dijon. Make sure you serve this one hot out of the oven. The kids loved it, until I told them there was beer in it. Mario's reaction: "please tell me that is NOT my last beer!"..... oops!

Beer Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 (341ml) bottle of beer (NOT your husband's last one!!!)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat over to 350F, and grease a loaf pan.

2. Mix white flour, whole wheat flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.

3. Stir in beer, cheese and dijon until it makes a batter (it will not be a very wet batter).

4. Turn into loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mexican Crostata

I had my parents over for dinner on the weekend and this is what I served. This recipe is always a huge favorite with the kids. It looks impressive but it is really very simple to make. It also slices very nicely into wedges for serving. I tried to move the whole thing onto a fancier plate for the "photo shoot" but the crostata had other ideas, so I decided to serve it from my pizza pan. It would be really nice to have a baking stone for things like this - hint hint, Mario if you're reading this, Mother's Day is just around the corner ... but I also still want the waffle iron and the ice cream machine and - oh wait, ahem yes, the Mexican Crostata......

Mexican Crostata

1 onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups salsa

1 tsp tex mex seasoning
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (I use whole wheat)
2 plum tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese

1. Brown beef with onions, garlic and green pepper. Drain fat.

2. Mix in salsa, cheese, chiles and seasoning.

3. Spray pizza pan with cooking spray. Start laying out the crescent rolls with the long points the middle (like a big pinwheel with 16 points). At least a few inches of each triangle should be hanging off the edge of the pan. Press with your fingers to well seal all the seams, leave the last few inches that are hanging off the pan unsealed.

4. Spoon filling in center. Begin folding each triangle over the mixture, overlapping with slices of tomato. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375F.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Osso Buco alla Milanese

Osso Buco is one of my all time favorite meals to order when I'm in a restaurant. I've made it twice before at home, and I'm not sure why I don't make it more often. It is so simple and delicious. Osso Buco is basically veal shanks braised with vegetables, wine, beef stock, and tomatoes. The previous two times I made it, I used a recipe from either a magazine or one of my three thousand cookbooks. Needless to say, I no longer had any idea where to lay my hands on that recipe (this happens to me all the time, and I am hoping this blog will help me out - I'll never lose my Osso Buco recipe again!). I searched around and found a new recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library book on "Beef". The only things I changed were: the amounts, so that it better served a family of four without a week's worth of leftovers, and I substituted a can of tomatoes for fresh.

To make this recipe quicker for a work night, I did steps 1-4, the evening before and then dug out the user manual for my oven and learned how to program the start time so it came on at 4pm (this was WAY harder than making the Osso Buco!). But I figured out the oven timer with only a 'little' bad language and was immensely pleased with myself when I came in the door from work to the smell of dinner, already in the works. I threw some potatoes in the oven, opened a bottle of wine and sliced some fresh bread....

Osso Buco alla Milanese
(serves 4)

1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
4 veal shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup white wine
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon rind curls
5 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Mix flour, salt and pepper. Coat veal shanks.

2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in skillet and brown veal shanks on both sides (7-10 minutes per side). Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Heat 2 tbsp butter in same pan and cook diced vegetables until tender (10-15 minutes).

4. In a large covered casserole dish (I use a roasting pan) spread vegetables, place veal shanks on top. Add wine and tomatoes and beef stock.

5. Cover and place in a preheated 350F over for 1.5 hours. If you are making this ahead like I did, add 30 minutes to the cooking time since it won't already be hot when your oven comes on.

6. Mix gremolata and sprinkle on top of the shanks for the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cinnamon Bread

When we were in Belize in March, we found ourselves almost daily at an amazing little bakery in San Pedro called Casa Pandulce. One of my Dad's favorite treats (and mine too) was the Cinnamon Bread. Not quite like your typical Cinnamon Swirl Bread, this huge loaf was loaded with cinnamon, which ran through the bread like veins in a random pattern. The bread itself was light yet heavy enough to make it suberb for toasting. My plan was to duplicate the Cinnamon Bread, so I could give a loaf to my Dad for his birthday on April 15. I've already made one flopped attempt and those two loaves are sitting in my freezer waiting to be turned into a blog post about bread pudding or french toast.

This second attempt was more successful, although it still doesn't look as good as the original. My Dad sent me an e-mail yesterday to say the bread was great. He also sent the picture above that he took right before he toasted the bread for his breakfast. Happy Birthday Gramps!

Cinnamon Bread

6 cups white flour
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup hot milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Cinnamon filling:
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup butter

1. Mix the yeast and 1/4 cup water water in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes to dissolve.

2. Mix 3 cups of the flour, salt and sugar.

3. Heat milk and butter in saucepan until butter melts and the liquid reaches a temperature of 115 to 125 degrees.

4. Add the dissolved yeast and the milk mixture to the flour and mix well. Add two more cups of flour and turn out onto floured board. Knead for a minute or two and let dough rest for 10 minutes.

5. Resume kneading, adding just enough of the remaining 1 cup of flour to prevent dough from sticking to board. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Put dough in a large greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk (about 1 hour).

7. Punch down and divide dough in two. Grease two loaf pans.

8. Mix sugar and cinnamon for filling and melt the butter. Roll dough out on floured surface until it is about 15" square.

9. Paint dough with butter and spread with cinnamon sugar. Scrunch the dough up randomly into a loaf shape. Paint the outside with more butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Repeat with second loaf.

10. Cover loaves and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (1 hour).

11. Bake in a 350F oven for 40-45 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Water Chestnut and Coconut Muffins

I decided to enter my first blog event and I thought Muffin Monday would suit me well. How could I screw up a muffin recipe? WELL, ever had a Fruit Loop Muffin? That was my first attempt in my quest for a new and original muffin recipe. At least now I know why it was so original. It was because putting Fruit Loops into muffins is an utterly ridiculous thing to do. The bits of fruit loop in the muffin were chewy and tough (my kids loved them, but I really can't explain their tastes).

On to my next experiment. It seems that every kind of muffin in the world has already been invented. If an ingredient exists, somebody somewhere has baked it into a muffin. Except...wait for it...water chestnuts. TA DUM! Now I really can't be 100% sure that no one else has done this, but I couldn't find a muffin recipe that called for water chestnuts (and I did look).

Best part of all? It was delicious! I decided to combine coconut and water chestnuts because they both have an Asian feel, and at the last minute I decided to throw a broiled coconut icing on top. The little pieces of water chestnut in the muffin were crunchy and sweet. It was actually pretty good!! (I sound suprised because I am). I will make these again.

Water Chestnut and Coconut Muffins

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/3 cup oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup water chestnuts, diced
1 cup sweetened coconut

Broiled Coconut Icing:
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

3 tbsp heavy cream

1. Mix flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk: egg, oil, brown sugar and milk.

3. Add wet ingredient to dry. Stir in coconut and water chestnuts.

4. Fill prepared muffin tins 3/4 full and bake at 350F for 25 minutes.

5. While muffins are baking mix together all ingredients for icing. When muffins are done, spread icing on top and place muffin tin under broiler for 2-3 minutes until muffins are golden brown.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sweet and Sour Pork Stir Fry

Our family eats a lot of stir fries. Stir fries are healthy, easy to make, and quick for a work night. You can add so many different ingredients that they never get boring. This recipe was developed to coincide with what I happened to have in the fridge, but it turned out nice, so I am going to put it in my permanent recipe file. The sauce was a custom concoction made using the age old method of: taste.... add a bit more of this.... taste..... add a bit more of that... and so on.... The end result was WAY too much sauce for the amount of stir fry I made, but I just stuck the extra in a bottle in the fridge and it won't go to waste. I adjusted the amounts in the recipe below, so that shouldn't happen to you....

Sweet and Sour Pork Stir Fry

1lb pork tenderloin, cut into chunks
1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup water chestnuts, sliced
1 tbsp oil for frying
1/2 package of rice stick noodles

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp cornstarch

1. To make the sauce, put ketchup, pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugars in a sauce pan. Mix water with 2 tbsp cornstarch and whisk into mixture. Bring to a boil. Sauce will thicken after a minute or so, just turn off the burner and set aside.

2. Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a hot wok. Stir fry pork until cooked through, remove to a plate and set aside. Add remaining 1/2 tbsp oil and stir fry vegetables, starting with the ones that take a little longer to cook (celery, green pepper...). Add water chestnuts last.

3. When veggies are cooked to your liking (I like them still a little crunchy) return the pork to the mixture and stir in the sauce.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook rice stick noodles according to package directions (they require 3-5 minutes of boiling time). Drain.

5. Serve veggies over noodles.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Smashed Potatoes

I love this recipe. I have served it about 4 times for guests, and I get lots of compliments. But, I guess after this post, the secret will be out of the bag....its the easiest recipe in the world, and anyone with a cookie sheet can make them. This recipe is adapted from one I found in Fine Cooking Magazine (Jan 2007).

Smashed Potatoes

16 mini potatoes (white or red skin)

1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Wash potatoes, but do not peel. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain and let cool.

2. When cool, place a clean towel on the counter, and use a second to press down gently on the potato. Smash the potato down until it is about a 1/2" thick. The skin will keep the potato from falling apart.

3. Arrange the potatoes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake in a 450F oven for about 30 to 35 minutes until brown and crispy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

I just made this recipe for the first time. I found it ages ago on the internet, and its been sitting in my recipe file waiting to be 'tested'. It was very tasty. In the summer we BBQ our ribs on the charcoal grill, and that is still our favorite way to eat them, but this is pretty good for an "indoor" rib recipe. The root beer in the sauce is really a nice touch. I served these with smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I will post the recipe for the yummy delicious potatoes tomorrow (that's my hook so you will come back....)

Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

1 or 2 racks of baby back ribs
1 1/2 cups root beer
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp molasses
3 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp onion, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ginger
few drops hot sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix root beer, orange juice, ketchup, molasses, worchestershire sauce, onion, paprika, ginger and hot sauce in a medium sauce pan. Whisk in 2 tbsp cornstarch and bring to a boil. Simmer a few minutes until thickened slightly.

2. Remove fatty membrane from underside of ribs and season with salt and pepper.

3. Place ribs in crockpot (you may have to cut each rack in half so they will fit) and cover with sauce. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Move ribs around every hour or so, so they all have a turn being submerged in the sauce.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Milk Chocolate Pecan Cookies

There are some special instructions for this recipe: (1) Wait until your kids aren't looking then run around the house collecting all of the extra Easter chocolate that they haven't eaten yet, because frankly they've had plenty in the 4 days since Easter. (2) Hide the chocolate. (3) A little while later (and again make sure they aren't looking) chop the chocolate up into small pieces. (4) Make the following cookies.

I have to say, this was one of my most brilliant plans yet. Out of paranoia that my kids will get chubby from all the chocolate, I steal it from them... then add heaps of butter, sugar and flour to it, bake it and give it back to them! .... uh, maybe I'll bring these ones to work. It's OK to make your co-workers chubby, because in the end this just makes YOU look better!

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
12 oz reclaimed milk chocolate Easter Bunny, chopped (or use milk chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans.

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl & set aside. Beat butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl.

3. Gradually beat flour mixture into egg mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

4. Drop by tablespoonful onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 9 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shrimp Ceviche

On our recent family trip to Belize, Mario and I tried a local dish called "Conch Ceviche" that we both just loved. It is a type of salsa made with raw fish and lime. The acidity of the lime "cooks" the fish. It is wonderful. In fact, at the bar where we used to go for happy hour (Crazy Canucks) there was a "Ceviche Lady" who sometimes came around selling homemade Conch or Shrimp Ceviche in plastic cups with a little baggy of homemade tortilla chips. Hmmm, it was so good. Since we got home, I have been experimenting to come up with a recipe that closely matches the Ceviche we had in Belize. I think I've done it!! It was better with Conch, but you can't get that around here, so I had to use shrimp. I dunked the shrimp for only a second into a pot of boiling water, because (as I discovered) the lime will still cook the shrimp but it won't get that nice appetizing pink colour from the lime alone. Dunk it fast though, if you actually start to cook it in the boiling water, it will get tough.

Shrimp Ceviche

1 cup fresh shrimp
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp chopped jalapenos
juice of 3 limes
salt to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the shrimp and immediately pour out into a strainer.

2. Rinse the shrimp in cold water, and cut into bite size chunks (you need to have about a cup of shrimp after it is cut into bite size chunks)

3. Add remaining ingredients and cover with fresh lime juice. The lime juice should be enough to half cover the shrimp mixture. Chill until the shrimp is cooked. This will take about 20 minutes (stir the mixture every 5 minutes or so).

4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Double Chocolate Honey Dome Cake

I brought dessert to my Mom's house for Easter dinner. I decided to try a new recipe from the April 2007 edition of Bon Appetit Magazine (please follow that link, if you'd like to see what that cake was supposed to look like, if prepared by a pastry chef and photographed by a professional photographer). Regardless, mine tasted pretty good, and I've made far worse looking cakes before. This recipe took a while to get ready, and I had a few problems. I am always scared of over-whipping the cream and making butter. Sometimes this leads to not whipping it enough. Luckily the icing in the middle layer of the cake has some gelatin which helped it firm up after a few minutes. I had to add the middle layer in two stages though, or else I think I would have had a big mess in my fridge. I put half the icing on the bottom layer, and chilled for 10 minutes, then added the rest on top and chilled for 10 minutes. Then I added the top cake layer. I also had some issues with the chocolate glaze. I followed the directions, but had trouble getting it to stay on the sides of the cake. Overall, it was a good cake and Mario said "It was fine." (yeah, I know... and yes we are speaking again now).

Double Chocolate Honey Dome Cake


Cooking Spray

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Cream Filling:
1 tbsp water
1 tsp unflavoured gelatin

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream

3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup finely grated bittersweet chocolate (about 1 oz)

Chocolate-Honey Glaze:
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup honey
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9" round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

2. Whisk: flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. In another bowl whisk: sugar, honey, eggs and vanilla. Stir oil into the egg mixture. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk into egg mixture and mix until wet. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (The sides of my cake pan weren't high enough, so my cake developed a "muffin top". I sliced that off with a sharp knife and gave the scraps to the kids.)

3. For the cream filling, cut the cake in half horizontally. Place one tbsp of water in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin (let sit 10 minutes). Bring 1/4 cup of the cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in gelatin. Let come to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, beat whipping cream, sour cream and honey until peaks form. Beat in gelatin mixture and grated chocolate.

4. Spread filling on bottom half of cake. The middle layer ends up being almost an inch thick, but the filling is still pretty runny in the beginning, so you might have to do this in two stages. Place top half of cake over filling and chill overnight.

5. The next day... place chopped chocolate in a large measuring cup, bring cream and honey to a boil. Pour cream and honey over chocolate and stir until melted. Let sit about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened a bit. Place cake on a cookie rack with a cookie sheet underneath. Pour chocolate over cake (you might have to scoop up the chocolate that ran right off the cake to the cookie sheet, and use it to fill in the sides). Press nuts around the sides.

6. Chill before making ANY attempt to move the cake into a pretty cake plate.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Turkey

Well, I didn't make this myself (but I could have). This is the Easter Turkey we ate at my Mom and Dad's house. Every year, my Dad hauls out the BBQ for the first time of the season to roast the Easter Turkey, and usually closes BBQ season with his Thanksgiving Turkey. The recipe is pretty simple. Stuff the turkey, truss it up, and throw it on the charcoal BBQ. Here is the recipe for my family's excellent stuffing. The summer savoury used in the recipe is not always readily available everywhere, I buy it on-line here. Like my Mom, I never actually measure anything when making this stuffing, I just go by instinct, but I will try to estimate some amounts.

Grandma's Newfoundland Turkey Dressing

1 cup soft bread crumbs per pound of turkey
1/2 tsp summer savoury per cup of breadcrumbs
1 large chopped onion
1/2 cup melted butter

1. Start with one cup of soft breadcrumbs per pound of turkey. Generously sprinkle with savoury. You should see lots of dark specks in the breadcrumbs. If in doubt, add more!

2. Place one large chopped onion and 1/2 cup butter in a measuring cup and put in microwave until the butter is all melted.

3. Stir butter and onion into breadcrumbs. The butter should just wet all the breadcrumbs, but they shouldn't be SWIMMING in butter. (1/2 cup would be about the right amount of butter for 8-10 cups of stuffing. So you can adjust a little depending on how much you have.)

4. Stuff the turkey.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Eggs Benedict and Homefries

We always have a special Easter breakfast after the kids finish opening their Easter presents and searching for their Easter Eggs. Of course, Claire and Marco are much too jacked up on chocolate already by breakfast to even care about what I make.... I love Eggs Benedict, it's one of those indulgences that is all that much more special because you know you can only eat it a couple of times a year (unless you WANT to look like the side of barn, and then you can eat it every day). Eggs Benedict is also one of those dishes, that while simple, requires a little bit of co-ordination to get everything ready and have it all HOT at the same time. This can be further complicated by my caffeine drugged children screaming at the top of their lungs, "MOMMY - Claire ate some of my chocolate!".... "Mommy! Marco put an Easter Egg up his nose".... This recipe served 3 (two muffin halves each for the adults and one each for the kids). I served it with fresh fruit and homefries (recipe follows).

Eggs Benedict

3 English Muffins, halved, toasted and buttered
6 eggs
6 slices Canadian Back bacon

Hollandaise Sauce:
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup butter melted
2 tbsp hot water
dash of cayenne pepper
salt to taste

1. Make sauce. Use a double boiler over hot water. Beat egg yolks until smooth. Add lemon juice, butter, and 2 tbsp hot water. Season with cayenne and salt.

2. Continue to mix for a couple of minutes until sauce thickens. Keep warm over hot water while preparing the rest of breakfast. IF, your sauce separates, don't panic! At the last minute just whisk in another tbsp of boiling water and the sauce will smooth out again. (Note: go ahead and use a packaged hollandaise if you like, they're still pretty good)

3. Once hollandaise sauce is made, get water boiling for the poached eggs. Use a large skillet so you can do all the eggs at once. Put a couple of teaspoons of vinegar in the water (this help keeps the eggs together). Break eggs one at a time into a small dish and "slip" quickly into the simmering water. Poach 4-5 minutes for an egg that is runny inside. (to test, just pick the egg up out of the water with a slotted spoon and poke it with your finger - you'll know when its done to your liking.) When eggs are done, remove them and let them drain a couple of seconds on a couple of sheets of paper towel, so they don't make your English muffins soggy.

4. While the eggs are cooking, toast the English muffins under the broiler (this is easier than messing with toasting them two at a time in the toaster). Butter the muffins.

5. For the back bacon, I usually just throw it in the microwave for a minute or so (because at this point, I figure that I've dirtied enough dishes!)

6. Assemble on warmed plates. English muffin, back bacon, egg and a spoonful of sauce on each. Serve with homefries and fruit.


4 yukon gold potatoes, washed and not peeled
1 small onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

1. Before you go to bed the night before, bake the potatoes in the microwave (pierce them with a fork and bake for about 10 minutes). Place them in the fridge.

2. Cube the potatoes and fry in olive oil and butter until they are starting to brown.

3. Add maple sugar and onion and continue to fry until the onions are soft. The sugar in the syrup will help brown the potatoes really nice.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Orange Crusted Snapper

This was the dinner that I made on Good Friday. It was quite nice. Neither of my kids touched a bite of anything, but what can you do? I refuse to eat chicken nuggets every night, so I figure eventually their hunger might get the best of them and they'll eat a vegetable! I served the snapper with mashed plaintains and steamed green beans. For dessert we had leftover cherry and pear clafouti. The snapper recipe calls for soft breadcrumbs. To make this easy, every time I have some stale bread (or crusts that no one wants to eat) I throw them in the food processor and then dump the crumbs into a ziploc bag that I always keep in the freezer. Because of this, my breadcrumbs are usually mostly whole wheat. The only advice I can give for this recipe, is make more than one snapper fillet per person - in the end we were secretly happy the kids wouldn't eat theirs.....

Orange Crusted Snapper

4 fresh snapper fillets
2 tsp butter, melted
salt and pepper
3/4 cup soft breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp finely shredded orange peel
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Get the fish ready. Pat the fillets with a papertowel and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Brush lightly with the 2 tsp of butter and place on a broiler rack that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.

2. Make the crust. Mix breadcrumbs, cilantro, orange zest, oragano, and garlic. Stir in orange juice and 2 tbsp melted butter. Season to taste.

3. Place fish under the broiler. Broil for about 3 minutes, then remove and turn over. Divide breadcrumb mixture evenly between the four fillets (press it down a bit, if its falling off). Broil for about 3 more minutes on second side, until fish is flaky and topping is browned. (Three minutes per side was perfect for my fillets, which were about 3/4 inch thick, if your fillets and thinner or thicker, you may have to adjust the cooking time).

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Croque Monsieur

Here is nice easy recipe and one of my all time favorites. I make a slightly "lighter" version for myself by using egg beaters, light miracle whip, low fat swiss cheese, and cooking spray for frying. But I've included the original recipe here. Enjoy.

Croque Monsieur

8 slices french bread
8 slices ham
4 slices swiss cheese
grainy dijon mustard
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil for frying

1. Make sandwiches. Spread dijon on one side of bread, and mayo on the other. Include two slices of ham and 1 slice of swiss per sandwich.

2. Mix flour, eggs, milk, baking powder and salt in a shallow dish.

3. Dip sandwiches in batter, and let sit for 10 minutes to allow bread to absorb some batter.

4. Fry sandwiches in oil over medium heat 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cinnamon Banana Bread

It always happens the same way. I come home from work and notice a big pile of frightening fermenting bananas (FFBs) sitting on the counter. I head immediately to the internet and start googling: "banana muffins", "interesting banana muffins", "unusual banana bread". This time I googled: "banana and cream of wheat muffins", and there is actually a recipe for that! It had no eggs or oil though, so I was skeptical. Invariably each time I try something interesting and/or unusual, I wish I had stuck to my faithful boring old banana bread recipe. This recipe is moist and foolproof and it can be made into muffins or a loaf by altering the cooking times (20-25 minutes for muffins). Here's a hot tip for FFB's: if you don't have time to turn them into fabulous FFB bread (FFFBB) right that minute, just peel and mash the FFBs and freeze them in ziploc bags, measuring a cup to each baggy. Then you have handy pre-frozen, pre-measured baggies of FFBM (frightening fermenting banana mush).

Cinnamon Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups FFB, mashed
3/4 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two loaf pans, or muffin tins.

2. Beat sugar and eggs until smooth. Add oil and mix well.

3. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) and add to wet mixture.

4. Stir in mashed FFBs and raisins. Pour into loaf pans and bake 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pear and Cherry Clafouti

On the weekend, our family was invited to a maple sugar bush for brunch, and I was asked to bring a fruit salad. I bought a can of cherries to add to the salad, but I ended up having plenty of fresh fruit and I didn't need them. Unfortunately, I had jumped the gun and already opened the can, so I needed a way to use them up. I was going to make cherry muffins, but my freezer is already overflowing with muffins, so I decided to try something different. Clafouti is a dish from the Limousin region of France. It can be served as a breakfast or a dessert, since the batter used is very similar to that used for crepes. This is an easy no-brainer dessert, and you can use whatever fruit you have on hand. I have a ton leftover - so I'm not sure I really did much to solve my leftover cherry problems... this dessert could probably serve 8-10 easy.

Pear and Cherry Clafouti

1 lb fresh fruit (I used 1 pear and 1 can cherries)
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp brandy
powdered sugar for decoration

1. Preheat the over to 375F and coat an oven proof skillet with cooking spray.

2. Mix the fruit with 1/4 cup of sugar and spread it in the bottom of the pan.

3. Mix the eggs, milk, 3/4 cup sugar, flour, vanilla, and brandy with a hand mixer and pour it over the fruit.

4. Put skillet in the oven for 45 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.

5. Dust with icing sugar (serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired).

Chicken Breasts and Dumplings

My kids love this recipe. Marco usually doesn't eat the dumplings, but that doesn't bother me since its a good thing that he prefers the healthy parts. He does miss out on my secret ingredient, which is in the dumplings - I add three teaspoons of dried summer savoury. Overall this is a pretty good recipe, even though all the simmering time means we can't possibly eat earlier than about 6:30pm on a work night. Bonus: while it was simmering, I had time to throw together a quick dessert (see the next post). Double Bonus: it works out to be nice and light (for a chicken and dumpling recipe), it serves 4 with about 350 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving. Anti-Bonus: The dessert canceled out the calorie savings on dinner...and then some. (see the next post...sigh).

Chicken Breasts and Dumplings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups water
2 tsp chicken bouillon
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups sliced carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup cold water
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

For the Dumplings:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp summer savoury
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. In a large covered skillet, poach chicken in water with chicken bouillon for 25 minutes. Remove chicken and add carrots, onion, celery. Return to a boil and simmer 10 more minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients for dumplings. Beat eggs with milk and butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry.

3. Return chicken to saucepan. Drop dumpling batter by spoonfuls into skillet (you should get about 8 dumplings). Cover and simmer approximately 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of dumpling comes out clean.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pogo Stick Muffins

At some point during my eternal search for an easy lunch that I can send to school with my daughter, Claire (preferably one that she will actually eat), I had an epiphany..... corn dog muffins. I have re-named them pogo stick muffins, but this is purely a marketing strategy to ensure Claire's buy-in. I couldn't find an exact recipe that suited my needs, so I adapted one. I wanted the muffins to use actual corn, not have too much fat and sugar, and have some cheese for flavour. These muffins are a big hit. I can freeze them individually wrapped then just pull one out in the morning and throw it in the lunch box with some carrot sticks and a piece of fruit. Voila! - call me "SUPER MOM"... OK that's a stretch, but here's the recipe anyway.

Pogo Stick Muffins

1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
8 1/2 oz can of creamed corn
1/2 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
10 hotdogs cut into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Mix sour cream and oil in mixing bowl. Stir in egg and sugar. Mix well.

3. Add corn, flour, cornmeal banking powder, salt and cheese. Stir until ingredients are all wet.

4. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full and poke hotdog pieces down into batter. Sprinkle a little additional cheese on the tops, if desired.

5. Bake 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.