Saturday, June 20, 2015

FARRO VEGETABLE SALAD

I have been thinking of the ancient grain farro recently and wanting to cook up a batch for different uses.  Using my rice cooker, which can be used for other things besides rice, I cooked two cups of farro which made about four cups of cooked grain.  Farro has a wonderful nutty taste to it and I have written about farro in a previous post einkorn berry salad.

Besides adding farro to salads, I will use it over the next few days as an alternate to rice and as a cereal for breakfast.  I think farro would be a great in the morning instead of oatmeal as a cold muesli with berries and yogurt.

Instead of making one big bowl of salad for supper to serve two people, I like to make individual salad bowls.  The ingredients listed here are for one individual bowl of salad and you can just multiply the amounts if making for a number of people.   I used grapefruit flavour balsamic vinegar which has a nice taste in a vegetable salad.  You can add other vegetables to the salad than those listed in the recipe.


Cooked farro in a bowl

Vegetables piled over the farro.

Dressing has been added and all of the ingredients are combined.
INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

1/2 cup cooked farro
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/4 coloured pepper, chopped
small chunk of cucumber, coarsely diced
1/2 cooked beet, coarsely diced
1/4 avocado, chopped

Dressing

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, flavoured
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp maple or agave syrup

Using a medium size soup/salad bowl, add the farro to the bowl.  Separate the kernels with a fork.  Add the vegetables.  Mix the dressing and pour over the salad. Combine well and serve.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

UPSIDE DOWN RHUBARB CAKE

With rhubarb growing in the garden, I like to look for different recipes.  This recipe is like a pineapple upside down cake.  I used a springform pan instead of a regular pan or a pie plate.  I thought it would be easier to invert it after it was baked.  The problem with using a springform pan is that the rhubarb will leak out of the seams on the bottom of the pan and make a mess in the oven.  After I realized that the rhubarb was leaking out of the pan I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper, placed the springform pan on the sheet and continued baking the cake.  Another change I made was using splenda instead of sugar. 

The cake turned out to be simply delicious and the DH said that I outdid myself with this cake.

Rhubarb, jam and sugar mixture spread on bottom of pan.



Cake batter spread over the rhubarb.
Springform sides taken off of the cake pan.  Ready to invert the cake into a plate.

Cake inverted so rhubarb is on top.

Sampling is starting. 


INGREDIENTS
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla, or 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:
Slice the rhubarb into small pieces. Place in a medium-size bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat the bottom and side of a 9-inch cake pan or a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate with 1 tbsp butter.

Place jam in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, until melted.  Pour the jam over rhubarb and stir to evenly coat.  Evenly sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over bottom of cake pan or pie plate. Spoon rhubarb mixture over the sugar and evenly spread it out.

In a medium-size bowl, using a fork, stir flour with baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 2/3 cup butter until creamy, then beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until evenly mixed, occasionally scraping down side of bowl. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat in almond and vanilla extracts.

Gradually beat in half the flour mixture, then half of milk. Repeat additions and mix until blended.  Batter will be thick.  Spoon evenly over rhubarb to completely cover, then smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 35 minutes and check to see if it is done.  It may need 10 or so more minutes.  If the top is a deep golden brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil. When done, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Then run a knife around edge of cake. Invert onto a large cake plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Other Options:

You can use other fruit beside rhubarb to make this cake.  I used frozen blueberries to make this cake a second time and it was delicious.  I used the same proportions of fruit, three cups.  It is best to let the cake cool down before you flip it over as it take times for the berries to solidify.  Instead of using a springform pan, I used a 9 inch round cake pan.




Adapted from www.chatelaine.com

Saturday, May 30, 2015

BLACK LENTIL RISOTTO

I recently saw this recipe in a magazine that was promoting careers and opportunities at a polytechnical school.  The Red Seal Chef who was being profiled, has made black lentil risotto as a side dish to go with a variety of entrees.  Black lentils are also called beluga lentils because of their shape and colour.  They look like beluga caviar when cooked.  In my stock pile of lentils I just had brown and red lentils and an old bag of french lentils.  You can substitute french lentils for black lentils but I wanted to try black lentils so I went shopping and bought french green lentils, green lentils and black lentils.  I like lentils and they are my favourite bean along with chick peas.  I am now stocked up with many kinds of lentils ready to be cooked in a variety of ways.

The recipe turned out great and both the DH and I enjoyed it.  The richness of the risotto comes from the parmesan cheese.  The recipe does not use a lot of cheese.  I did take photos of the risotto cooking in the pan and in a serving dish but the colour of the risottos was dark and did not look as good as it really tasted.  I decided to take of photo of it on a dinner plate.

Vegetables cooking in the pan.


Black lentils added to the vegetables.

Risotto is served with chicken wings, roasted mushrooms and salad.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrots
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup black lentils
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse and drain the black lentils.  Heat the chicken stock.  I heated the stock in the microwave for two minutes.  

Heat the butter in a large frying pan on a high temperature.  Add the shallot, carrot, celery and garlic and reduce the heat to medium.  Saute until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened.  Add the washed lentils to the pan and stir until the lentils are mixed throughout the vegetables.  

Add two cups of the stock and keep on stirring for a minute.  As the liquid gets absorbed add 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the lentils are al dente.  Stir frequently.  After most of the stock is absorbed, add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and is mixed throughout the dish.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4 to 6. 

Adapted from chef Rob Harrison.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

MOROCCAN LENTIL SOUP

I have a few books written by Leslie Beck, including nutrition and cookbooks.  I like her philosophy on nutrition.  This moroccan lentil soup had ingredients that I had in the kitchen pantry and also looked good to have for lunches during the week.   I did modify some of the spices to my own taste buds.   Both the DH and I enjoyed this soup for lunches.



INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
8 cups broth or water
1 cup green or brown lentils
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a large soup pot on a high temperature.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, reduce heat to medium and sauté for five minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for another three minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, bring the pot to a boil, cover it with a lid and then reduce the heat to a simmer.   Cook for an hour.   Using a hand blender, puree the soup until everything is blended.  Serves 8.

Adapted from 'Leslie Beck's Healthy Kitchen'.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

HOKA RUNNING SHOES

The kind of shoes you wear have a huge impact on how your body feels and works.  Wearing the wrong shoes affects your back, shins, hips, knees, leg muscles and feet.  To complicate it, there are many different makes of running shoes and models to choose from.  I have worn a number of different makes of running shoes over the years.  I wear running shoes when participating in a variety of sports/exercises and also to wear as casual shoes for out and about.  When I first started to run I wore shoes that were not right for my feet and I ended up with foot problems.  I had to replace running with swimming laps until the inflammation subsided.  The problem got corrected by using an orthotic insert in my running shoes and wearing motion control shoes.  My running days have since transformed into walking days.  Regardless of whether you are walking or running, you need to wear well constructed shoes because your feet are pounding the ground.

Stinson lite and Bondi models.
A friend of ours told the DH about Hoka running shoes that he had purchased in the U.S.  I hadn't heard of these shoes before this friend talked about them.  After hearing about these shoes, both the DH and I decided to visit our local walking/running store and give them a try.  These shoes are softly cushioned, create a rocking motion when you walk in them, are light, and are very comfortable.  I found that I can actually walk faster wearing these shoes.

These two models that I wear - the Stinson lite and the Bondi, are for different uses.  I didn't plan on getting two pairs of shoes.  I found the Hoka shoes so comfortable for walking the dog that I decided to get a pair for casual wear.  Because of the accumulative mileage I put on walking the dog, the way I heel strike and the dirt that collects on the soils of the shoes, I wear my walking shoes just for walking.  I wear the Bondi model for walking and the Stinson lite for casual use.

These shoes are a different look than the sleek look of the Nike air shoes that Mick Jagger wears but your feet and gait feels great when you are wearing them and do have some style to them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

SMOKED SALMON APPETIZERS

Smoked salmon is one of my favourite foods.  There are many different kinds of smoked salmon.  I usually gravitate to a lox style of salmon from a sockeye fish.

I made these as an appetizer for a recent supper with friends.   They were thoroughly enjoyed.  I like to add ample strips of salmon to each piece of bread and I may have gone a bit overboard with these.




INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

loaf of a french baguette bread
fresh herbs - chives, dill
cream cheese
capers
salmon
fresh lemon

1. Thinly slice a loaf of french baguette bread.  Factor 2 to 3 slices per person as part of the appetizer selection.
2. Place onto a cookie sheet and put into a preheated oven at 300 degrees F.
3. Bake for 5 - 8 minutes or until the slices appear toasted.  You don't want to brown them.  Remove from the oven.
4. Spread each slice of bread with cream cheese.  I used a low fat variety.
5. If you have fresh chives or dill, chop these herbs into small pieces and place a few pieces on top of the cream cheese on each slice of bread.
6. Place a few capers on top of the cream cheese for each slice of bread if you like capers.
7. Layer a piece of smoked salmon on top of each slice of bread.  I cut the strips of thinly sliced smoked salmon into small pieces so that it would be easier to eat before I put it on top of the bread.  I was generous with the amounts of salmon added.
8. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon over each slice of bread.
9. If not eating right away, store in the fridge and cover the plate with plastic wrap.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

RICE, BLACK BEANS AND VEGETABLES

Instead of making the weekly big pot of soup for lunches, I decided to make a pot of rice, beans and vegetables.  I like black beans and combining them with rice and vegetables makes a nice meal.  For rice I used brown basmati rice as I wanted to use a rice that is not sticky.   I didn't have fresh cilantro in the fridge but would have added it so I included it in the ingredients.  This can also be served as a side dish but I will eat it as part of my main meal for lunches.  A cup and a half of this dish will cover both my protein and carb intake for lunch.

Vegetables sautéing in the big frying pan.

Cooking for the last few minutes in the pan.
INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
1- 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 red or other coloured pepper, diced
1 1/4 cups brown rice, uncooked
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
1 can (19 ozs, 540 ml) of drained black beans
3 - 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin

DIRECTIONS:

Using a large frying pan, heat the oil on a high temperature.  Add the onions, garlic, celery and pepper, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté for five minutes.  Add the rice and water and cook on low heat until the rice is cooked (30 minutes).  Add the beans, chopped tomatoes and spices and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Serves 4 to 5 as part of a main meal.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

EDAMAME AND CORN SALAD

Buying fresh corn on the cob lends itself to a number of ways to cook it or add to recipes.  I do like eating cooked corn just on the cob with some butter, salt and pepper but I also like adding corn to salads.  Edamame beans and corn are good combination.  I buy a box of frozen edamame beans in their shell and use them in a variety of ways.  This recipe calls for balsamic vinegar and I used lemon flavoured balsamic vinegar.  If you like the taste of lemon, you can add some lemon juice to the recipe.  Both the DH and I enjoyed this salad.  


INGREDIENTS:

1 cup edamame beans
2 cups cooked fresh or frozen corn
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste


DIRECTIONS:

Mix ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Serves 2 to 4 depending on whether this is a side dish or more of a main dish.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

GREEK STYLE BAKED RIBS

Ribs are a popular item to make and for some of my friends, it is their favourite meal to have.  I decided to make a variation of a recipe I already make for greek ribs.  This recipe consists of two parts.  First is marinating them in lemon juice for a few hours, followed by the addition of oil, garlic and herbs and  baking them in the oven at a low heat.  Since the package of meat that I bought at Costco was large, I decided to split the package into two large zip lock bags and prep the second package but freeze it instead of baking all of the meat.  By prepping the ribs in advance and freezing them, the ribs will just require thawing and then baking for a future supper.


INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 to 3 lbs lean pork ribs
1/3 cup lemon juice
olive oil
garlic powder
dried oregano flakes
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the strip of ribs into small pieces; 2 to 3 ribs per piece.  Place in a zip lock bag.   Add the lemon juice to the bag.  Roll the juice around the ribs and flip the bag a few times.  Place the bag in the fridge and flip the bag over every 30 minutes.  The ribs should marinate in the bag with the lemon juice for at least two hours.

Remove the ribs from the zip lock bag.  Place the ribs meat side up on a baking rack that fits into a roasting pan.  Brush each piece with olive oil.  Generously sprinkle garlic powder and oregano over each piece of rib.  Add salt and pepper according to your taste buds.  Cover the pan tightly with a lid or tin foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 300 degrees F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  If you only have 2 1/2 hours to cook the ribs, after 2 hours at 300 degrees F, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F for the last 25 or 30 minutes.  Serves 3 to 4.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

LEMON CHICKEN

I love the combination of lemon and capers in different recipes.  Lemon chicken or chicken piccata does not require many ingredients.  It is a great dish to serve when entertaining as it is not spicy, can be served with rice, potatoes, couscous or quinoa.  I made this dish to serve four and it could have fed six people.

I used frozen chicken breasts for this recipe.  I let them thaw and before they were totally thawed I sliced each one horizontally into four pieces.  I wanted to have the meat less thick.  Cutting the meat up this way creates more pieces to cook so I used two large frying pans.  You can use one pan and cook half the meat and then cook the remaining half.  I didn't want to take more time to cook the chicken so I used two pans to brown and cook the chicken.  After the meat is cooked, you make the sauce in one pan and then add the chicken back to cook for five more minutes.

The lemon chicken tasted great and I served it with brown basmati rice, salad and roasted brussel sprouts.  Everyone enjoyed the meal and there was enough leftovers for another supper for two.

Too much chicken in one pan so I got a second frying pan going. 

Ready to eat.

INGREDIENTS:

4 skinless, boneless medium size chicken breasts
1/3 to 1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
3 to 5 tbsp of olive oil for sautéing the chicken
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup capers
small handful of parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Cut each chicken breast into four long strips.  If you can only cut three strips per breast, that is okay.  Pat the chicken with a paper towel in case it is not dry enough for dredging with flour.  Put the flour into a plastic bag in order to coat the chicken with flour.  Add a little bit of salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the bag, close the bag and shake the chicken in the bag.

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil and when it is hot, place the chicken in the pan.  If the chicken is too crammed in the pan it will be harder to cook.  If required, heat a second frying pan with oil to cook the balance of the chicken.  Reduce heat to medium and cook the chicken on both sides until it is nicely brown and well cooked.  This should take about 12 to 15 minutes depending on your stove.  Remove the chicken and place it on a plate.  Add the lemon juice, capers and stock to the pan.  Scrape the pan to get the material that stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Add the chicken back to the pan and the parsley and cook for five minutes on medium to low heat.  Remove the chicken and place on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chicken.  Serves 4 to 6.