Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mixed greens with raspberries

I made this lovely salad for lunch today.

2 cups of mixed salad greens, cleaned and dried
1 handful of fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
1 handful of toasted walnuts
1 handful of crumbled blue cheese
3 T balsamic dressing

1. Place your greens in a bowl and top with raspberries.
2. Toast the walnuts briefly in a hot pan with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle over the salad.
3. Top salad with blue cheese and dressing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chili Garlic Bok Choy with Bacon

Two things happened on my way home from work yesterday:
  1. I bought a giant bag of baby Bok Choy in Chinatown for $1.
  2. I remembered a bacon of great looking bacon defrosting in the fridge.
  3. I realized I had no plans for either Bok Choy or the bacon.
First, I decided to chop up and fry the bacon, and stick it in the freezer for some later purpose, such as a caesar salad. After I removed the cooked bacon and most of the fat I thought there would be a lot of flavour left in the pan, so I threw in the Bok Choy, which I'd already cleaned and chopped. With a few more ingredients, this dish was born. We both loved it and I will definitely make this again.

10-12 heads of baby Bok Choy, cleaned and chopped
3 strips of chopped bacon
3 T chopped chives
2 T chili garlic paste

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towel.
  2. Remove most of the fat from the pan and discard.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and pile in the Bok Choy. Stir fry until slightly softened.
  4. Add the chives, chili garlic paste and stir.
  5. Let stand for a few minutes and serve.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ingredients

Browning - This is a thick liquid that you can use to add wonderful colour to meat and meat dishes. It is also used in making fruit cake to give it a deep brown colour. It is slightly sweet, and go easy on it until you get to know how much you actually need for your dish. I have been using Grace brand as long as I've been using it.

Chili Garlic Paste - I love this stuff and it ends up in most things I cook. It lends a nice amount of heat and good garlic flavour, without being over-powering on either front. You can find it in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores.

Jerk - Jerk is an amazingly flavourful mixture of spices that is especially good with chicken and other meats. You can buy Jerk seasoning in two forms, one is a paste and one is dry. The pastes tend to have more heat, and do not think of it as a marinade. If you use the paste, you can create a marinade by pairing it with olive oil and lime juice. I also tend to add more garlic and thyme. The dry seasoning can also be used to create a marinade, but I've found I like to use it in lots of dishes to add a flavour boost and it is nice sprinkled on meat that you are going to roast. Recommendations - Mr. Goudas for dry, Walker's Woods for paste.

Newman's Own Dressings - I use these dressings because they are lighter on soy oil, and some varieties have none at all. If you want to read about some of the concerns with eating a lot of soy, check out this article. Furthermore, there are several organic options, and all of the profits from sales of these dressings go to charity. Yes, I know I can easily make my own dressings, and sometimes I do, but sometimes, a bottled dressing is just easier.

Pasta - We're all concerned about processed carbohydrates. What you don't hear too often is that pasta is actually takes a long time to break down in your body, and therefor, it does not cause a huge spike in blood sugar the way we're often told by The Diet People. Now, I'm talking about good pasta here. If you're going to eat it, spend a little more on it and steer yourself to brands like Barilla and Vita Sana. These pastas are made from high-quality wheat flour and water, and that's about it.

Tuna - Some of us have concerns about eating tuna, due to some information they've gathered about the mercury content. As I understand it, Skipjack Tuna has the lowest mercury content, and also, tuna caught in European waters. You can read more about this issue, and also check out how much tuna you can "safely" eat here, and while you're at it, check out some of the great information offered on this web site.

Jamaican Slush

My grandmother often made something she called "slush." It was simply ground beef and chopped onions with lots of black pepper, with a bit of flour and water mixed together for a gravy. She served it with boiled potatoes and it was one of my favourite dishes of hers. In fact, whenever I smell ground beef and onions cooking together, I think of her.

I have also encountered something similar in east coast homes called "hamburger stew." It is basically the same nana's slush, with the addition of chopped carrot, potato and sometimes peas or corn.

When I first got know Jamaican spices and seasonings, and was trying to figure out what to cook for my husband, I made something that is a cross between slush and hamburger stew, with the addition of dry jerk seasoning. I make a big batch of this at least once a month and it does us for a few days. I usually serve it with rice and peas.

2lbs extra lean ground beef
2-3 new potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons dry Jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons browning
2 cups water
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper

1. Brown the ground beef. Add the onions and fry until translucent.
2. Mix flour and water and add to pan.
3. Add carrot, potato, garlic and Jerk seasoning.
4. Cook on medium heat until vegetables are soft.
5. Stir in browning and let simmer for about a half an hour.

Seeing green

Last Monday, I took the bus from Union Station up to Newmarket for a visit. As I was walking through the station I saw a man dressed as what I assume was a leprechaun. He was a middle-aged man, about 5 feet tall, with red hair a full beard. He was wearing emerald green shoes, socks, pants and shirt. He even wore an emerald green hat with a big yellow buckle on it. When I told mIy husband "I just saw a man dressed as a leprechaun he said "of course you did."
Later, while I was waiting for the bus, this man passed by, this time with a gigantic suitcase in tow, and this time, he winked at me. When I told my husband, he said "of course he did."

Maybe this man will one day read my blog, so just in case, here is a note for him.

Dear Mr. Leprechaun Man,

First, let me compliment you on your striking ensemble. Were it nearer to St. Patrick's Day you would be dismissed as simply another holiday reveller, but this far into spring, one can only assume you are, in fact, a leprechaun. I considered asking for a photo but I am not that familiar with leprechaun ettiquette and thought you may have found me rude. I'd like to say that I'm surprised to learn that leprchauns do not have faster, more convenient transportation options than the GO bus. Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your trip, which must be lengthy, given the size of your luggage. And thanks for the wink. You keep on winking, Mr. Leprechaun Man.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White Bean Crostini (aka Beans on Toast)

We took our mom to High Park on Sunday for Mother's Day. There is a cute little organic Farmer's Market there, where I scored with a basket of Canadian, organic tomatoes for $1. I also bought a planter already planted with various herb plants for the patio. That evening, I fell and sprained my ankle, thus kicking off what is proving to be a boring and challenging few days on the sofa. I have been trying to come up with a few fast, healthy meals that don't require a lot of standing. Think of this one as a Mediterranean nod to good 'ol beans on toast.

A quick note on beans: I used a can of Eden Foods white beans. Eden Foods does not line cans with plastic containing BPA, and the beans are organically grown. Hence, I keep an eye out for Eden Foods products, which are starting to show up in the organic grocery aisles of major grocery stores.

1 can white beans
4 med. sized tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano, parsley and basil)
1 loaf of crusty French bread
olive oil
firm feta cheese, crumbled

1. Saute the onion in olive oil until it just starts to become translucent.
2. Add tomatoes, garlic, beans and another slurp of olive oil to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften.
3. Add the garlic and herbs to the pan and cook until the herbs start to wilt.
4. Slice 4 pieces of bread, sprinkle both sides with olive oil and toast. I did this in the toaster oven but you could also to it under the broiler in your oven.
5. Spread the beans on the toast and sprinkle on the feta cheese on top.

I had 2 pieces with a simple salad and it was a great dinner.

Cold soba with broccoli

I read that soba noodles are made from buckwheat and have more protein and fibre than many noodles. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with soba, so I just put something together and it was a nice surprise.

1 small package of soba noodles
1 head of broccoli, chopped small and lightly steamed*
2 chopped green onions
1 handful of chopped toasted walnuts

Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
1 t bottled grated ginger
1 T sesame oil
2 T olive oil
2 T lime juice

1. Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold running water.
2. Whisk sauce together in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add broccoli and noodles to the bowl, stir and serve.

*To quickly steam broccoli in the microwave, place it in a bowl with a small amount of water and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Pierce the wrap a couple of times with a fork, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let sit covered for about 2 more minutes.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

From the vault: - Dancing Queen

I was looking at hand cream in Essence of Life Organics in Kensington Market when a woman came up to me and said "do you like to wear combs in your hair when you dance?" I said "when I dance?" and she said "you know, like...around..." And I said "no, not really." She said "cool" and walked away.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sardine fritter cakes

This recipe is partly based on my mother-in-law's recipe for sardine fritters. Traditionally, fritters are made with salt cod, however, my husband doesn't like salt fish, so my mother-in-law started using canned sardines instead. The recipe is also based on Maritime-style cod cakes, which I've cooked and eaten with a few people in my life. They seem to be quite common across the east coast in Canada, as I've come across them in families from Newfoundland, Cape Breton and PEI. Again, cod cakes are made with salt cod, and with the addition of mashed potato, and otherwise they are quite similar. In Jamaican homes, they seem to be eaten as more of an appetizer or snack, while in the Maritimes you will likely see them as the main part of meal, often served with fried potatos and onions.

1 can sardines packed in water
1.5 cups flour*
1 egg
1 cup mashed potato*
1 small chopped onion or 2-3 chopped spring onion (I always use spring onion)
1 TBSP chili garlic paste*
2 TBSP lime juice
salt and pepper

1. Drain the sardines and mash with a fork in a mixing bowl.
2. Mix in the egg, lime juice and chili garlic paste if using.
3. Mix in the flour and potato.
4. Heat about 1" of oil in a large frying pan.
5. Drop mixture by the spoonful* into the oil and flatten slightly with a fork.
6. Fry until browned plus a minute or two, flip and do the same on the other side.
7. Blot on paper towel and serve.

*Notes

Flour - I've been using Robin Hood Nutri-Blend, which is white flour mixed with wheat bran. It tastes and behaves like white flour, with twice the fibre.

Mashed potato - if you don't have any leftovers, you can steam a potato in the microwave for about 5 minutes and mash it with a fork

Chili Garlic Sauce - this goes into 80% of my cooking, it adds a nice spice and garlic flavour to your dishes, you can find it in the Chinese foods section of most grocery stores

Spooning - I like to use an ice cream scoop to spoon out batter. It works well for things like pancakes, and also for baking things like muffins. It keeps each one a uniform size so they are all ready at the same time.