Sunday, August 31, 2008

Italian Turkey Meatballs with Pasta and Arugula Pesto

I've constantly read about arugula pesto, but never got around to trying it out because the fact that arugula is a bitter herb just doesn't seem to translate well into pesto, which I associate with the sweet, green fragrance of basil. Today though, I needed to finish off the remaining arugula I had left from my arugula and beet recipe a few days ago. Combining that with my penchant for pasta and some quick Italian meatballs, it was a satisfying and somewhat healthy lunch which I paired with a half a glass of Moondah Brook chenin blanc from Australia.

Italian Turkey Meatballs with Pasta and Arugula Pesto
Serves 2

Italian Meatballs
6 oz. ground turkey
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Arugula Pesto
1.5 cup arugula leaves
1.5 tbsp pine nuts
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano

For the pasta
4 oz. pasta
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

To prepare the arugula pesto, process all ingredients in a food processor, adding the oil as you continue processing.

In a bowl, combine all ingredient for the meatball. Shape into 1-inch balls.

Prepare pasta according to directions, drain and keep warm in the pot.

Heat one tablespoon of oil and add in the meatballs. Fry for about 1 minute and add in diced tomatoes. Simmer for 6-7 minutes until the meatballs are cooked. Add in the pasta and toss to combine. Serve on plates topped with the arugula pesto and grated Parmigiano.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jaffa Cakes

There are lots of British food that are hard to come by in America. I'm a big Anglophile, having grown up in a country where Tesco and good old Marks and Spencer's were bigger names than the regular Safeway. One of my favourite British food is of course Marmite, which a lot of non-British people find revolting (left-over beer fermentation! like, grosssss). Another one of my favourite British delicacy, and which I have not seen anywhere yet since I've been in Seattle, is Jaffa Cakes.

There have been tons of discussion about what jaffa cakes really are - biscuits or cakes? Should they have butter or not? What's McVities' secret, etc, etc. So I went out in search of the perfect jaffa cake recipe and was surprised to see a dearth of jaffa cake recipes out in the virtual world. I did find this site though, that gave a really scanty baking guideline. I decided to take the recipe given in stride and concoct my own jaffery goodness. While the final product turned out pretty good (I think), I haven't yet mustered the tactic to having crispier edges with a soft middle. Oh well, this will have to do for now.

Jaffa Cakes
Makes 12

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pure granulated sugar (fine white sugar)
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/4 cup marmalade
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips

Hand whisk together eggs and sugar until they become fluffy and the whisk leaves a ribbon when it is lifted from the mixture.

Sieve in the flour, add in the orange peel and baking powder and whisk until just combined.

Spoon 1tbsp of batter into an unlined mini-muffin tin. Be sure to grease them with some vegetable based spray if the tin is not non-stick.

Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes until cakes are slightly browned and soft and spring to touch. When baked, remove from baking tin and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler or using a bowl set in a saucepan of water, gently melt the chocolate chips over very low heat.

Put a dollop of marmalade on each cake and top with melted chocolate. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour until chocolate sets. At this point, the jaffa cakes can be left at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Banana, Oat and Raisin Wholewheat Muffins

And once again it's the weekend, which means a heart-healthy (or is that health-hearty?) breakfast. I decided this morning that I wasn't going to be terribly liberal with the pounds, fat and dairy, so I made some rather filling banana muffins (oof!) that will last me through the latter part of morning, and hopefully straight through lunch.

I'm still wondering if I should head down the Seattle Center and catch Bumbershoot, where at least two of my favourite bands are playing today AND they have a show called "Apocalypse in Coney Island: A Bumberlesque Cabaret" (how can one miss that?!). While I ponder, have a heart-healthy, health-hearty muffin recipe.

And in case you haven't noticed, I'm trying to improve on my food photography, because I apparently suck at it; my food looks like it's been thrown together for a bunch of hyenas (bad food composition, wtf), and I suffer from Parkinson's disease (blurry shots, unsteady hands etc). So if you have any suggestions, like: STOP COOKING! or STOP SPAMMING FOODGAWKER! or YOU BLOODY NEED A TRIPOD!, let me know.

Banana, Oat and Raisin Wholewheat Muffins
Makes 4 large muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp milled flaxseed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 banana, pureed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup raisins
1 tbsp rolled oats for sprinkling
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a fork. Set the oven at 425°F. Puree 1 banana in a food processor.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg until fluffy. Add in the oil, milk, banana puree and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and gently pour the egg mixture into the well. Using a spatula, fold the ingredients together. Do NOT use a mixer. After folding the batter about 7 times, add in the raisins and nuts. Fold again for another 13 times to make up 20 times that you stir the batter.

Line a regular muffin tin with paper cups. Spoon the batter into each cup until it is almost full, leaving only about 1/8 of an inch from the batter to the top of the muffin paper. This will give the muffin the domed shape. Scatter the remaining rolled oats on the top. If you're using a 6-muffin tin, and making only 4 muffins, fill the empty cups with water.

Bake the muffins at 425°F for 7 minutes. Turn the heat down to 395° for another 20 - 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thai Red Curry Chicken

In exactly a week from now I will be defending for my Masters' degree, and I think I'm almost quite done. I thought I'd just celebrate for a little by having curry and a beer - an old school Wednesday night tradition the boyfriend and I used to have back when we were first dating and less old and domesticated. When it comes to curry, I usually like making Indian-style curries that have a little bit more curry powder and that don't use coconut milk. Today though, I attempted to make a Thai-style curry to get rid of some lemongrass I had left, and to complement the remaining Sierra Nevada Summerfest Ale that's been sitting in the back of the refrigerator since damnation.

You can use store bought red curry paste, but I don't usually find those very tasty, they're always either overtly salty or taste like watered-down juice. I've included my red curry paste recipe in case you want to have the satisfaction of making your own.

Thai Red Curry Chicken
Serves 2

Red Curry Paste
2 shallots, diced
1 stalk lemongrass
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 small piece galangal (turmeric) (substitute: ginger)
1 tbsp curry powder
2 red chillis (substitute: 1 dried red chilli)
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 piece kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp salt

6 oz chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 cup Thai holy basil (substitute: 1/2 cup sweet basil)
1/2 cup sliced red and yellow peppers
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp coconut milk

Process all ingredients for the curry paste in a blender or food processor. The paste will be runny due to the coconut milk.

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a skillet. Put in the curry paste and let it bubble, stirring for about 1 minute. Add in chicken broth, bring to a boil and in the chicken pieces.

Bring heat down to a simmer and gently let the chicken cook through, for about 7 - 8 minutes. Add in the red peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add in basil leaves and lime juice and stir gently until the basil leaves are wilted.

Spoon into serving dish and drizzle with coconut milk.

Oat and Flax Whole-Wheat Pandering Pancakes

Well, good morning and indeed since I woke up to the news of Sarah Palin being chosen as the GOP VP nominee. I smell a serious scent of McPandering. I wonder what Hillary thinks, and if she'll now go all the way out to remind her Sisters of Traveling Pantsuits-hood that Republicans think women are stupid enough to fall for that ploy. And I wonder if Mitt Romney is secretly seething so hard, the chemicals in his gelled-back hair have combust.

But anyway. Have some pandering pancakes, because we all know that a good show starts off with a hearty breakfast... and of course, I'm just pandering to people's want for IHop goodness.

Update: Check out the awesome pancake photo of Sarah Palin by Dan Lacey.

Oat and Flax Whole-Wheat Pandering Pancakes
Makes 6 pancakes

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp milled flaxseed
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

Soak oats in milk for 5 minutes. In a larger bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and fluff with a fork.

Beat the egg and pour it into the oats and milk mixture. Add to dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until combined. Your mix should be wet but not runny. If it's too dry and sticky, add a bit more milk.

Heat a little butter in a large skillet or griddle and spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan, cook for about 2 minutes on each side on medium heat.

Berry Sauce
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp sugar

Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan until mixture becomes thick, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Soba Noodles

Every once in a while I get a craving for Japanese food that I need to offset almost immediately by either running three blocks down to the happy hour at DragonFish or chomping on rice crackers with Japanese written on the packaging but is actually made in China.

I decided to do something different for once and make my own Japanese-inspired meal. I bought a couple of fresh tuna medallions on sale at the grocery store, pan-seared it with a little seasoning (you want to keep the seasoning light to fully savour the taste of the buttery tuna) and served it with cold soba (buckwheat) noodles. I also made my own mushroom-based 'dashi', which is Japanese broth, to go with the noodles. I served all that with a side of grape-Asian slaw and some cream-cheese Wasabi. A fancy and over the top meal for a fancy and over the top closing DNC speech. Whee!

Pan-seared Tuna Steaks with Soba Noodles
Serves 1

3 oz. green tea or regular soba noodles
3 oz. yellowfin tuna medallions
1/4 tsp chilli powder
Salt and pepper

Dashi stock
1 piece dry shitake mushroom
1/2 piece konbu (dried seaweed)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin (seasoned rice wine vinegar)
1 tbsp sake
Dash of white pepper

Cream Cheese wasabi
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp wasabi paste

Prepare the dashi stock by bring 2 cup of water to boil and adding the stock ingredients except the seaweed. Simmer for about 5-6 minutes, add in seaweed, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the mushroom and seaweed soak for about a minute and remove it from the stock.

Cook the soba just like you would pasta. Drain and set aside.

Rub the chili over the tuna medallions, and season slightly with salt and pepper.

Heat a drop of oil in a skillet, just enough to coat it so that your fish doesn't stick. Sear the tuna for 1 minute on each side, so that the outside turns white, but the middle part is still slightly pink.

Right before serving, heat the stock and throw in the soba noodles. Give it a quick stir to get the flavour in and remove the noodles from the stock. Set it on a plate. Arrange tuna on top of the noodles, sprinkle with some spring onions for garnish and serve with a coleslaw, cream cheese wasabi and some soy sauce.

Kale and Anchovy Pasta

A couple of posts ago I mentioned forgetting to put salt and anchovies in my pasta, so today I decided to retry the recipe after specifically getting the anchovies out onto the counter early in the morning just so I would remember to use them. This is a super easy recipe that you can pack for lunch and heat up quickly. I bought some colorful vegetable-based organic farfalle last week and used them for this dish, but you can use regular farfalle or penne or even macaroni. It's a versatile, healthy meal that can serve as a quick snack as well. Kale is possibly one of the most bee-yoo-ti-ful vegetables out there, with its curly leaves and wonderful green colour and the much touted free-radicals fighting properties. Served with some iced tea spiked with (lots of) vodka, you'd almost forget that the seasons are changing.

Kale and Anchovy Pasta
Serves 1

3/4 cup farfalle or penne pasta
3 stalks kale leaves, shredded to yield about 1 cup
3 slices anchovies in olive oil
1/4 white onion, sliced
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp sodium free chicken broth
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 lemon wedge
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to directions.

If your anchovies came in olive oil, use 1/2 tsp of oil from that and saute the garlic and onions until onions becom translucent. Add in the anchovies and bring heat down to medium-low. Stir the anchovies, garlic and onions until the anchovies become soft and you can mash it with a wooden spoon.

Add in the kale, add in a little salt (to keep the colour green) and sti-fry for two minutes. Pour in chicken broth, cover and simmer for about 3 -4 minutes.

Add in cooked pasta and chilli flakes to kale and toss to combine. Spoon out into a plate, squeeze the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with a little grated Parmigiano.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad

My partner hates beets. So now that he's in South America for next couple of weeks, I'm going to go nuts with the beets. I love beets because they're juicy, sweet and give me red teeth for a coupe of hours so I look creepier than I really am. Red teeth and the fact that beets are nutritious and great with cheese makes me like them even more.

I picked up some fresh beet from the farmer's market over the weekend and decided to use them today for a quick and easy salad dish. And of course, paired with arugula in honor of the "arugula-flavoured politics" acceptance speech due tomorrow. We all need change and some arugula, yes sir we do. I used a 4 pepper goat cheese I picked up from the grocery store, but any kind of goat cheese will work well. I paired the salad with a bottle of Columbia Crest Riesling ($5.99) and two slices of quick and easy bruschetta.

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
Serves 2

1 small beet
1.25 cup baby arugula
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tbsp chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dry vermouth or sherry
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Scrub and clean the beet, trimming off the green parts but leaving the skin on. Wrap in aluminium foil and bake at 425°F for 30 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and let cool. The skin can easily be removed by rubbing it with a damp paper towel. Slice the beets 1/4 inch thick and season with salt and pepper.

Serve over arugula leaves and topped with chopped walnuts and goat cheese. Drizzle dressing.

Superfood Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Most mornings I wake up and barely have time to sit down for breakfast; mostly because when the alarm goes off at 7, I snooze-smack it three times so that when I finally kick the covers off and roll out of bed sullenly, I have only 20 minutes left to get ready. That usually means breakfast and coffee on the go. On-the-go breakfasts can be terrible for you (and terrible for taste); I hate poptarts so I usually just resort to a banana and some buttered toast.

Recently though, I've taken to trying to find something that I can grab in the mornings very quickly, that will be good for me and that will taste pleasant with a cup of my favourite hazelnut coffee.

Therefore, behold the perfect cranberry and chocolate chip muffin, a superfood that will fight cancer and promote weight loss - I kid you not. Cranberries have antioxidant properties that help prevent cancer (and apparently cholesterol) while flaxseed has Omega-3 that may help promote weight loss. Almonds contain a high level of protein and also has that cholesterol busting property. A recipe made with no butter helps keep you trim and lean. And yes, I should start working for Weight Watchers ... but does that mean I have to stop using eggs altogether?

Perfect Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup skim milk or soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a fork. Set the oven at 425°F.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg until fluffy. Add in the oil, milk and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and gently pour the egg mixture into the well. Using a spatula, fold the ingredients together. Do NOT use a mixer. After folding the batter about 7 times, add in the cranberries, chocolate chip and almonds. Fold again for another 13 times to make up 20 times that you stir the batter.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Spoon the batter into each cup until it is almost full, leaving only about 1/8 of an inch from the batter to the top of the muffin paper. This will give the muffin the domed shape.

Bake the muffins at 425°F for 7 minutes. Turn the heat down to 395° for another 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

The muffins should keep for about 3 or 4 days if you cling wrap and refrigerate them. To serve, sprinkle some water and microwave for about 10 seconds. Serve with butter and marmalade or jam.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mozzarella and Herbs Easy Chicken Bake

This four day DNC thing is giving me more reasons to think of easy and quick meals, mostly because I get back so late from work I need to whip up something just in the nick of time to sit down and watch the closing speeches.

It took me 40 minutes to stuff everything into a side of chicken breast, toss in the oven, slice up some bread and make a garden salad using some packaged stuff. There was just enough time between Robert Casey Jr.'s Speech and Mark Warner's keynote to get dinner done and sit down to the analysis of Brooks and Shields whilst waiting for the Clinton closing. Now that's dinner and a good show.

The crispy prosciutto in this recipe is a wonderful contrast with the tender, juicy chicken. Baking in a foil pouch helps seal in the flavour and prevents the chicken from drying out. The melted mozzarella adds to keeping the chicken moist.

Mozzarella and Herbs Easy Chicken Bake
Serves 2

6 oz. chicken breast, or 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 fresh mozzarella ball (4 oz.), cut into 6 slices.
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp garlic
4 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
Juice of 1/4 lemon (about 1 tbsp)
2 slices prosciutto
Grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Butterfly the chicken breast horizontally two get two slices of equal size. Use a meat mallet to tenderize the chicken breast. Alternatively you can place a cling film on top of the chicken and smack it with the back of your knife.

One on slice of the chicken spread half the herbs and garlic. Top with 3 slices of mozzarella and half the sun dried tomatoes and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lay a slice of prosciutto on an aluminum foil, place the seasoned chicken on the prosciutto slice and roll it up to get a log that's wrapped up in the prosciutto. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top.

Repeat the same for the other chicken breast slice.

Place both rolled-up chicken breasts on the aluminium foil and wrap it in a pouch. Bake for about 20 minutes in at 350°. Open aluminum foil pouch and bake for another 15 minutes, turning the chicken once. The prosciutto should be crisp and the chicken just cooked, with juices running clear. Slice on the diagonal before serving.

Celery and Beef Stir-Fry with Noodles

Last night I wanted to use up the rest of my kale for a pasta dish that had anchovies. All was fine and dandy, I made the colorful farfalle pasta, blanched the kale, tossed em' all up and sat down in front of the TV to watch the Democratic National Convention. Then I realized that I forgot to add anchovies or salt to my pasta. All it turned out to be was a bland myriad dish of colours that tasted like grass (not weed, grass... pish!). Oh, woe is failing memory and the hustle bustle of life. I will try to make the pasta dish again at some point, if I can remember to put up a big note on the refrigerator that says. "ANCHOVIES. SALT. DOOFUS."

Today I woke up feeling all blah and bloaty and needed a something to give me a jolt for the rest of the day (Believe, you me I spend half the year staggering around being blah and bloaty). I made a spicy beef and celery stir-fry which went with some Chinese-style noodles. My mum used to say that celery would help get rid of water retention (and then she would proceed to make some really nasty tasting celery/burdock root soup). The dish may be a little too spicy for some, so you can just cut down on the dried chillis.

Celery and Beef Stir-Fry with Noodles
Serves 1 (About 430 cals)
Prep time = 15 mins
Cook Time = 10 mins

3 oz. chinese flour noodles (use the long, flat dry type for chow-mein)
2 oz. stir-fry beef (I bought the ready-cut ones at the store, but you can use beef tenderloins and sliced them up)
2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally to yield about 1 cup
1/4 sweet onion, sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced ginger
2 dried chillies, crushed
Chopped cilanto, optional

1 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp
reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp beef broth or water

Marinade the beef for about 10 - 15 minutes. Cook noodles according to package directions. Crush the red chillies and get rid of the seeds (just use a spoon and smash the chillies on your cutting board, discarding the seeds).

Heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add in garlic and onion and saute until onions are translucent.

Add in sliced celery and stir-fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn heat up to medium-high and toss in marinated beef. Be sure to add in the marinade as well. Stir-fry for about 5 - 8 minutes until beef is no longer pink. Make sure you don't overcook the beef - as soon as there are no visible pink parts left, you can bring the heat down to low.

In a small bowl, mix in the ingredients for the sauce. Slowly pour it in to the beef stir-fry. Turn the heat off and give the beef a good toss. Serve it over the noodles and garnish with cilantro.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Curried Carrot Soup

Behold, the drabbiness of fall has arrived (Look at my poor solar powered doggy, it's no wonder that my basil plant is dying from lack of sunlight). And when it's fall in Seattle, you know that it's time to bring out the Macs and wellies. And if you're all snuggled inside the house, you're constantly tempted to bring out the good old dutch oven and make some warm soup, which you can then eat while watching TV with your socks on.

I staggered out this morning to the grocery store in search of carrots. I realized that baby carrots are so much more expensive than regular carrots. I'm not going to start on a rant about how ridiculous produce prices are these days ($2.49 for a pound of apples?! Blasphemous!), but I would suggest to skip things that come pre-packaged and come with the added convenience. I managed to buy about 1 pound of regular carrots for less than a dollar. A pound of baby carrots cost $2.29.

Curried carrot soup is the perfect rainy-day comfort food because it combines heat inducing curry powder with the honeyed goodness of carrots and sweet onions. It only takes less than 30 minutes to conjure up a satisfying dinner. Fresh bread, herbed olive oil dip and a glass of Chardonnay completes this meal.

Curried Carrot Soup
Serves 4
Prep time = 5 mins
Cook time = 20 mins

4 medium carrots, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 large sweet onion
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Low fat yogurt (optional)

Roughly cut peeled carrots, celery and sweet onion into 1 inch cubes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven. Saute garlic and onions on medium-low heat until onions become translucent. Add in carrots, celery, curry powder, minced ginger and Garam Masala and saute for another 7 - 8 minutes until curry powder is fragrant.

Add in vegetable broth, bay leaves, thyme and black pepper, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until carrots are soft. Turn heat off, wait for soup to cool a little and then transfer to food processor or use immersion blender to pulp the carrot soup.

Season to taste with salt and serve with some cilantro leaves and a dollop of low fat yogurt.

This soup freezes well, and should keep up to three days.

To make a herbed olive oil bread dip, put a pinch of oregano, basil, rosemary and chili flakes in a small dish. Add about 1/4 tsp of minced garlic, a dash of salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar. Steep this is 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for about 15 minutes. Serve with fresh warm bread.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Raisin and Almond Biscotti

Now what did I say about biscotti madness? I generally try to steer clear of sweet, baked goods with exception of the occasional bran muffin or coffee cake for breakfast. Ice cream and chocolate though, is a separate, divine subject which must not be broached upon. But yes, I steer far, far away from cookies and cake if I can. Genetics is evil.

I am however, addicted to biscotti because it's only as sweet as you want to make it, and it's one of those baked goodies that actually work without butter OR oil. It's like God's gift to the mouths that constantly need to chew on something (that's me). I recently discovered that by adding one additional egg to the recipe, I can cut out the olive oil entirely, yielding a crisp biscotti that melts in your mouth as you sip down a cup of hot coffee. The general recipe can be found here, substituting an egg for the 5 tablespoons of olive oil. I also substituted raisins for the cranberries, to yield a healthy, brain-food biscotti product. I used half of the biscotti batch with the chocolate dip recipe and kept the other half plain.

I also learned a really good way to shape the biscotti into logs. Scatter flour over a piece of parchment or wax paper and turn the dough onto the floured paper. Use the floured paper to shape the dough. Place your pan over the shaped dough and flip it over, then remove the wax paper. It's really easy and saves you clean up time! My biscotti now actually look like REAL biscotti. Yay!

Mushroom, Spinach and Prosciutto Frittata

For most part of the week I tend to eat a healthy breakfast i.e. old-fashioned oats with raisin, whole grain toasts, etc. But on the weekends I usually wake up to waffles, bacon and eggs. Sometimes I get a little nutty and have a steak panini for brunch.

Today is extra special because of two things. First I slept at 4am, going to bed on a stomach that was fed 8 hours before. Second is that I'm elated with the Obama/Biden ticket. I think that warranted a celebratory breakfast of a huge wedge of frittata and lots and lots of Marmite toasts and a large pot of hazelnut coffee. This recipe serves 2 but I ate it all by myself while watching the rally. Whee for free gym memberships!

Mushroom, Spinach and Prosciutto Frittata
Serves 2

2 large free-range eggs
4 small crimini mushroom caps (yields about 1/2 cup sliced)
1/4 cup chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup sliced roasted red peppers
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onions
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 slice provolone cheese
1 slice prosciutto, sliced lengthwise into 2
2 or 3 stalks of chives
Grated Parmigiano-Regiano
Tabasco Sauce
Salt and pepper

In an oven-proof skillet heat up the butter on low heat. Once melted, add in the onions and mushrooms. Bring heat up to medium and saute until mushrooms turn brown, about 8 minutes.

Add in the spinach, saute until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add in sliced jarred red pepper.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper until frothy and bubbly. Slowly pour it into the mushroom and spinach mix. Swirl the pan around so that the egg mixture covers all the ingredients and the edges are in line with the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the parsley over the eggs.

Cook until the eggs are almost set. Turn broiler on high. Put a slice of provolone on the eggs, and put the pan under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until all the cheese is melted. If you don't have an oven proof skillet, you can gently slide the eggs into a pie tin and broil that.

Grate a small amount of parmigiano over the frittata and cut into wedges. Roll a slice of prosciutto and place in on top of the frittata wedge. Serve on plates and scatter with chopped chives and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Penne with Asparagus, Turkey and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Nothing cooks easier and quicker than pasta. I usually keep at least 4 different kinds of pasta in the pantry - the tubular ones (penne or macaroni), linguine, regular spaghetti and rotelli. My favourite kinds are ones made from whole wheat, they psychologically make me feel healthier (Jedi Mind Tricks). I also tend to keep a pack of spinach fettucine on hand for a quick elegant meal, just in case. There's always a recipe for each kind of pasta that you can whip up in a jiffy, for a last-minute dinner party or a satisfying meal at the end of a long hard day.

What I also usually keep in the freezer is some turkey tenderloin which I marinate in lemon juice and parsley and seal it in a Ziploc bag for some quick grilled or pan-seared turkey meals. This meal is a light, summery pasta dish that fuses quick cooking ingredients. You can use smoked deli turkey if you want to be quick, and if you don't have any fresh turkey on hand.

For a complete entertainment menu, you can serve this as the main course with some tomato-basil bruschetta, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or any dry Italian white wine, and finish off with some homemade rum and raisin ice-cream.

Penne with Asparagus, Turkey and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 1
Prep time = 15 mins
Cook time = 10 minutes

3/4 cup whole wheat penne
2 oz. turkey tenderloin, thinly sliced to yield about 6 slices.(You can also use 3 slices of smoked turkey deli meat)
10 spears asparagus (trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch spears)
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 pieces sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp grated parmesan

Soak sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to let it get too soggy. After they become plump and soft, squeeze them to get rid of the water and place in a small bowl with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and the basil. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and keep covered in the pot to keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a grill pan lightly and grill the turkey until brown and cooked, about 8 minutes. Likewise, you can also use a skillet and pan-sear the turkey.

In another skillet, heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Put in the garlic and asparagus and a dash of salt. Saute for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Add in pepper and chicken broth and let the asparagus simmer for about 5 - 7 minutes.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into strips - don't discard the oil soak.

Cut the turkey into strips. Mix turkey strips, penne and sun-dried tomatoes in the asparagus skillet. Drizzle with the olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle chili flakes and add in lemon juice. Toss to coat.

Serve with a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top.

The Biscotti Madness

Yesterday I made more biscotti using the Almond and Cranberry recipe, but substituting the almonds with pistachios. I swear, biscottis will be the death of me. It's consuming my breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime snack. I intend to try out every single biscotti recipe ever known to mankind - even that dubious sounding parsley and parmesan one. And yes, that's me in the background with my point-and-shoot low tech camera because I've spent all my money buying nuts for biscotti making.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Glaze and Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes

OK. So I made the title of this post sound grander than it really is, because all it REALLY is, is just steak with mushrooms and a bunch of potatoes. Arranged nicely of course, and served with half a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon on a shiny white plate, white tablecloth and pretty placemats. And it doesn't cost you more than $20 for the whole meal (depending on your choice of meat quality though).

I'm not a big steak person but I hauled my biscotti filled arse down to Pike Place Market today and went to Fero's Meat Shop to get the best possible beef tenderloin (USDA Prime! $41.99/lb! Eek!) for the boyfriend's romantic going away dinner (yes, we're disgustingly mushy, etc.). This recipe makes use of the heavy red wine we were going to have with dinner for the mushroom glaze.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Glaze, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus
Serves 2
Prep time = 10 mins
Cook time = 30 mins

2, 4-oz filet mignon (USDA Choice or higher)
1/2 lb or 20 spears wild asparagus or gourmet green asparagus

Mushroom glaze
6 caps of crimini mushrooms, to yield 1 cup sliced
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thinly (about 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or any other dry, strong red wine
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup beef broth

Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Potatoes
10 baby red potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp black pepper
Salt to flavour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash, scrub and quarter the potatoes leaving the skin on. Dry on a paper towel for 5 minutes. Combine in a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients and spread it out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup water in a shallow pan, add about 1 tsp salt and toss in asparagus in a single layer. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until tender. Drain and leave in the pan to keep warm.

Season filets with a wee bit of salt and pepper on both sides. Spray the grill rack with olive oil and grill for about 9 minutes on each side, depending on thickness and desired doneness (is that even a word?). We used a gas grill, had a filet thickness of about 1 inch and liked it medium well done.

While the potatoes and filets are going, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add in onions, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are brown, about 7 -8 minutes. Pour in wine and simmer for 1 minute. In a small bowl, mix together beef broth and corn starch. Pour corn starch mixture into the skillet and bring mushrooms to a boil. Let it bubble until the glaze turns thick.

Once potatoes are done, let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Season asparagus with a few drops of lemon juice, serve mushroom glaze over the steak.

Kale and Chorizo Soup

Today was a crazy, rainy and cold day, and in the middle of summer no less. As the boyfriend stumbled out for the sell-out Radiohead show, I decided to stay home and make a comforting soup that only took half and hour to make.

This recipe originally calls for the chouriço, which is the Portuguese version of hot sausages, but I honestly cannot tell the difference between that and the Spanish chorizo so I just made life a bit easier by stopping by the grocery store and getting some freshly made chorizo and a fresh loaf of Italian round. This conconction is a fusion between the regular Portuguese Kale, Potatoes and chouriço soup with a touch of Italian herbs.

Kale and Chorizo Soup
Serves 2 (About 300 cals per serving)

2 medium red potatoes, diced to yield 1 cup
3 cups of kale leaves, roughly shredded
1/4 cup diced onions
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried fennel
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried basil
4 cups chicken broth
4 oz fresh chorizo, casing removed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a soup pot. Add in onions and saute until it becomes transluscent. Add in potatoes and saute for about 10 minutes. Add in chorizo and use a wooden spoon to mash it around until they become tiny lumps.

Add in chicken broth, bring to a boil and add in kale and all the herbs. Simmer on low heat for half and hour until potatoes become tender. Use your wooden spoon to mash potatoes into little pieces. Serve with lots of grated parmesan and generously buttered crusty loaf.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almond and Cranberry Biscotti

The boyfriend is due to leave for South America in a few days. He'll be gone for more than two weeks, which means that I will be spending most of time making ihazcheezcake and everything else that is gooey and yummy and laden with whey and lactic acid. But in the meantime, I thought I'd keep myself in his thoughts by making some crunchy biscotti for him and his family to savour over coffee and morning chatter (OK Erik, I know biscotti is molto girly, so I made you some manly butter cookies as well).

The recipe originally called for pistachios, but I had none in the pantry, so I substituted it with almond slices and it turned out wonderful. It wasn't brittle, with just the right amount of crunchiness that melts as you dip it into a cup of hot coffee. This is my first time making biscotti, and I think it turned out just mediocre, not a great success -- there's something about the cutting that gets to me. My biscottis seem to mock my self-imagery. They're short and fat... which is highly disturbing.

Almond and Cranberry Biscotti
Makes about 20 - 25 slices

2 cups all purpose flour, (IMPORTANT: MUST BE SIFTED)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 cup slivered unblanched almonds
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix sifted flour, salt and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer whisk oil and sugar together. Add in one egg at a time and beat until fluffy. Mix in lemon peel and vanilla. Gently beat in flour mixture until just incorporated. Dough should be sticky, but not too stiff.

With a spatula, stir in cranberries and almond, fold until the berries and nuts are just mixed. Use 1/4 cup flour to lightly powder your working surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and divide into two equal portions, about 12in(L) x 4in(W)x 1in (thickness). Space the logs 3 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. You can also use a lightly greased aluminum foil on top of the cookie sheet.

Tip*: The biscotti dough will be extremely sticky. Use two plastic spatulas coated with flour to shape your dough logs instead of your hands. Smash the sides together with the spatula to mold it into a rectangle, then pat the top to flatten it.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool logs on baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Transfer to cutting board.

Use a serrated knife and cut logs slightly on the bias in 1/2 inch thick slices. Put cut slices back on cookie sheet and toast in oven again for about 9 minutes each side, until they become as crunchy as you want!

A variation for the biscotti is that half of it can be dipped into a dark chocolate glaze.

Easy Chocolate Glaze
2 oz 100% cacao chocolate squares (I usually use Ghirardelli's)
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Use a double boiler or place a bowl into a pot that has been filled quarter-way with water. Once the water comes to a gentle boil, bring the heat down all the way to low. Put in the chocolate squares and butter and slowly melt it in the bowl while the water bubbles gently. Use a spatula to stir gently. As the chocolate mixture melts, put in the powdered sugar tablespoon by tablespoon. Don't forget to keep stirring. Add in the milk, a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. You can always add in more powdered sugar if you like your glaze a litte sweeter.

Note: I only buy 100% because these are dairy free and I can mix it with Nucoa margarine to yield a dairy-free glaze. 100% cacao is only suitable for baking, and you HAVE to add butter/margarine and sugar. Otherwise 70% dark is fine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Easy Hoisin Pork Noodles

If all you have is 15 minutes in a day, use it to make something nutritious and healthy without reaching for that bag of chips or ramen for a quick lunch. All you need is some noodles (any kind), pork tenderloins and a bag of frozen peas. Scrumptious P.F.Chang worthy Chinese noodles in just 15 minutes (well actually, I think it's better than P.F.Chang's pseudo-Chinese food, take that!).

Easy Hoisin Pork Noodles
Serves 1

3 oz noodles (I used chow mein noodles, but you can use linguine or any kind of flat noodles)
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 oz pork tenderloin, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
Dash of white pepper.

If your pork tenderloin is frozen, defrost it quickly in the microwave and slice into thin strips. Meanwhile, boil water for cooking the noodles. In a skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of oil. Toss in garlic and pork. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to directions. Add in ginger to pork in skillet. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add in Hoisin sauce and white pepper. Add two tablespoons of water to pork, cover and set to medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Drain cooked noodles. Add in peas to pork mixture. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn heat up. Toss in noodles to skillet. Quickly coat noodles with pork mixture, turn heat off and serve with chili sauce on the side.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicken Shawarma and Rice Pilaf

If you haven't already noticed, I have a penchant for Mediterranean cuisine. I like everything that's grilled, yellow and has cheese. My boyfriend and I used to go for gyros all the time when I lived near a Middle-Eastern shop but we realized that it was probably not a good idea because the meat was often laden with dripping fat and the tzatziki sauce was made from heavy cream. We would supplement the gyros with pints of beer at the brewpub next door.

But anyway, my point is that I love Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern grilled meat and trying to make it healthy enough for an everyday meal is difficult. Here's my attempt at making Chicken Shawarma on a grill pan with no added fat. We used a non-dairy tahini sauce we bought from Whole Foods, but I have attached a tahini sauce recipe that works well.

Chicken Shawarma and Rice Pilaf
Serves 4

1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 tsp each of:
Ground coriander
Ground cinnamon
Ground cloves
Ground black pepper
Ground fennel
Turmeric powder

1/2 tsp each of:
Curry powder
Ground cumin
Minced garlic

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil

Slice the chicken breasts very thinly, add it into a Ziploc bag with all the spices, lemon juice and olive oil and marinade for at least 3 hours.

You can either grill the chicken or bake it. If you're baking, set the oven to 375° and bake covered with foil for 10 minutes and uncovered for another 10 minutes.

Serve the grilled chicken with lettuce, tomatoes and onions on a Greek pita bread with tahini and garlic sauce.

Rice Pilaf
Serves 4

1 cup basmathi or long grain rice
1.25 cup chicken broth
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 small strand saffron OR 2 tsp turmeric powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash rice in cold water, drain and set over medium heat. Pour in chicken broth and all remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and let stand for 5 minutes, fluff and serve.

Easy Creamy Tahini Garlic Sauce

7 or 8 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt

Process all ingredients in a blender. Refrigerate before serving.