Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Cheese

I got this recipe from the fall 2010 edition of the What's Cooking magazine, published by Kraft and made it last night to accompany dinner. I had never had spaghetti squash (at least that I can remember) until spending a week with Katie at her parents'. And I fell absolutely in love with it and began buying it obsessively. Which is why my husband no longer likes it... So when I saw this recipe, I thought that it might be a way to sneak spaghetti squash past him again. Though he didn't say anything about liking it, he also didn't say anything about not liking it, so I'll consider that approval ;)

1 large spaghetti squash
2 small tomatoes
1/2 C grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 C light grated Parmesan cheese (I used fresh Parmesan)

1. Prick a large spaghetti squash with a fork to let steam escape and microwave on high for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then slice it open. Remove seeds and scrape sides with a fork to create strands.

2. Mix in 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese and 2 small chopped tomatoes; sprinkle with 1/4 C light grated Parmesan cheese.

I mixed everything together in advance and then put it in a casserole dish, sprinkled with the Parmesan to be reheated for dinner. I put it in the oven at 350 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes, just enough to reheat it and melt the cheese.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blueberry Purée

I was at the library the other day and randomly came across the book Easy Gourmet Baby Food. Randomly, because I was looking for travel guides. But you know me... who could pass up getting a book with such a title?? And I love it already and am going to run out to buy my own copy despite my 'no more buying cookbooks' rule. I mean, really... that doesn't include cookbooks for kids food, does it?

One of the reasons this cookbook is so great (other than the appetizing recipes) is that there are tips for how to use many of the recipes in adult meals as well.

So in flipping through the appetizing recipes, such as roasted banana purée, cauliflower and chickpea chowder, red lentil and apple, grilled chicken and avocado, papaya and coconut milk purée, mini sweet potato muffins with maple syrup glaze... where do I stop??? Wait, what was I saying... yes, in flipping through the recipes, I decided to start making some baby food to take advantage of the cheap (and fresh) fruit and vegetables while they're still in season. So here's my first go at baby food. Still simple, since it'll be a bit before Logan can eat anything truly interesting.

I figure that if I start making something once or twice a week and popping it in the freezer (haha, that poor freezer!), that I'll have a huge stash of food put away for busier days when he's running around everywhere and making me weary! And I now have all the time in the world, since as of today, with Logan having started his reflux medication, he will now (mark my words) SLEEP EVEN WHEN HE'S NOT IN MY ARMS!!! Woot woot... Such a simple solution!! Thank goodness for Evelyne.

Blueberry Purée

2 C fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 C water

1. In a saucepan, combine blueberries and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil until berries are splitting in half, about 10 minutes.

2. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Let cool until warm to the touch, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

The purée looks thin while warm, but will thicken as it cools.

Makes about 1 cup.

Not just for babies: Cut a 6-inch round of Brie in half horizontally and spread with about 2 tbsp. of this purée. Wrap tightly in foil and bake in a 300 degree Farenheit oven until soft, about 15 minutes.

Whatever, I'll ignore that last recommendation and keep it in the deep freeze longer. And I just froze it in ice cube containers. Once frozen, I'll pop them into a ziploc bag and move on to the next batch.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mushroom Bread

Here is another French recipe, so the quantities are again in grams and mLs. So you'll have to get a food scale to make it. The recipe also calls for Alsacienne yeast, which, to the best of my knowledge, can only be found in France or in French-specialty stores. I googled it, and it seems that this can just be replaced by baking powder. I've never done it this way, as we bring the little packets back with us from France each visit. But if you want to try it using baking powder, you would use 11g.

This recipe is for a savoury bread, that is nice served as an appetizer at a party or to accompany soup for dinner (which is what I made it for). I had made it for last year's New Years party, but had never gotten around to posting it. I often get asked for the recipe when I make it, as it's a bit different from recipes from over here.

The other thing is that bread pans in France aren't as wide as they are here. I'm sure though that it would work in a bread pan from here, just be sure not to use one of the extra-wide ones, of you may not have enough batter to fill the pan so that the bread will rise enough.

This tends to go bad quickly because it is so moist, so if possible, keep it in the fridge.

180 g flour
1 package of Alsacienne yeast
3 eggs
100 g grated Emmenthal cheese (I used light Swiss)
1/2 C olive oil
100 mL milk
300 g of mixed mushrooms (I typically mix portabellos and regular white mushrooms)
2 shallots
a handful of fresh chopped parsley (I just put in dried)
a pinch of salt
pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

2. Melt a bit of butter in a pan. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook. Add the shallots and cook with the mushrooms for the last minute of cooking time. Let the mixture cool.

3. Mix together the eggs, oil and milk, then add salt and pepper. Mix in the flour and yeast.

4. Add in the cheese, parsley and mushrooms and stir.

5. Place in a non-stick bread pan. Cook for approximately 50 minutes. Let the cake cool before taking it out of the pan.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comforting Shredded Beef

This recipe comes from Canada's Best Slow Cooker Recipes, which is a wonderful cookbook with lots of quick and easy recipes for the slow cooker. I've tried many in the book and they've all been excellent. We used to make this one a good handful of times each winter, but ran out of the cognac my dad used to pass along to us, so we haven't made it in awhile. I made it without the cognac this time... not nearly as good as when you include it, but it was still good.

The meat just falls apart it is so tender. You can just serve it like that, which we usually do the first day we have it, or can use it to make sandwiches, which we tend to do with the remaining meat. At times, I will freeze the leftovers and use them later in sandwiches. One of the other recipes in the same cookbook suggests using the meat and Provolone or Swiss cheese in a tortilla with some of the onion slices for a sandwich.

1 3- to 4- lb sirloin tip roast
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 C cognac or brandy (optional)
2 C beef stock
1 C red wine
2 onions, sliced

1. Season roast to taste with salt and pepper. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add roast and cook, turning meat with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes or until brown on all sides. Pour cognac over meat (if using) and flame with a match. Transfer meat to slow cooker.

2. Add stock to slow cooker, along with red wine and onions. Cover and cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours or on High for 6 to 8 hours, until meat is very tender. (If using a large (4- to 6- quart) slow cooker, meat may not be completely submerged in liquid; turn 2 or 3 times during cooking so exposed edges will not dry out).


3. Remove meat from juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Using a fork, pull apart roast, following the natural grain of the meat. It should fall apart very easily. Serve with beef juice or dipping.

Serves 4 to 6 (though I actually find it serves way more)

Difficulty level: easy to moderate 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fragrant Coconut Rice

I made this for dinner the other night, to accompany a lentil dish. I had wanted to try another brown rice risotto recipe that I have but was out of short brown rice, so I tried this recipe instead. The recipe comes from The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook.

1 1/2 C coconut milk (I used light)
1 C water
1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long
1 C brown basmati or brown long-grain rice, rinsed and drained

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring coconut milk, water and cinnamon stick to a rapid boil. Stir in rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 50 minutes.

I just threw everything into my rice cooker and hit cook.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blueberry Oatmeal Squares

This is my new favourite dessert. Delicious. It's kind of like date squares, but with cooked blueberries in place of the dates. I can't remember where I got the recipe from, as I also made it once last summer, but I don't remember it being as good as this (or I probably would have made it more!). I decided that I needed some sweet junk around the house last week to ease the sweet notes of a screaming, fussy baby. So although I got little else done last week, I made a point of making time to make dessert. We just finished the last pieces this evening and I'm already having to restrain myself from making a second batch, I loved it that much. I think that next year I may also try it with blackberries in place of the blueberries, just for a change, as I love it with the blueberries.

To make it again, I would cut back the sugar in the topping and would probably also cut the butter back some and melt it instead, so that it will go further. But make it the way the recipe says if you're making it for company, as I'm sure the butter is part of what makes it so tasty.

2 1/2 C rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/4 C flour (I used whole-wheat, as I almost always do)
1 C packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C cold butter, cubed

3 C fresh blueberries
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C orange juice
4 tsp. cornstarch


1. For the filling, in a saucepan, bring blueberries, sugar and orange juice to boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Whisk cornstarch with 2 tbsp. water; whisk into blueberries and boil, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Place plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until cooled; about 1 hour. 



2. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, flour, sugar, orange rind and salt; with pastry blender, cut in butter until in coarse crumbs. Press half into 8-inch square parchment paper-lined metal cake pan; spread with blueberry filling. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture, pressing lightly.

3. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit approximately 45 minutes. Let cool before cutting into squares.

Makes 24 squares.

193 calories per square.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Apple Cider Cinnamon Jelly

So here we are at my 100th post... wow... 100 recipes in a year. And that doesn't count the recipes I've made and never got around to blogging. Thanks to Steph for the idea. I hope that everyone's enjoying the recipes. I've certainly gotten lots of feedback from people that they're being used and it's nice to be able to just say 'go to my blog' when people ask for recipes instead of having to dig them out and send them each time.

So on to today's recipe...

I decided that while I had the canning materials out from making salsa, that I would also go ahead and make some apple jelly, since I was running out. The worst part of canning (to me, at least), is having to drag everything out. So I set out to can some apple jelly.

This recipe comes from the cookbook The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving, which I believe is a book that Karen had recommended to me many years back. I've always been tempted to double or triple the recipe, but have been afraid that it wouldn't set properly, so if I've done double batches, I've always prepared them in separate pots. But this year, I figured that, with baby, I no longer have the luxury of taking all that time to make separate batches. So I threw three batches into one pot and set out. Much to my dismay, when I opened a jar a few days after making this, I realized that the jelly hadn't set (sniff, sniff... 3 batches and 6 x 500 mL jars later...). So I'm still without apple jelly, as I didn't have the energy to start all over again at that point (having then, already put all the canning crap away!). Heather and I have decided to use it instead of maple syrup on pancakes and the like (great idea Heather!) so we'll see how that works out. At least I won't have to throw it all away...

In any case, this is a great recipe and is very simple to make (as long as you don't double it!!).

2 1/2 C fresh-pressed apple cider (I use fresh apple juice)
1 stick cinnamon, 4 inches, broken into 4 pieces
3 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

1. Combine cider and cinnamon pieces in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes. Strain cider through several layers of cheesecloth, reserving cinnamon pieces to add to jars. Rinse saucepan.

2. Measure 2 cups cider and return to saucepan; add sugar. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin, return to a full boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

3. Ladle into sterilized jars, add one piece of cinnamon to each jar and leave 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 5 minutes.

Note: I never bother straining the cider through the cheesecloth and just use the full amount of the remaining cider instead of the 2 cups measured out in step 2. Probably because I don't strain it, I get a froth at the top of my jelly, which I just skim off prior to closing the jars, making sure that I respect the headspace indicated.

For instructions on how to can, go to my post of Aug. 3/10 on salsa.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sugar-Free Date Muffins

I think that this is one of my absolute favourite muffin recipes. It's quick to make, delicious and healthy. I got it from Lyne, where I used to work and love to have these around for breakfast, snacks, etc. There's no added sugar in the muffins, as the dates make the muffins sweet enough, which make them nice and healthy.

I made these last week to take over to Liz's and then just whipped up another batch this morning for breakfasts. Mmmm... did I mention these are my favourites?

1 C dates
1 C water

Rince the dates and place in a pot with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool.

1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 C sunflower seeds

I also add a handful of raisins into the batter.

1. Beat the oil and the egg with a fork and then incorporate date mixture, stirring.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and then mix.

3. Cook at 350 degrees Farenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 9 muffins.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grilled Tomatoes Stuffed with Oka

I made these tomatoes for dinner the other night with a couple of the tomatoes I had bought for making salsa. There's nothing better than in-season tomatoes. Mmm... We made these in the oven instead of on the bbq, as it was raining out. Just add a salad and a piece of baguette and you've got a relatively easy complete meal.

2 slices of crumbled bacon (I used turkey bacon)
1/2 chopped onion
4 medium sized tomatoes
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 beaten eggs
1 slice of whole-wheat bread, cut into cubes
1/3 C 10% (I substituted milk)
1 C Oka cheese, shredded or cubed
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat barbecue or oven to 450 degrees Farenheit.

2. Cook onion and bacon in a pan until the onion is tender. Let cool.

3. Cut the top off of the tomatoes and empty the inside of each tomato with a spoon.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bacon mixture, mix and stuff the tomatoes with this preparation. Place the lid of the tomato on the top of each tomato and cook on the barbecue (or in the oven) approximately 12 minutes.

Serves 4.

You can replace the Oka by St-Paulin, aged Gouda or medium cheddar.
For a vegetarian option, just omit the bacon.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

So I did end up making salsa this week... though I only made two batches since it's so much harder to get things done than it was pre-baby and essentially took me a full day to get each batch. But I did get it done, just with many breaks between each step. I ended up going to Marché de l'Ouest and got a huge box of slightly damaged tomatoes (perfect for cooking with) for only $10. Which got me 18 jars of salsa, plus a few toasted tomato sandwiches.

A tip about how to quickly peel the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Core the tomatoes and cut an x into the bottom of the tomato. Place tomatoes in boiling water for one minute. Remove and let cool. The skin will then easily peel off, starting from the x.

12 C chopped, peeled tomatoes, about 24
3 cans corn
2 cans black beans
1 pkg. Bernardin salsa mix
1 1/4 C cider vinegar
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Wash, core, seed and chop tomatoes; drain off excess liquid. Measure 12 cups.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine Bernardin salsa mix and cider vinegar. Add tomatoes, black beans, corn and cilantro; mix well. Bring to a boil; boil gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

3. Ladle salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Using a nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar to removing any stickiness. Process for 20 minutes.

Makes about 8-9 500mL jars.

Some tips on canning:

The jars need to be sterilized prior to placing food in them in order to eliminate possible bacterial growth. Wash jars and then place in a 225 degree Farenheit oven for at least 20 minutes. You then spoon the hot salsa into the hot jars, using a canning funnel, if you have one. You then need to get the air bubbles out of the jar prior to sterilizing, again, to prevent bacterial growth. You can buy a kit that has a tool to help get the bubbles out, a funnel, lid lifter, headspace gauge and jar lifter for about $15 at Canadian Tire. Alternatively, you can use a spatula to coax the bubbles to the top.

You then need to measure the headspace for the recipe you are making. Headspace is the unfilled space above the food in a jar and below the lid. This space is needed for expansion of the food as the jars are processed, and for forming a vacuum to preserve the food, once the jars are cooled. Again, you can get a headspace gauge to easily judge how much space to leave (1/2 inch, for this recipe).

The next step is to prepare the snap lids, by placing them in hot, but not boiling water and leaving them there until you use them. Recommendations used to be to boil them for 5 minutes, but they no longer recommend placing them in boiling water. You then place the lids on the cans, using a lid lifter, so that you don't burn your fingers. Then screw on the screw tops just until you meet resistance, being careful not to overtighten. Note that you can reuse the screw tops, but cannot reuse the snap lids. Also, be sure not to tighten the screw top once you have processed the jars, as this can affect the sealing process.

Once the lids are placed, bring water to a boil in a waterbath canner, which is a huge black pot used for canning. These usually come with a canning rack, so that you can get the jars in and out of the boiling water without burning your fingers. You should probably start the water boiling way before you are ready for it, as it takes quite awhile for such a large quantity of water to boil. I often start boiling the water well in advance and then top it up by adding a few kettles full of boiling water.

You need to process the jars while they are still warm, otherwise they will crack when they are placed in the hot water. Alternatively, you can place the jars in the water while it is still cold, but I find that it takes forever for the water to come to a boil this way. You then need to leave the jars in the water for 20 minutes (for this recipe), once it has come to a boil again after placing the cans in it. Also, be sure that the water covers the top of the jars. Once they have been processed long enough, take them out, being careful not to burn yourself as I did this week (as the scab on my stomach proves!).

After the jars have cooled, inspect them to be sure that the snap lids have sealed. If you press on the centre of the lid, it should not pop back up. If it does, you need to reprocess them again in the boiling water so that the lids seal (or alternatively, put that jar in the fridge and use it immediately). And that's it. It all sounds complicated, but it's actually quite easy and lets you enjoy fresh, homemade, delicious salsa year-round.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blueberry Pound Cake

Wow... I see that it's been almost a month since I've been on here. Life's been crazy lately with non-stop visitors to see Logan, on top of renovations to our bathroom and basement. Hence my lack of time to blog. Though I did manage to make a few things over the past month that I'll add here when I have a chance.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe, but I try to make it once each year during blueberry season. The recipe says that it makes 16 portions, but it makes way more than that. 4 of us had it for dessert at least 3-4 nights, plus I brought it on a picnic with family and stuffed the remainder in the freezer. So only plan to make it when you have a crowd (or a huge appetite!).

I also find that I always have a hard time getting this to cook properly. I've tried it in a bread pan before and it's way too big and the outside burns before the inside is cooked (and it takes way longer than the recipe indicates). I don't have a tube pan, though perhaps I need to buy one so the inside of the cake will bake. I made it in a flower shaped deep round pan and had to lower the temperature towards the end so that it all cooked. And I think it took about 2 hours in all to cook. Another option might be to split the recipe in half or, if making the whole recipe, splitting it between two different bread pans.

I didn't make the sugar/lemon drizzle that goes on top - mainly because I forgot. But it sounds like it'd be good...

3 C sugar (I used 2 C)
1/2 C light butter
1/2 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
3 C flour, divided
2 C fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (8-ounce) carton lemon low-fat yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
4 tsp. lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

2. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Combine 2 tbsp. flour and blueberries in a small bowl, and toss well.

4. Combine remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Fold in blueberry mixture and vanilla.

6. Pour cake batter into a 10-inch tube pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.

7. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl; drizzle over warm cake.

Serves 16.

Update June 2011: I made this with 2 C of sugar instead of 3 C and separated the cakes into two loaf pans.