Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anti-Aging Beet and Blueberry Smoothie

WOW, this smoothie is loaded with super anti-oxidants!  Containing beets, blueberries and watermelon, this power-combo may just become one of your favourite beauty elixirs.
Beets are chocker-block full of betaine, which helps to protect your cells from environmental stress (which contributes to the aging process). The vibrant crimson color indicates powerful phyto-nutrients (which are proven cancer-fighters). Beets also purify the blood, so they are great for detoxing and they even boost your immune system!
Blueberries are high in anti-oxidants, which are vital for the nervous system and brain health - they can improve your memory! They have a low glycemic index, so they are a great fruit option for blood sugar regulation.
Like tomatoes, watermelon is high in lycopene (a phytonutrient), which is great for cardiovascular health as well as vitamin C.
Coconut water is a great addition to any smoothie. It replaces electrolytes which are lost during dehydration. Overnight our bodies lose hydration  - think about it - on an average of 8 hours without water our cells are aching for re-hydration so that our finely tuned machine can fire on all cylinders. And first thing in the morning is the best time to down at least half a litre of water - before eating. I add a cup to my smoothies to help in the blending process, plus I get the benefit of all natural electrolytes (none of that Gatorade stuff for this body). Coconut water is the best electrolyte drink for exercise - no added sugar, artificial colors or flavouring.
This super food smoothie is so delicious - the bright color is enough to make you want to gulp it down and its isn't overly sweet (great to stave off sugar cravings)...
Anti-Aging Beet And Blueberry Smoothie
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup diced raw red beets
  • 1 cup diced watermelon
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • optional: 1 teaspoon chia seeds
Place all ingredients but the chia seeds in a blender. Blend until smooth. Stir in chia seeds, if desired. Makes 2 servings.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Super Foods Green Smoothie

Want to kick-start your day with some super foods that will keep you going all morning...? This smoothie is not only power-packed with vitamins and minerals, its also SUPER delicious!

Super foods are foods that pack a punch of extra power like anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well sustaining powers, so you don't get hungry half an hour after your last meal.

I used to be a huge fan of smoothies, drinking at least one several times a week. But I had to put them on the back burner after greatly reducing my sugar intake for some major health reasons. But now I am back at it, except the make up of the ingredients has changed dramatically! They are much more healthy - loaded with anti-oxidant rich greens! My recipe for this beauty is posted below.

In keeping with my avoidance of drinking smoothies (and let me tell you, I missed them dearly) I began juicing. This was something I decided to commit to after seeing my Naturopath back in March, who gave me some pretty crappy news about my health. Let me back up a bit - I am a 7 year breast cancer survivor and have suffered from chronic pain (fibromyalgia) for 13 years. The bad news thankfully was not related to my cancer, in fact I am now considered fully cured of it! The bad news was about the impact the cancer and related treatments and stress had had on my body's cells. 

The juicing regime came recommended by my ND as a quick, no nonsense way to inject my cells and tissues with real, pure food plus vitamins and minerals - which I was greatly lacking (who knew, I eat veggies everyday along with some of the healthiest foods available since my cancer diagnosis). But there was a lot of congestion and inflammation in my tissues and organs, and thus the vitamins and minerals were not getting to the finish line. My recovery protocol included deep cleansing (liver, kidney and candida) and a few extra tricks to get me back on track, I am feeling fantastic! 

Why was I juicing over smoothie-ing you ask? Same ingredients, but more fiber in the smoothie...so wouldn't the smoothie be a better option?

The reason for drinking freshly 'juiced' is that all of those great veggies and fruit that you just fed through your juicer are ready to be immediately absorbed into your cells - no messing around with the stomach and digestive tract, where all that smoothie-fiber would have to be broken down first. This is like instant "WHOA" - like getting a shot of caffeine, except without the caffeine! 

I have become a huge advocate of making juicing a part of my daily routine to get healthy, stay healthy and live longer - when I sip my fresh juice, I just think of it as all those anti-oxidants punching out the oxidative stress in our bodies from environmental and food contamination. And I want to make sure my cells are strong enough to K-O any and all free radicals floating around in my precious temple!

So after 6 months of daily juicing, I have decided to get back into smoothie-mode and alternate each day with a delicious smoothie. But the focus is still on mainly veggies people! Its easy to get on the "milkshake" smoothie bandwagon and fill your blender or magic bullet with nothing but sugary fruit and juice. Nope. If you want to stay healthy, you need to go down that veggie path...that path that right now may seem too scary, overgrown with dark and well, green things...

Don't we all want to strive towards longevity...? Trust me, you will thank me later.

If you want to create a happy and healthy environment in your temple, you will need to follow this one rule when juicing or smoothie-ing: Keep things alkaline! What does that mean? Simply put - more veggie, less sugar. The majority of your smoothie ingredients should consist of veggies, preferably the deep dark green ones. These are alkaline - not acidic, which is what sugar is acidic. Yuk! And an acidic environment creates inflammation and eventually disease. So stick to the greens, then add in a bit of fruit for sweetness like berries, apple, pear or even some watermelon or musk melon. The key is to have about a 70/30 ratio on the veg to fruit. Easy, right?

Now once you have your veg and fruit figured out, you can decide on the liquid. I like to use coconut water as its is the perfect hydrator that replenishes the electrolytes in our bodies (almond or rice milk and sometimes even just filtered alkaline water works, too. Finally I add in a tablespoon of healthy oil like flaxseed, or an avocado for creaminess and Omega 3 and 6. For that extra punch, I add some Matcha tea powder or ginger or cayenne pepper and chia or hemp seeds. The possibilities are as great as your imagination...

Or just keep checking back for more juicing and smoothie recipes right here on my blog as well as my other great healthy recipes!

Here's to good health!

~ Marlies

Super Foods Green Smoothie


What you will need:
3 large ribs green or purple kale, torn 
4 stalks celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup musk melon cubes (like cantaloupe, casaba or honeydew)
1 avocado
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup coconut water or any type of milk (cow, almond, rice, soy)
1 tsp Matcha green tea powder
Optional: 4-5 ice cubes for a more slushy smoothie.

Place all ingredients in blender. Puree until smooth. Enjoy!



Friday, August 08, 2014

Kale, Beet and Berry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Kale is one of those super foods that everyone who dreams of longevity should really make a part of their weekly ritual - as many days a possible! I love kale raw, cooked, baked into kale chips and blended into my juices and smoothies. I bought some gorgeous golden and red beets at the market and boiled them for this vitamin loaded super salad. The Raspberries on our bushes are just about finished, but the blackberries are in full swing. I had just enough raspberries to make a beautiful vinaigrette dressing and a few to spare as a garnish. Added in toasted pumpkin seeds and this salad will give you enough vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and energy needed to get through any type of day!

What You Will Need
Salad:
6-8 cups fresh kale leaves (Costco sells pre-washed organic bagged mixed kale)
2 medium golden beets, 2 medium red beets, boiled in skins, cooled, then skins removed and diced
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup fresh raspberries and blackberries

Place kale greens in serving bowl; top with diced beets, red onion slices, pumpkin seeds and berries; serve with raspberry vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup avocado oil or grapeseed oil ( you want to use a mild flavoured oil)
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup crushed raspberries
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Whisk together vinegar, Dijon and honey; slowly whisk in oil until it forms an emulsion (thickens); stir in crushed berries; add salt and pepper to taste.


Easy Thai Fish Cakes with Spicy Peanut Sauce


I am a huge fan of Thai food, having travelled to this amazing country and having sampled the incredible, flavourful local cuisine. So much so, that I keep most typical Thai staple ingredients in my fridge and cupboard - like curry pastes, coconut milk, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass to name a few. 

I was at the fish market yesterday and picked up some local fresh cod and decided to make a fish cake, infusing the great exotic flavours of Thailand. The spicy, but tiny bit sweet peanut sauce is the perfect balance to the bold flavours in this delicious fish cake.

What You Will Need 

The Fish Cakes
350g fresh cod filets without skin, pin bones removed
1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 dried kaffir lime leaves, crumbled
1 egg white
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
*Panko bread crumbs
Coconut oil for shallow frying

The Peanut Sauce
1 small red Thai chilli with seeds (de-seed for milder sauce)
1 Tbsp Bragg's or low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
3 Tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter
4 Tbsp coconut milk

How Its Done

  1. Put the fish filets in a food processor with the fish sauce, curry paste, lime juice, garlic, lime leaves and egg white; process until a smooth paste forms.
  2. Stir in cilantro and process until just mixed. Divide mixture into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Flatten to make round patties and set aside.
  3. For the dip: finely chop Thai chilli; place in a small saucepan with remaining ingredients and heat gently - do not boil. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Place Panko crumbs in a shallow bowl; dip each fish cake into crumbs to coat evenly; shallow fry fish cakes in about 1 inch of coconut oil for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with spicy peanut sauce.
* Panko crumbs are available in Asian markets

Serves 4

Adapted from Quick and Easy Thai








Thursday, August 07, 2014

Rice Fettucine with Italian Sausage, Peas, Ricotta and Arugula



Instead of telling you a whole story about how I came up with this recipe, I am going to keep the comments to a minimum, because it all just came together...that easy!

So all I will say are these three words:

Delicious. Easy. Healthy. (oh, and its gluten free!)

I would love to know what you think so...please feel free to add any additional text in the comments section below... :) 

What You Will Need

400g package thick rice noodles (available in the Asian section of your supermarket)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 mild Italian sausages, (casings removed)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp basil pesto
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 bunch, about 2 cups fresh arugula, torn
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
Parmesano Reggiano, grated
Sea salt and pepper to taste

How Its Done

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; add sausages and break up with a fork; brown well and drain off excess fat; set aside.
  2. In the meantime boil rice fettucine (Asian thick rice noodles) according to package directions; drain.
  3. Toss hot pasta in skillet with Italian sausage, lemon juice, pesto, peas and arugula; heat through; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place pasta in serving bowls and top with dollops of ricotta, shavings of Parmesano Reggiano and fresh basil. 
Serves 4.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mar's Killer Kitchen Sink Ribs with Edamame Succotash





During BBQ season, I like to experiment with many different kinds of protein. In our summer kitchen, I tend to prepare more of the white meats and fish of course, with the addition of an occasional really good cut of steak and leave beef and pork stews and roasts for the colder months. Did you know that pork is actually considered a white meat? One of my three guys' favourite BBQ'd meats are pork ribs. I am always looking for ways to reduce fat and keep our meals as healthy as possible. As baby back ribs are pretty fatty, I discovered that if you boil them first to remove much of the fat, you end up with a much more tender and lean rib you can then toss into your favourite BBQ sauce and finish on the BBQ or in the oven. The key here is to boil them in a beautifully seasoned brine to impart all that wonderful flavour directly into the meat, so when you sink your teeth into those tender ribs, you are in BBQ heaven!

If you can get your hands on some free range/non medicated pork, I promise you that you will never go back to the conventional - it has so much more flavour, is more tender and of course is far healthier than the pork raised on meds in tight pens...


Last night I prepared my favourite rib recipe, one that I came up with once on a whim, when I rummaged through the fridge to find a cacophony of ready made sauces and raided my spice cupboard to bring together a pot of heaven to boil those beautiful baby back ribs in. I call this recipe my Killer Kitchen Sink Ribs, because, the brine has everything in it but the kitchen sink and well, its just 'killer'!

Okay, this recipe may seem a bit out of character for me as you know that I am all about sticking to healthy, real food...I will forewarn you - some of the ingredients I have used here are processed and I always try and avoid processed wherever possible, but in my opinion, if the majority of your diet consists of mainly unprocessed foods, then having something processed every now and again is not going to make you ill. Besides, once you taste these ribs, you won't even think about all the 'stuff' that's in them - kidding aside, if you read the ingredients on the back of most of the 'stuff' in my brine, its not all that sad a story anyway - there are far worse things in food that we don't even know about...

Here goes...did I say these are 'killer'...?

What you will need

The Brine (enough for 4 lbs baby back ribs, or 4 racks)


4 lbs baby back ribs

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
4 dashes Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup Thai Red Chilli Sauce
1/4 cup Bragg's or low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 canned beer
1 Tbsp Cajun Spice
1 Tbsp steak spice
4 bay leaves
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 cups water

Steak seasoning (like Montreal Steak Spice or Keg Steak Spice)
Your favourite BBQ sauce 

How its done


  1. Rinse and dry the rib racks and cut into halves or thirds, set aside. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large stock pot, except the beer - have a swig of the beer then add the rest of it to the pot, whisking to mix well. Add ribs and arrange so they are covered by the liquid. Heat pot over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and keep ribs at a gentle boil for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until meat begins to fall off the bone.
  2. Drain ribs and place on baking sheet. Season with steak seasoning; cover with foil until ready to BBQ or bake in oven (ribs can be refrigerated and stored in the fridge over night).
  3. When ready to BBQ, slather ribs in your favourite BBQ sauce and heat on a medium grill until the meat begins to caramelize and shows some nice grill marks. Ribs can also be finished off in a 350°F oven for about 20-25 minutes. Serves 4.


What you will need

The Edamame Succotash

2 Tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups frozen edamame beans, thawed
3 cups frozen peaches and cream corn, thawed
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large orange pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2-3 mini zucchini, cut into slices or 1 small zucchini, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped

How its done

  1. Heat EVOO in large skillet over medium high heat; add onions and garlic and cook just until onions are transparent; add peppers and continue to cook until they begin to soften; add edamame beans, corn and zucchini, toss well and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice; sprinkle with fresh basil. Serves 4-6  







Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Blackberry Mint Sorbet with Vanilla Tuiles


Last week I posted two beautiful blueberry recipes to celebrate berry season. A pretty blueberry tart and a gorgeous blueberry and white chocolate mousse. This week I am continuing with the berry theme, this time showcasing the succulent blackberrry. Today's post is all about turning the sweet and tangy blackberry into a refreshing cold summer treat: mmmm, sorbet. And to make it extra special, I have included my recipe for vanilla tuiles, so you can not only enjoy your frozen treat, but also eat the bowl! 

Our back lane has literally disappeared into a sea of blackberry bushes, so thick that one needs to go in wearing full body armour to harvest these pretty little jewels. After picking for about 10 minutes, the yield can easily reach about 2 pounds or more. And with the fabulous hot sun beating down on the thicket, each day brings on another onslaught of berries just waiting to be picked. Its just so tough to keep up!



You will need an ice cream machine for this recipe, as there is just no comparison to the creamy texture achieved using this method. I have tried the manual method, freezing the liquid in a baking pan and checking on it every 30 minutes to stir it so the ice crystals don't turn it into a frozen mess - and trust me, it is worth every $ spent to use an automated ice cream machine - and  so dead easy. If you factor in the cost of buying a premium brand of ice cream, gelato or sorbet, the machine will pay for itself after a summer.


What you will need:


For the sorbet
1- 1/4 cups berry sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 cup water
3 cups fresh blackberries
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Zest of 1/2 lime

For the Tuiles
3/4 cup berry sugar (or granulated sugar)
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Small dessert bowl and wooden spoon for shaping


How Its Done

Sorbet
1. Make the simple syrup:
- combine the sugar, water and mint leaves in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until sugar is completely dissolved, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat; Stir for a few minutes to cool; remove mint leaves and pour into glass measuring cup and place in freezer to cool completely while preparing the blackberries.

2. Puree the berries:
- pick through the blackberries removing any debris, or suspect looking berries - rinse in colander and set aside to drain; place in rerfigerator until simple syrup is well chilled.
When the simple syrup is chilled, puree the berries. Process on high until the berries are pureed and liquified. Transfer mixture to a mesh strainer and push pulp through with a wooden spoon to remove the seeds. This process will take some muscle - keep pushing the pulp through the strainer until you are left with almost only seeds. Return mixture to food processor; add simple syrup and lime juice; pulse until combined; place in refrigerator or freezer until well chilled.

3. Make the sorbet:
- pour your prepared mixture into the ice cream maker (as per manufacturer's directions). I have a Cuisinart, so my sorbet processed for about 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add the lime zest. Your sorbet should look like melted ice cream. Pour into a glass storage container with lid and place in freezer for several hours until firm, but still scoop-able. 

Makes about 4 cups of sorbet

Tuiles

* Note - this may look like it is waaay too difficult, but it really isn't - seriously, anyone can make these!

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar until well combined, but not foamy; whisk in the melted butter; add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth - do not over-mix. Batter will be thick, not pourable; refrigerate batter for at least 1 hour, ideally 2-3 hours.
2. Start off by making only 1 or 2 cookies for practice until you have it down, as they firm up very quickly once removed from the oven and can only be shaped while soft.

Scoop a small amount of the batter onto a Silpat/or parchment lined cookie sheet or a well greased cookie sheet; for the bowls, spread into a thin circle using a metal spatula or flat knife. Your circle should be about 1 1/2" to 2" larger than the widest part of your dessert bowl - the size of the shape will not change during baking; for the spirals, spread the batter into a 5-6" long narrow strip. Bake in a 300°F oven for about 7-9 minutes, until lightly browned. 

Have your dessert bowls and wooden spoon ready. Remove the baking sheet from the oven; after about 5-7 seconds, gently remove the baked circle from the pan using a metal spatula; quickly mould into the dessert bowl, pressing gently until cool - it will harden quickly. Gently lift the strip off the baking tray and drape around the handle of the wooden spoon, in a spiral. Once cool, slide off the handle. If the tuiles are too hard to mould, return to oven for a minute or so and try again. Store cooled tuiles in an air tight container.  

Scoop sorbet into tuile bowls just before serving as they are delicate and will soften with the moisture of the sorbet. 

Makes many, many shapes and sizes of tuile cookies - recipe can be halved.


Adapted from Fine Cooking and The Hungry Mouse













Friday, August 01, 2014

Asian Turkey And Quinoa Lettuce Wraps And Apple Fennel Slaw


With the summer heat, I often just want to eat a meal that is light, yet still tasty and satisfying. Last night we had just that - Asian inspired turkey and quinoa lettuce wraps with a crisp apple and fennel slaw and home made sweet chilli and lemongrass sauce. I must tell you, this recipe is going on my regular list, it was that delicious! 

Make lots of this filling and take the leftovers to work for lunch or have it for dinner again the next night!

What you will need:

For the filling:


2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 pounds ground turkey
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 tbsp Bragg's soy seasoning or low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp Kecup Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup daikon radish, diced
2 cups cooked quinoa
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
5 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 heads iceberg lettuce
Sweet chilli and lemongrass sauce (recipe to follow) or purchased Thai sweet chilli sauce

For the slaw:
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 large apple, grated and tossed in a squeeze of fresh lime juice to prevent discoloration
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, grated
2 Tbsp minced red onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Seasoned rice vinegar (available in Asian section of supermarket - contains sugar and salt)
Sesame oil
Grapeseed oil
Sea salt and pepper


How its done:

The Filling
1. Heat coconut oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan; add ground turkey and fry until nicely browned, draining off any excess fat as needed; remove from pan and set aside.
2. To pan, add garlic, yellow onions and red bell pepper and saute until onions are transparent and peppers are barely cooked, about 5 minutes. 
3. Stir in hoisin sauce, soy sauce, kecup manis and ginger; add turkey mixture; gently fold in daikon radish and quinoa until combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer filling to a large serving bowl; Sprinkle with green onions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve family style with lettuce leaf 'cups' and a drizzle of sweet chilli and lemongrass sauce. 

Makes 8 - 10 servings.

The Slaw
Place first 7 ingredients in a serving bowl; dress salad as desired with a sprinkling of rice vinegar, sesame oil and grapeseed oil; toss gently and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 6

Sweet chilli and lemongrass sauce:

What you will need
1/4 cup finely grated ginger
3 large mild red chillies, seeded and shredded
1-2 hot Thai chillis, with seeds, shredded
1/2 stalk fresh lemongrass, outer layers peeled away, then sliced in quarters lengthwise
1/2 cup berry sugar (fine granulated sugar_
1/2 cup white vinegar
Juice of half a lime
3 Tbsp fish sauce (available in the Asian section of your supermarket)

How its done
1. Place ginger, lemongrass, chillies, sugar, vinegar, lime juice and fish sauce in a saucepan over medium-high heat and boil for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove lemongrass. Allow to cool. Serve drizzled over lettuce wraps. 



Adapted from Donna Hay (instant entertaining) and The Comfort Of Cooking



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blueberry And White Chocolate Mousse With Buttery Nut Brittle

Blueberry season is in full swing and since buying a flat of these sweet glistening beauties earlier this week, I have transformed some into a beautiful Blueberry Tart and an easy and pretty White Chocolate Mousse. The blueberries are suspended like small jewels in this light mousse with its hints of ginger and nutmeg. Served with a few shards of crunchy almond, cashew and coconut brittle and you have the perfect sweet ending to any meal.

What you will need

Mousse:
3 Tbsps water
2 tsp gelatin powder
5 oz good quality white chocolate, like Callebaut or Lindt 
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp ground ginger powder
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup fresh blueberries

Nut Brittle:
What I love about this recipe, is that the brittle is made without corn syrup (which comes from GMO corn) and the results are equally as fabulous if not better!

1-1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts (whole natural almonds, cashews, almond slices and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes), you should have a ratio of about 1 cup of almonds with the remaining nuts equalling 1/2 cup
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp baking soda

Makes about 2-1/2 cups of brittle - this recipe can easily be doubled

Here's how its done:

For the Mousse:
1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly with the gelatin powder; let stand until the gelatin absorbs the water
2. Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until smooth
3. Add the gelatin mixture and stir for 1 minute to dissolve
4. Remove from heat and place mixture in a bowl; whisk in ginger and nutmeg then stir for about 3 minutes or until cooled; stir through the blueberries and pour into 6 - 1 cup capacity serving glasses
5. Refrigerate for 45-60 minutes to set

*Note: I used 1/3 cup mini serving glasses in the photos - this will yield about 18 mini glasses, which are perfect for a party. You can also do 1/2 cup servings to yield 12.


For the Nut Brittle:
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan and over medium-high heat, combine water, sugar and salt; when the mixture comes to a gentle boil set your timer for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, clip it onto the edge of the pan with the mercury part in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan)
2. Stirring occasionally, but watching closely (don't walk away), boil until the color changes to a very light amber. This should take about 10 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan and the type of burner you are using. As soon as the color is right (or the candy thermometer reaches 300F) immediately take the pan off the burner. 
3. Working quickly and continuously, add the butter, vanilla and baking soda (its best to have everything measured out ahead of time, because this step is time sensitive). The mixture will foam up. Continue stirring until the foam subsides and the mixture starts to get glossy.
4. Stir in the nuts all at once and quickly turn mixture out onto a silicone mat, greased parchment-lined or very well greased baking sheet.
5. With a rubber spatula, flatten mixture to desired thickness and allow to cool about 20 minutes, until brittle.


Adapted from Donna Hay ( The Instant Cook) and Average Betty


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh Blueberry Tart - Hail The Beautiful Blueberry!

It's blueberry season! I picked up a case of fresh local berries and couldn't wait to transform them into some beautiful desserts. This week I will be posting two recipes using these succulent berries including this delicious tart. A very dear friend of mine gave me the original recipe for this beautiful dessert several years ago and it's been a crowd favourite ever since (I have adapted it slightly). 

One of the best parts about this tart (aside from the shortbread-like crust) is the double layers of berries - one layer is baked into the tart shell, while the other is piled fresh on top right when the tart comes out of the oven. I can't decide if I prefer the gooey baked berries over the fresh tart crunchy ones on top, but the combination of the two is truly a match made in heaven!


What you will need: (I have used mainly organic ingredients here, but conventional ones will give an equally beautiful result)

Crust:

1 cup organic all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1/2 cup unsalted organic butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp white vinegar

Filling:
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp organic all purpose flour
Scant 2/3 cups organic cane sugar
1/4 tsp organic cinnamon
Pinch or 2 of freshly ground nutmeg

Additional 2 cups fresh blueberries
Icing sugar for dusting


How it's done:

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. To bowl of food processor add flour, salt and sugar; pulse until combined. Add butter chunks, scattering evenly over flour mixture; process on pulse until texture looks like coarse breadcrumbs; sprinkle vinegar evenly over top and continue to pulse just until dough comes together
2. Empty dough into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9" spring form pan and press firmly to cover bottom and 1" up the sides of the pan. Gently prick crust with tines of fork and place in refrigerator until ready to fill
3. Place 3 cups berries in medium bowl; in separate bowl combine remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle over berries and toss gently to combine; pour into prepared tart shell; set pan on top of cookie sheet (to catch possible drips); bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes
4. Remove tart from oven and immediately pour remaining 2 cups of berries evenly over top. Set aside to cool (tart can be served slightly warm out of the pan, but may run a bit)

Just before serving, dust lightly with icing sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Serves 8


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prosciutto Chevre Crostini

While we are on the topic of great summer noshes, I would like to share another one of my favourites, which I adapted from one of my frequent go-to cookbooks Instant Entertaining by Donna Hay. This one takes a bit more time to prepare, but can be made in advance and quickly assembled at the last moment just before guests arrive. I like to serve this delicious Italian inspired appetizer with a cool Campari cocktail or a crisp Prosecco.

Crunchy garlic crostini are topped with Prosciutto and sage-wrapped Chevre (goat's cheese) then warmed in the oven and finally glazed with a sweet fig jam. Caution: you may want to double this recipe, as these babies will disappear FAST!



What you will need:

1 454g log goat's cheese, carefully sliced into 24 slices
12 slices Prosciutto ham, halved lengthwise
24 fresh sage leaves plus 3-4 thinly sliced for garnish
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
24 thin slices baguette
Olive oil for brushing
1 jar fig jam

How its done:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place slices of baguette on a large cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until toasted and lightly browned, flip over slices and toast another 5-10 minutes; remove from oven and leave until cool enough to handle; rub each crostini with the halved garlic cloves, then brush lightly with olive oil; set aside on baking tray.
2. Place a sage leaf on top of each slice of goat's cheese, letting the leaf overlap slightly at one end; wrap a piece of Prosciutto around each slice of goat's cheese (at this stage the Prosciutto bundles can be placed in a sealed container and refrigerated for several hours until ready to serve).
3. Place each bundle on top of a crostini and bake for 10-12 minutes or until goat's cheese has melted; garnish with a dollop of fig jam and a sprinkle of sliced fresh sage leaves.

Makes 24 canapes.

Salute!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Esquites - Memories of the Elote Cafe in Sedona, Arizona

In January I had the privilege of staying in Sedona, Arizona where I attended an amazing two week healing program. I have always loved south-west cuisine and so it was on my radar to find a restaurant that would satisfy my craving for such local food. As small as Sedona is, it has a plethora of restaurants to chose from to please almost every palate.

One of my favourites is the Elote Cafe, a hip south-western style restaurant that prides itself on dishing up a menu made up of up-scale Mexican street food using fresh, local ingredients.

One of their signature dishes (named after Elote, which in Mexico refers to grilled corn on the cob doused in butter, cheese, chili powder, mayonnaise and lemon or lime juice - and also holds the same name as the restaurant), is a twist on the traditional street version. The ingredients are instead served up as a deliciously decadent hot dip alongside freshly fried corn tortilla chips. In certain parts of Mexico this version is called Esquites.

This dish is the perfect indulgence not only for a casual hot summer evening served with Margaritas, Sangria or Coronas, but also as a soul-warming comfort food in the long cold winter months. The best part is that its a snap to prepare - you put all the ingredients in a pot and heat it and Velado!

My recipe is an adaptation of the Elote Cafe's own chef Jeff Smedstad's, with the time-saving use of frozen organic peaches and cream corn niblets and queso fresco cheese. I could bathe in this dip, it is that good...


You will need:

2 cups frozen corn niblets, thawed and drained (I used organic from Costco)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco (reduce amount to 1/2 Tbsp for less heat)
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice plus 1 tsp zest
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your corn is)
2 Tbsp good chicken stock - preferably low sodium
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
Pinch chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
75g  Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled (Mexican style farmers cheese)
or 2 Tbsp regular farmers cheese, grated
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Corn tortilla chips (preferably organic or at least non GMO)

Here's how its done:

In a medium saucepan, heat mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime juice, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper, chili flakes and chili powder. When the mixture comes just to a boil, add the corn kernels and queso fresco cheese; heat through. Don't continue to boil, or the mixture will begin to separate. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve on a platter along with corn tortilla chips.



Buen provecho! and...Salud!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer's Eve Beach BBQ

What could possibly be better than enjoying a warm summer evening dining Al Fresco? Doing it at the beach of course! I have put together a very simple menu, which can be assembled in less than an hour and packed into a cooler to enjoy in the great outdoors.

A salad of fresh greens with succulent local strawberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and creamy goat cheese in a tangy Dijon and stone-ground mustard vinaigrette and a zesty, citrusy quinoa salad with crunchy peppers and peas are served along with BBQ'd organic turkey sausages. Add a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc and some chilled lemon water and enjoy!


Zesty-Citrusy Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked quinoa (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 white quinoa) or 2 cups quinoa cooked per package directions, cooled
1 orange pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sweet pea pods sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 orange plus zest
Juice of 1 lime plus zest
Juice of 1 lemon plus zest
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper

Method:

1. Combine salad ingredients, except Parmesan in medium sized bowl; set aside. 
2. In bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vinegar and juices; add honey and continue to whisk until well blended; add salt, pepper and citrus zest; slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing thickens; adjust seasonings if needed.
3. Pour enough dressing over quinoa salad to moisten, about 1/2 cup; the quinoa will absorb some of the dressing immediately; add more as needed; stir in Parmesan; transfer to container with tight fitting lid.  

Serves 4



Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups tightly packed spinach leaves
2 cups tightly packed arugula leaves
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese (Chevre) crumbled
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp stone-ground mustard
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 fresh mint leaves, chopped

Method:

1.Mix salad greens and red onion in bowl/container with tight fitting lid; top with sliced strawberries and pumpkin seeds; crumble goat cheese over top.

2. In bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, mustards and honey and continue to whisk until well blended; add salt and pepper; slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing thickens; stir in mint; adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve dressing on the side.

Serves 4

These salads pair well with any protein, including fish, chicken, beef, sausages...quinoa salad is a great option for vegetarians, as it is a grain that also contains natural protein.




Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Lamb Stew with Irish Soda Bread


"Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes... That's the Irish for you!"

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I am far from Irish, but I do really love an Ireland inspired lamb stew, so I cooked up an easy-peasy supper for tonight complete with a fool proof recipe for a quick Irish Soda Bread baked in a cast iron frying pan. 

You may notice the repetition of the number 4 in this recipe - that's for good luck - unless of course you have found your very own 4 leaf clover...

P.S. And don't be afraid to crack open a Guinness or two, which will go brilliantly with this meal!

Here's how its done:

Irish Lamb Stew

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds boneless lamb leg, cut into cubes ( I used 2 lamb leg chops)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, washed, trimmed, de-sanded and sliced into 1" slices
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" rounds
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
4-6 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp steak spice
Pinch of red chilli flakes
4 small bay leaves
4 potatoes peeled and cut into 2" dice

Sea salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish


Method:
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heated on medium-high, fry bacon until lightly browned; add lamb cubes and continue to brown. Add onion and saute until onion is translucent; add carrots and leeks and continue to saute for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add red wine to de-glaze the pan; add tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, steak spice, chilli flakes and bay leaves; stir to combine.
  3. Bring to a boil and add potatoes; reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for about 1 1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender; adjust seasoning.
Note: when using lamb leg, the meat will start out very tender, then become a bit tough once its cooked to well-done at the saute stage. But after the 1 1/2 hour cooking time, the meat will be very tender again. You may substitute lamb shoulder in this recipe and cook it the same way.

Serves 8

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat four
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a cast iron skillet with butter; set aside.
  2. Measure milk into measuring cup; add vinegar and lemon juice and stir to combine; let stand 10 minutes until curdled.
  3. In mixing bowl, blend flours, salt and baking soda; add melted butter and curdled milk mixture and stir with wooden spoon just until combined.
  4. Turn out onto floured cutting board; dust lightly with flour and shape into a mound, smoothing the top; gently lift into cast iron pan; sprinkle with seeds; bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes, until top is lightly browned and toothpick inserted comes out clean; cool on wire rack.
*(adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com).



Happy St. Paddy's Day!