Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pork Dumplings

Although I have not yet had any cravings that seem to be consistent (other than for Glosette peanuts), like many pregnant ladies, I am very susceptible to food suggestions at the moment. Especially early on (before the sad nauseous bit), I craved meat like a mad woman. I decided I needed a meat based snack that I could nibble on when the cravings struck, and as I often do, I roped Brooke into coming over and helping me invent something. I had dumplings on the brain, and so we looked at a variety of recipes, and then put the computer down and forged ahead with a recipe of our own making based on what was around the house.

Pork Dumpling Filling:
one small tenderloin pork (these are surprisingly inexpensive right now thanks to the swine flu scare, even though you don't get swine flu from eating pork - take advantage of the deal and stock your freezer!)
8 large shrimp peeled and uncooked
1/2 cup green onions
1 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp mirin

Wrap using wonton wrappers

We didn't bother with much chopping, and instead just tossed everything in the Kitchenaid food processor and whirred it around until it had an even consistency. It is very strange to do this with uncooked meat.

We took the meat mixture and sat in front of the TV watching mindless chick shows on Slice, as we dropped a small spoon of meat into the middle of the wonton wrappers, and tried to fashion them into pretty looking envelopes. There were a lot of imperfect parcels, but by the end we had made almost 100 and were getting the hang of it. I popped most of them in the freezer, but to prepare them, we pan fried them in oil to brown the outside (2-3 minutes per side), and then steamed them after for about 8 minutes. This was enough to cook the meat through, and give them a nice texture, although a few of the wrappers tore a bit, making them not look as nice. They tasted fantastic though, and that is what matters most right?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Basic Blueberry Muffins

Okay, so the cravings have started to get a bit more random. The other day, I thought I saw something on the street when I was out for a walk that looked like a chunk of blueberry muffin. No, I did not pick it up, but it did get me thinking... "I must have blueberry muffins of my own!" So, come weekend time, I was up before the weather got hot, searching for a recipe that didn't require a trip to the store. Found one! It took a bit of alteration, and came out almost like a muffin/biscuit hybrid, but it hit the spot and was quick and easy.

Blueberry Muffins (makes 10-12 because that's all I can eat before they go bad):
1 1/2 cup flour (half should be whole wheat, but mine was all all-purpose)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup skim milk
1 1/4 cup blueberries (mine were from frozen)
2 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In one bowl, mix the first four ingredients. In another bowl, soften the butter, and beat the egg in. Add the milk. Toss the blueberries in the dry mixture, and then add the wet mixture in mixing just to combine.

Either grease the muffin pan or use baking cups. Fill 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops start to brown. I have thrown raspberries and saskatoons into this recipe in the past if I have them to make them into random berry muffins. These are fast and easy enough to make for a weekend breakfast and eat straight out of the oven.


Kind of Food Related

Every once in a while, it is nice to use the blog as a forum for pimping an event for a friend. I can't think of a better reason than this Garage Sale and BBQ being hosted this weekend in Skyview (13908 - 149 Ave). A couple of my former co-workers are raising money for the Walk to end Breast Cancer. The BBQ portion even means that it does actually relate to food :-) Pop by if you are in the area this weekend and support a good cause. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge so you can read it better.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pasta with Smoked Salmon

Another smoked salmon meal from last week. This was super tasty and was pretty light for a creamy pasta. I used Gnocchi no.85 noodles that I picked up on sale at the Italian Centre a couple of weeks ago, but anything goes with this. Quick, easy, and perfect with a glass of white wine.

Smoked Salmon Pasta (serves 2):
200g pasta
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp butter
2 cloves garlic
60g light cream cheese
white wine
2 large handfuls spinach, cooked & chopped
4 slices smoked wild salmon
salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While that is heating, add the onion, garlic, and butter to a small pan and cook over med-low heat for 5-8 minutes. Once the water has come to the boil, plunge the spinach in for a minute and then scoop it out with a sieve and add the pasta to the boiling water to cook. Drain the spinach and chop. While the pasta is cooking, add the cream cheese and white wine and reduce until you reach your desired consistency for the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped spinach to heat. When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the sauce. Finally, stir in the smoked salmon and serve.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Edmonton Food Bloggers are Cool People

Yes, the first time we were all nervous, but it's nice to know that our local food blogging community is a group of really nice, surprisingly normal people! If you are one of us, come out at see at our second meet up event.


A Lunch Wrap

In making the mushroom bruschetta for our 100 mile themed book club evening, it is almost impossible to judge how much of the mushroom mixture you will need to top the baguette slices. I always error on the side of having too much, knowing that I won't have any trouble using the mushroom mixture for lunch later (like with my creamy mushroom tarts where I spread the filling on toast - yum!). I used a number of the other ingredients I picked up to have a nice "local" lunch, and then I added in some not local at all avocado because I love it.

One large pita (I picked this one up at Elsalfi Bros. Mediteranian market - a fantastic independant grocery! and the pita is made in Edmonton at a restaurant on the South side)
One bunch of spinach picked from garden and washed
Fairwinds Farm goat cheese - as much as you can!
Half an avocado sliced (not local, but delicious)
Left over mushroom mixture

I threw the above all together and it made a great pita to eat on a sunny afternoon on my patio. It feels so much easier to eat healthy when the sun is shining doesn't it?


Monday, June 22, 2009

A Modified Greek Salad

When my brother Norm (Court's husband) told me he had been making Greek salad with celery instead of cucumber, I was sceptical to say the least. But he has definitely won me over with this, and I've made it for lunch at least three times in the last week. The celery gives it a delicious crunch and it feels extra fresh. And check out my adorable mini-beer! It's only 135ml - just enough to accompany my light summer meal.

Greek Salad for One:
2 sticks celery, chopped
1/2 red or orange pepper, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/4 small red onion, chopped
30g feta, cubed
drizzle of olive oil & balsamic vinegar


Friday, June 19, 2009

Mushroom Bruschetta

This is another dish from my local snacks book club menu. I discovered that Prairie Mushrooms grows mushrooms in Sherwood Park, a suburb of the city, so I felt like I had to take advantage of this and include a mushroom themed dish. Mushrooms are one of the few vegetables that you just don't see often at farmer's markets, and I had assumed that a local 100 mile diet would mean doing without. Not the case! For this recipe I chose to go with portabella and crimini mushrooms because I love the former, and have never cooked with the latter. They were easy to find at the Italian Center Shop , and I have been told they are also at Costco, some Sobey's and I saw them at Elsalfi Brothers as well.

Mushroom Bruschetta:
One Baguette (mine was from the Treestone Bakery on 99 st. that makes bread with local ingredients)
A small knob of butter (I used Dairyland, since they use Alberta milk to create their dairy products)
One portabella mushroom
One small container crimini mushrooms
A tsp. each of chopped parsley and chives (from my garden)
One small container of goat cheese

Cut the baguette into rounds and lay flat on a baking sheet. Spread each round with a generous pat of goat cheese, and set aside.

Chop up the mushrooms a little larger than the size you want them to be in the end, so that you allow for shrinkage in cooking. Saute the mushrooms in the butter until they brown, and throw in the herb about 30 seconds before finishing.

Scoop the mushroom mixture on top of the baguette slices and pop in the oven at 350 F until they are warm (10 minutes). Serve warm so that the cheese is nice and gooey.

It is worth mentioning that the goat cheese I used was from Fairwinds Farms out of Fort Macleod, AB. That is totally not within 100 miles of Edmonton, but that factored into our discussion of why "local" in the book was defined by a 100 mile radius (extra strange since in Canada we usually refer to distances in kilometers).


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smoked Salmon Flatbread

I've been eating smoked salmon all week. It's the downside to being single, I suppose - most things are sold in packages too large for 1-2 meals. Though, really, how much of a hardship can delicious wild salmon be? What I was tired of was cream cheese; I rarely eat it, so after a couple of days it started to seem a bit sickly sweet. I decided to switch it up with some goat cheese, with added wasabi to give it a little kick. This was a great 5 minute dinner, and a cold flatbread is perfect for hot summer nights.

Smoked Salmon Flatbread for 1:
1 greek-style pita or panini
2-3 slices smoked wild salmon, torn
2-3 tbsp goat cheese
wasabi paste, to taste
red onion

Put the pita in the oven to crisp it up, then mix a little wasabi paste into the goat cheese. Once the pita is crisp and then cooled, add the toppings and enjoy.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Local Pork Sausage

This month I hosted my book club, and had chosen The 100 Mile Diet as the reading choice for the group. In the spirit of the book, I planned a snack menu to feature food that covered varying degrees of "local." Some was as close as you can get to 100% local in terms of production, some was produced locally but with ingredients that were not all local. It lead to great discussion, and tasty eats. One of my snacking plates featured meatballs and cheese. The meat balls were made by taking the Lincolnshire sausage from Irving Farm Fresh meats, cutting the casing and making the meat into little meat balls for easy snacking. I frequent the Irving Farms booth at the farmer's market almost every time I go, so I suppose it is about time they got a shout out from me.

Irving Farms allows their pigs to roam and forage outdoors, which essentially means that you are getting free range pork (why is that not as common as free range chicken?). The result is a darker more heavily marbled pork, and with that comes extra flavour. The whole sausage is natural, including the casings. I picked mine up at the City Center Farmer's market, but they are available at all the big markets around the city (including St. Albert).

I have not tried all of their flavours because my husband loves the intense sage flavour of the Lincolnshire, and freaks out if I deviate from that now. If you don't love sage, I have also had the pork and leek sausages, which were significantly milder. In the next couple of weeks I will be trying out their pork belly roast, after seeing that they featured pork belly as part of the Indulgence event put on by Slow Food Edmonton . It made a nice meat and cheese plate with the Sylvan Star Gouda I picked up downtown as well. Sylvan Star is a great local cheese producer that has consistently had cheeses placing first in various categories at the Canadian Gran Prix of Cheese - did you even know such a thing existed?!?!

The whole grain mustard I served it all with was not local in any way.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cashew Crumbles

I am a devoted follower of Nigel Slater, so when I saw this recipe in the Guardian newspaper I had to try it. Especially as I have had cashew nut butter sitting in my cupboard for a while now - I bought it as an impulse purchase when it was half price. Thinking that these are just a twist on peanut butter cookies would be a mistake, as they are so delicious that I had to give them away for fear that I would eat the whole batch myself.

I have also been reading Slater's The Kitchen Diaries since the beginning of the year. As it is written in diary form I am trying to make it last the whole year, adjusting my pace a little to fit with the Canadian growing season. This is a fabulous book documenting simple meals over an entire year, all with seasonal (and mostly local) ingredients. Definitely check it out if you get a chance!

Cashew Nut Cookies (makes 12):
100g butter
50g muscovado
50g sugar
60g salted roasted cashews
100g cashew butter
100g flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

You can find detailed instructions here, but basically just cream the butter and sugars then stir in the nuts and nut butter. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined; bake at 375F/190C for 12-14 min until dry on top.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Spinach Salad!

Apparently Brooke and I are eating similarly this week! Both of us jumping on the salad train, and mixing in some fruit and cheese. My spinach is the first of my garden crops to be ready. I love that about it, you can plant it two to three times in a season as short as ours, and see it come up plentifully over and over again. In honor of my favorite salad green, I present the following easy peasy salad recipe.

Baby spinach greens (one bowl full, washed)
A hand full of dried cranberries
A couple tbsp of toasted pine nuts
Feta to your taste (I like tons!)

Top with simple extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or your fav.)

This is so quick and easy it frequently appears on my lunch table when I come home for lunch during a work day. The toasted nuts, salty feta and sweet cranberries are lovely in contrast to one another as a topping, and spinach tastes fantastic when eaten pulled fresh from the garden.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

To Market, To Market

I'm off to the market, and you should be too! The awesome St. Albert Farmers' Market opens today, and there are others open around the city and surrounding areas. Check out the Alberta Farmers' Market Map under Edmonton Area Resources on the left to find your nearest one.

St. Albert Farmers' Market
Saturday - open 10-3, St. Anne St & Perron St

City Market Downtown
Saturday - open 9-3, Jasper Ave & 104 St

Old Strathcona Farmers' Market
Saturday - open 8-3, 10310 83 Ave


Friday, June 12, 2009

Grilled Peach & Feta Salad

It feels like summer is just around the corner, and with summer my appetite for salads has returned in full force. I seem to hardly eat salad at all in the winter months, but lately I have found myself often having them for 2 meals a day. It doesn't hurt that almost any combination of greens & fruit works, especially with the addition of cheese.

Grilled Peach & Feta Salad (serves 1):
2 handfuls spinach or other greens
1 peach, sliced
red onion
40-50g feta or chevre
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pepper, chopped mint

Warm peaches are extra delicious, so I grilled the slices on the hob for a couple of minutes and then tossed them into the salad and seasoned with pepper and fresh mint from my balcony garden.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finally, Spring has Sprung

While my balcony "garden" isn't nearly as good as Court's was, it is still enough to supply me with lettuce and greens through the summer and all the herbs I need year-round. I'm also lucky enough to have parents with a big garden where I can grow anything else I want. And the fruits of our labour are finally starting to come up! I definitely do not have a green thumb, and I always find the early days of planting somewhat demoralizing as it always seems to take so long for actual results. When I plant, I want to be eating fresh vegetables the next week. Now, 3 1/2 weeks after first planting, baby greens are nearly ready to eat and pretty soon good (vegetable) times will be here.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthy Fare, A Reasonable Option

Well, I am dating this post a bit by confessing that I visited Healthy Fare prior to hitting up the ballet one evening with a couple of girlfriends. We didn't have enough time for a lengthy sit down meal between work and the show, so we picked a newish restaurant on the South Side that seems to be somewhat of a "fast food" place, but with a major focus on eating healthy, and more than that I would say low cal, since all the calories are listed on the menu for each dish. I was a bit nervous, I still have a hard time equating tastiness with anything low cal, but it was worth a go!

The restaurant does have a number of tables for eating in, and while we were there, there were a number of in house diners, and also a number just coming and going with take out orders. Although the decor is pretty modern looking and the web site goes through how a good deal of it is also environmentally friendly, we were slightly put off by the fact that we had to ask for a table to be cleaned so that we had a place to sit. It was especially concerning given that when we arrived, it was not busy at all yet (and how many times have people speculated about the cooking facilities if the part you can see is messy?). Additionally, we found the ordering process a bit confusing. It is clear that you order at the till, but the young man who served us did not tell us whether or not to wait for drinks there or where to get the food or if it would be brought to us. In the end, we realized that they call you up to collect your food.

The food itself was actually quite good tasting. Two of us ordered the orange beef bowl, and one the peanut lime bowl, and we got a side order of sweet potato fries to share.

The fries were labeled as being only 85 calories, and so were a good size considering that. They were served with a garlic yogurt dip that I don't think was included in that calorie count. Both the fries and dip were delicious. We gobbled them up, and all agreed they make a great snack.

The bowls both also tasted very good. They had a large variety of well cooked vegetables, and a lot of meat, especially in the beef bowls. The only thing I would note is that although both tasty, the beef bowl didn't taste all that orangey (for being called an orange beef bowl), and the Peanut lime bowl had a good lime taste, but not much peanut. They were both served atop a small portion of brown rice. We tried each other's food, and two of the three preferred the peanut lime, one the orange beef bowl.

I did find that I ended up feeling hungry by the intermission of the ballet. Whether it wasn't quite substantial enough for me or I am just needing more due to being pregnant is hard to say. I would suggest though that a lot of guys might not find that this is quite enough to fill them as a supper.

In general though I would say this is a good alternative to typical fast food. It will be a bit pricier, but still reasonable, and worth it if you want to know that you and/or your family is eating food that is a bit more nutritious while still being fast.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Creamy Courgette and Brie Soup

With the horrible weather over the weekend, and the fact that my apartment was freeeezing, I decided to make soup for lunch. We have mentioned the Fresh Food Fast cookbook before, and this is another recipe from that book. This was my first go at making it after hearing Court rave about it a couple of years ago, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The creaminess comes from delicious melted brie - so I'm pretty happy I made a full pot and have the leftovers all to myself.

Courgette & Brie Soup (serves 4-5):
2 knobs/25g butter
1 medium/250g onion
3 smallish/200g potatoes
1 garlic clove
1/8-1/4 cup white wine
300ml vegetable stock
2 medium/500g zucchini
200ml milk or cream
125-200g brie
1 tbsp fresh basil, or to taste
salt & pepper

Melt the butter and then add the finely chopped onion. Soften for 5-7 minutes, then add the cubed potato, minced garlic, and wine and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the stock and zucchini and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is cooked (around 25 minutes). Add in the milk and brie and heat until the cheese has melted, then add the basil and heat through.

If you want to reduce the calories, this was actually quite good even without the milk and brie - just as a broth with vegetables.


Friday, June 5, 2009

White Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake

I don't think it is a secret that Brooke and I really really like cheesecake (don't act like you are too good for it!). I'm sure I have mentioned the past shame of eating 3/4 of a full cake by myself in the course of a couple of days before taking the last quarter to a party and begging my girlfriends to take it away from me before I did myself in. This is that cake! Well, it's not that particular cake, which was long ago in my belly, but one I made again using the same recipe, this time knowing I would have guests to help with the eating. Even though it is made with a good amount of white chocolate, it doesn't have that overly sweet taste some people don't like about white chocolate. It is just subtle and perfectly delish. It's also flexible in that it is flavor that goes well with a lot of different fruit toppings if you decide you want to try to make your cheesecake seem "healthier."

White Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake:

3/4 cup hazelnuts (optional)
12 whole graham crackers, broken (I up this to 15-18 if not using the nuts)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 ounces imported white chocolate (such as Lindt), finely chopped
3 tablespoons liqueur (I used Kahlua, but if I have Bailey's or Tia Maria I use what I have that tastes like coffee or chocolate or both)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Wrap aluminum foil around outside of pan. Place hazelnuts in pie pan and roast until brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to kitchen towel, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Rub hazelnuts with towel to remove husks. Chop coarsely in food processor. Add graham crackers and sugar and process until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs into bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool crust on rack.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in white chocolate and hazelnut liqueur. Pour filling into crust, covering completely.

Bake cake until edges are set and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, a little over an hour. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead.) Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen. Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve. You can cook it in a bain marie (on a tray filled with water) if you feel that helps avoid cracking. I feel like cracking is pretty inevitable with a nice cream colored cheesecake, and instead of fretting about it, I just put something pretty on top like chocolate shavings, fruit, whipped cream or all of those. I mean really, who looks at a cheesecake for more than a few seconds before it is gone!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eggs and Soldiers

Breakfast in less than 10 minutes! A soft boiled egg, 5 spears of asparagus, and a slice of toast: this is a nice sit-down breakfast that is also quick and healthy. I cut my toast into dip-able spears as well so I wouldn't miss out on any of that liquid yellow heaven.

For a soft boiled egg, bring a small pot of water to a simmer then add the egg and cook for 6 minutes. While the egg is cooking, make a slice of toast and with 3 minutes left on the egg drop the asparagus into the pot of simmering water to cook. When the timer goes, everything is ready to eat. Once done, drop the egg into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove & serve.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Back on Track

I'm attempting to lose some of the winter padding now that summer is around the corner (although, with the threat of frost tonight it certainly doesn't feel like it). Bringing lunch to work everyday definitely helps with that, and helps keep my pocketbook full as well.

- 1 large pesto garlic tortilla with lettuce, 1/2 can tuna & 1 tsp caesar dressing, 1 small gherkin, 1 slice onion
- 1 kiwi fruit
- 9 grape tomatoes
- 2 rice crackers with nori

In the tuna salad I used caesar salad dressing in place of mayonnaise, which I rarely have. I can't finish more than a quarter jar before it spoils so I just don't bother buying it anymore. The caesar dressing was a great substitute, as it provided all the seasoning as well .