Saturday, June 25, 2011


In a fun protest to all of the office events aimed at employees who have children, a group of coworkers got together for a dog party this weekend. Eleven dogs were in attendance - I was pleasantly surprised that no one lost any blood, food or a dog.

I made one of my favorite summer desserts to take to the party - pavlova with fresh fruit.

Adapted from Martha Stewart, serves 8

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups fresh fruit

Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. In the stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add one tablespoon of the sugar mixture every 30 seconds. Scrap down the sides of the bowl periodically. Continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks, about 8 minutes total.

Mound the meringue on to the prepared cookie sheet. Use a spatula to form a circle about 9 inches in diameter and create a well in the centre.

Bake the meringue in the centre of the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the outside is crisp. If the meringue starts to brown, reduce the temperature to 175 F. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool inside the oven for 2 1/2 hours or overnight.

To make the whipping cream, whisk the cream, vanilla and sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.

Immediately before serving, fill the well in the meringue with whipping cream and top with fruit.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In the Garden: Week 5

Yes it has been three weeks since I have given a garden update, but with all of the rain it has been three weeks since I have dared step foot in the dirt (mud).

The cooler weather and complete lack of sun means things are off to a slow start but most of the vegetables have finally sprouted.

Brussels Sprouts

One of the best sites of all! What is it you ask? The start of our pear crop!

Hopefully the sun will come out and then things will really take off.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Chinese Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is one of my favorite dim sum dishes. For a long time I would buy frozen sticky rice from Chinatown and keep it in the freezer as an emergency dinner or lunch. However there was never any vegetables in the Chinatown versions so I decided to make my own.

Adapted from Flavor Explosions, serves 10

5 dried lotus leaves
2 1/2 cups sweet rice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 pound pork spareribs
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
2 small zucchini, sliced
2 small eggplant, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped

3 Chinese sausages, thinly sliced
6 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup oyster mushrooms. chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

Rinse the rice well and place into a bowl. Cover the rice with water and allow to soak for  6 hours to overnight. 

Soak the lotus leaves in hot water until softened, about 1 hour. Snip off the hard stalks in the centre of the lotus leaf.  Cut the leaves into two so each is a half circle. 

Cut the spare ribs into bit size pieces. In a bowl, combine the spareribs, oil, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper. Allow the spareribs to marinade for an hour.
In a separate bowl, combine the zucchini, eggplant, oil, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper. Set aside to marinade. 

Place the dried mushrooms into a third bowl and cover with bowling water. Allow to soak until soft. Once soft, remove the stems and cut into quarters. 

Prepare a large pot with a steamer and enough water to be just below the steamer. Line the steamer with cheesecloth. Drain the water from the rice. Place the rice onto the steamer in an even layer. Bring the water to a boil and steam the rice for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the oil, sugar and stock in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once the rice is done steaming, transfer it to a bowl, pour the hot stock mixture over top and stir to combine. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
In a wok, saute the spareribs until cooked through. Add the sausage and mushrooms and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and eggplant and cook for another 3 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat. Toss in the green onion.

Place the lotus leaves flat on a work surface. Patch any holes in the leaves with additional leave pieces.

Place about 1/20th of the rice, approximately 1/3 cup, onto the center of the lotus leave. 

Place a 1/10th portion of the filling on top of the rice.  

 Top with another portion of rice. Pack the rice tightly to form a small rectangle.

Wrap one side of the leave over the filling. Then fold the opposite side over top so you have essentially folded the leave into thirds with the filling in the middle. 

Repeat in the other direction. With the last fold, tuck the end of the leave under itself to make a neat seam.

Tie the bundle with string or the stalks from the lotus leaves.

Prepare a bamboo steamer basket in a pot over simmering water. Add the parcels to the steamer and steam for 30 minutes. Add water as necessary to ensure the pot does not dry out. 

Serve hot. 


Tip: Make a large batch to keep in the freezer. Allow the parcels to cool and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap before placing in the freezer.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Sour Cherry Frosting

I made this using the same recipe as my chocolate cupcakes. I normally don’t make the same recipe twice but this chocolate cake is just too good! 

Frosting adapted from The Crafty Penguin, makes one 9x13 cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sour cherries, plus additional for decorating
3 to 4 cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x13 cake pan.
Measure out all of the ingredients but the eggs into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix on low speed just until incorporated and then beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat at high speed for another two minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, drain the cherries and add to a blender. Puree until smooth. With a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Mix in 2 cups of the icing sugar and mix until combined. Add in the cherry puree and mix to combine. Continue mixing on high speed, gradually adding more icing sugar, until the desired consistency is reached.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I threw this together last night after spying my co-worker eating his wife's version at lunch. It makes a fantastic paleo-friendly replacement for pizza!

The toppings could easily be replaced with whatever you have handy - spinach, tomatoes and feta would be an excellent combination - and the sausage could easily be omitted for a vegetarian version.

Serves 4

4 portobello mushrooms
4 small or 2 large sausages
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed chili pepper
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cheese, grated
4 tablespoons almond flour or bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems. Finely chop the stems and set aside. Lightly oil the mushroom caps, season with salt and pepper and place, face down, onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Removing the casings from the sausages and crumble the filling into a pan. Saute over medium heat until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, celery, mushroom stems and peppers to the pan and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add chilli pepper and basil, saute until fragrant.

Transfer the filling to the mushroom caps and top with cheese and almond flour.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the topping is browned and the mushroom is soft.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

Dave and I are huge supporters of local agriculture. We try to avoid large commercial farm products as much as possible, we only buy meat from small local farms (including my grandpa!) and try to buy as much local produce as possible living in Alberta. Last year we joined a CSA program to further our support of local farmers.

A CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is where the consumer becomes a "shareholder" in a crop, typically with vegetable producers. The consumers pay up front for a share in the crop and then the shareholders receive weekly "dividend" payments in the form of baskets of produce through out the growing season. This way the producers recieve capital in the beginning of the season when they need it the most. The consumer shares the risk in the crop but is rewarded with local fresh produce.

We have signed up for our second year with the Noble Gardens CSA program. It is a family farm located near Lethbridge, Alberta. Despite the relatively poor growing season last year, we still recieved more vegetables than the two of us could eat! The baskets last year included everything from carrots, beets, corn, lettuce, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage to fresh herbs. Each week it is a surprise to see what you were going to receive - we were never disappointed - and it was a great opportunity to learn how to cook with new ingredients.

I can hardly wait to pick up our first basket this year!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Watermelon Lemonade

I made this to take along on a spa day in honour of Shauna's birthday. We enjoyed it with chocolate cupcakes with blackberry buttercream, chocolate covered strawberries and pedicures!

Adapted from Martha Stewart, makes 2 liters

2 lemons, quartered
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup fresh mint leaves
4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
1 liter sparkling water

In a blender, puree the watermelon until smooth. Add watermelon, lemonade, mint, lemons and water to a large picture. Stir to combine.

Keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

I work 8 AM to 5 PM and Dave works 7 PM to 7 AM. That gives us exactly 1 hour to eat dinner together - on a good day when I actually get out of the office on time. When I am organized I like to prepare meals for the slow cooker in the morning before I go to work. This recipe started as an experiment but I think it will become a staple in our house - you would never guess the chicken came out of a slow cooker instead of the oven!

Serves 4

1 whole chicken or chicken breast on the bone
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Mix the wine, stock, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the classic Nestle Tollhouse recipe that I made into ice cream sandwiches in honour of Cindy's birthday on the weekend. The perfect summer treat!

Makes 60 cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat sheets.

In a small bowl,  combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gradually beat in the flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Use a cookie scoop or tablespoons to transfer dough onto the cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Palak Paneer

One of my favorite indian dishes. It works well either as a side dish or as a vegetarian entree.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek (methi)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tomatoes, diced
850 g can saag
400 g bag frozen paneer
In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil and add the ginger, garlic and onion. Saute until softened. Add the spices and cook until fragrant.

Add in the tomatoes, lower the heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add in the saag and paneer and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. 

Serve with rice or naan. 


Tip: saag is seasoned pureed spinach or mustard greens that can usually be found in a can. I add my own frozen mustard greens from the garden to extend the recipe. Paneer is an indian fresh cheese which comes in cubes, it does not melt like traditional cheese. I find the ghee, saag, paneer and fenugreek in the ethnic section at Superstore.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No Knead Bread

This recipe originated from the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York and since I discovered it in the Calgary Herald this winter it has become the only bread recipe I use.

Makes one large loaf

3 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended - I use my hands! The dough should be sticky, otherwise add more water a tablespoon at a time.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature for minimum12 hours - longer is preferable - until the dough has doubled in size. The surface of the dough will dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and remove the dough from the bowl. Gently shape the dough into a ball, using just enough flour to prevent it from sticking to everything. Place the ball onto a sheet of parchment paper, cover with a tea towel and let rise for another 1 to 2 hours, again letting it double in size. 

Half an hour before dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450 F. Place a heavy covered pot in the oven to warm - I use cast iron.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Place the dough, complete with the parchment paper, into the warm pot. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.

Remove the loaf from the pot and allow to cool - in our house it never survives that long!

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