Lightened up Piña colada

A low-calorie cocktail that doesn’t skimp on flavour!

Summertime is finally here and I just want to eat all the fruit and vegetables in the world. I crave things that are light and refreshing when it’s hot outside, and that includes lighter cocktails. This version of the ever so popular Piña colada is fantastic, and simple to make. You’ll want a heavy duty blender (I love my Vitamix for this) because the frozen pineapple pieces are absolutely rock hard. One of the things I love about this low-cal recipe is that it doesn’t have any ice in it, so the flavour of the drink doesn’t get diluted as you sip it.

Light Pina Colada

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chilled, unsweetened coconut water
  • 6 – 8 tbsp chilled premium rum *
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

* my new favourite is  Noxx & Dunn’s 2-4-5 Florida Rum, now available at the LCBO. It has a really fantastic flavour that’s perfect for this cocktail!

vitamix

Directions:

  • Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until frothy and smooth.

Makes 2 delicious, refreshing cocktails.

Lightened up Pina colada

 

 

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Homemade back bacon

A truly Canadian breakfast or brunch treat!

I remember the first time I tasted back bacon as a kid. I loved that it was so much less salty than ‘regular’ bacon though I couldn’t understand why it was also known as peameal bacon when it was actually rolled in cornmeal. There are just so many food mysteries in this world, aren’t there? (I later learned that pre-World War II, dried yellow peas were ground up and used for making what Americans refer to as ‘Canadian bacon’.) As Canada’s big 150th birthday party is fast approaching, I decided to try my hand at making my own peameal or back bacon and the good news is that it was surprisingly easy to prepare and fantastically delicious! Inspired by Montreal’s famous Joe Beef restaurant’s recipe, this will be the perfect addition to any Canada Day brunch menu. If you want to make some ‘regular’ bacon as well, here’s a simple, fool-proof recipe plus one for candied bacon which is always a hit whenever I serve it.

Ingredients

  • Boneless pork loin roast (approximately 2 lbs / 1 kg)
  • 6 cups (1.5 litres) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) curing salt (Prague Powder) *
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) cracked black peppercorns
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) dried split yellow peas or coarse cornmeal

* you can find curing salt at outdoor shops like Cabela’s, or order online from my very favourite spice shop.

Method

  • Find a plastic container (with a tight lid) that is big enough to hold the pork roast and the brine, and deep enough so that the meat will be completely submerged.
  • In the container, mix together the water, maple syrup, curing salt, coriander seeds, peppercorns and salt.
  • Remove 2/3 cup (180 mL) of the brine. With a marinade injector, inject the 2/3 cup of brine directly into the pork loin, inserting the needle every 1/2 to 1 inch, to a depth of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. This step is essential and marinade injectors are very inexpensive and useful to have in your kitchen or barbeque arsenal.
  • Place the injected meat into the container of brine, weighing it down with a saucer if necessary to keep it submerged. Cover and refrigerate for four full days.
  • After four days, remove the meat from the fridge and discard the brine.
  • Grind the dried yellow peas to the texture of coarse meal in a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels then roll it in the peameal or cornmeal (do not roll coat the cut ends of the roast in the meal).
  • Let the meat rest, uncovered, for one more day in the fridge before slicing thinly.
  • To serve, fry up slices in a lightly greased pan, along with a light drizzle of maple syrup if desired.
  • Uncooked sliced back bacon can be frozen for up to 4 months.

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Maple iced coffee popsicles

Beat the heat with this deliciously cool caffeine fix

When I was a kid, my mom typically made us popsicles out of Kool-Aid. Sometimes she’d get all fancy and add a little Jello powder to the mixture, which gave them a weird but oddly appealing texture. I still love frozen treats, especially in the summer, but the thought of either Kool-Aid or Jello is definitely not appealing to me now. I’ve crafted this new maple-sweetened treat in honour of Canada Day, and these popsicles are as tasty as they are easy to prepare. You can use whatever milk product you like; I find that the almond milk adds a great pop of flavour plus it makes the popsicles vegan-friendly too. You can even add a teaspoon or two of liqueur to the mixture but don’t overdo it as the popsicles won’t freeze solid if there is too much alcohol in them. However, you could choose to add a generous splash and serve them as slushies instead!

Ingredients

  • Strong brewed regular or decaffeinated coffee (I like to use a Melitta pour-over cone which makes it easy to monitor and adjust the strength of your brew)
  • Almond, soy or cow’s milk (or cream) to taste
  • Maple syrup to taste

Method

  • Refrigerate prepared coffee for several hours or until completely chilled.
  • Combine coffee, milk and maple syrup to suit your tastes.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.
  • Repeat often.

 

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Summertime snacks, salads and sippers

Easy treats for casual entertaining

Who’s ready for summer? I sure am!

Although developing flavourful new dishes is definitely my favourite food-related activity (other than eating, of course!),  I also really enjoy the process of crafting easy-to-follow recipes and sharing them with my readers across the globe. I also enjoy having a chance to showcase my creations on television, whether it’s appearing on local lifestyle shows here in Ottawa, or through my solo show, Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods, which airs several times each week on Rogers 22 Ottawa. We’re putting the finishing touches on six new episodes which will air throughout the summer and I’m excited for you to see the tasty treats I’ll be serving up. Let me know if you try any of them at home, OK?

In the meantime, I’ve got an appearance on Rogers Daytime today and here’s what I’ll be serving up (click on the titles to access the recipes). Wishing you a happy and delicious summer!

Marinated goat cheese with pickled blueberries

Zucchini ‘noodle’ salad with lemon-thyme vinaigrette

Summery strawberry salsa

Grown up floats with vodka coolers and gelato

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Tex-Mex style steak and cheese sandwiches

All the flavours of fajitas – on a bun!

My menfolk had requested Philly cheesesteak sandwiches a week or so ago, but I just couldn’t oblige. I didn’t want anything to do with the state of Pennsylvania after the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced my team – the tenacious Ottawa Senators – out of the NHL playoffs. My solution to their bun-steak-cheese request was to come up with this Tex-Mex version, which was a huge hit. If you’re like me and love to plan ahead, you can put the meat in the marinade and toss it in the freezer; it will start to get infused with flavour as it freezes, and finish marinating when you take it out to thaw before grilling.

Ingredients

Beef

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 g) flank steak
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) pineapple juice or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) each ground cumin and chili powder (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt pepper

Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced Spanish or white onion **
  • 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced red, green or orange bell peppers **
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) beer, chicken stock, white wine or water

** I cut the thin slices into 1 inch pieces to make them easier to eat

Buns

  • 6 hoagie-style or submarine buns
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder
  • 6 slices Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced and sprinkled with the juice of 1 lime
  • Salsa

Method

  • Start by marinating the beef. Put the flank steak in a large zip-sealed bag. In a small bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients, whisking together. Drizzle over meat, then seal bag, pressing air out as you do so. Refrigerate for at least four hours (or overnight), flipping bag occasionally. Remove from fridge 45 minutes before cooking.
  • When ready to start cooking, start by preheating your grill (barbeque) to medium-hot (about 375F).
  • While grill heats, slice peppers and onions. Put olive oil and sliced onions in a large, heavy duty frying pan. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often, until onions are translucent. Add peppers, salt and pepper and beer and cook 2 – 3 minutes more, stirring often, until peppers are tender-crisp and liquid has mostly evaporated. Remove from heat.
  • Remove flank steak from marinade (discarding marinade) and grill for about 7 minutes per side, until meat registers 135F in the thickest part. Remove from grill and place on a tray or plate; cover loosely with foil and let rest for 7 – 8 minutes.
  • While steak is grilling, slice buns lengthwise. Combine mayonnaise and chili powder and spread on the cut sides of the buns. As soon as you remove the meat from the grill and tent it with foil, quickly toast the cut sides of the buns on the grill.
  • Slice cooked beef very thinly across the grain. Cut slices in halves or thirds to create bite-sized pieces. Place on a platter or plate.
  • To assemble sandwiches, put a layer of the cooked peppers and onions on the bottom bun, followed by the cheese, sliced steak, avocado and salsa. You can make them open faced or closed, according to your preference.

Serves 4 – 6

 

 

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Grown up floats with vodka coolers and gelato

A perfect summertime drink and dessert in one!

My two favourite flavours of floats when I was a kid were orange soda with vanilla ice cream and root beer with chocolate. I know the latter combo might sound a little weird, but trust me – it is delicious. I don’t drink pop (as many Maritimers call it – aka soda, soft drinks or soda pop) anymore, but I was thinking about how much I loved those floats and I had to start playing around with a few ideas.

Here’s the best part: these are the easiest drinks ever to prepare. All you need to do is grab your favourite flavour of gelato (or ice cream) and scoop it into tall glasses. Pour the vodka cooler over top and add a sprig of mint to garnish.

Fruit-flavoured, vodka based coolers are ideal – I like Blackfly’s Sour Grape and Sour Raspberry in particular because it’s not too sweet; it was delicious paired with the homemade lemon-mint gelato recipe below. There are loads of different flavours in the Blackfly cooler line so I plan to do some serious experimenting this summer.

 

LEMON MINT GELATO

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Method

  • In a microwave safe bowl or glass measure, heat milk until just barely steaming. Add mint leaves and let sit, covered, to infuse flavour for 15 minutes.
  • Strain mixture into a medium-sized heavy duty pot, discarding mint leaves. Over medium heat, gently warm until the milk reaches 175F then add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • While milk is heating, separate eggs and put the yolks in a small bowl. Reserve the whites for another purpose such as meringues or Pavlova.
  • Whisk a small amount of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks then transfer the yolk and milk mixture back to the saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook over low heat until mixture is just thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon and a thermometer reads at least 160F, stirring constantly and making sure it does not come to a boil.
  • Remove from heat and if mixture looks a bit lumpy, strain through a fine-meshed sieve before proceeding to the next step.
  • Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and whipping cream. Place in a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap onto surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until mixture is thoroughly chilled.
  • Fill cylinder of ice cream freezer two-thirds full; freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer gelato to freezer containers (pack to within 1/2 inch of the top). Freeze 2-4 hours or until firm.
  • Note: if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can also pour the chilled custard into ice cube trays and freeze until firm.

Yield: 1 quart

 

 

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Grilled asparagus with za’atar and creamy harissa sauce

Three cheers for asparagus season!

I’m always thinking about new ways to serve vegetables because I find switching things up usually means I can often get my family to eat more of them. We love grilled asparagus and typically I just coat it with a little oil and finish with a squeeze of lemon, so today I decided to try something new. The results? Delicious. The creamy, mayonnaise-like harissa sauce was so flavourful and this recipe makes a good quantity so you can use it for up to three days on other things such as broccoli, cauliflower or even as a hollandaise substitute for eggs Benedict! Za’atar is so popular now you can find it in the ethnic foods section of most large grocery stores or from online spice retailers like Cardamom & Cloves; it’s a Middle Eastern blend of dried herbs, sumac and sesame seeds. If you haven’t used harissa before, you’re in for a big treat. This spicy paste, which hails from North Africa, adds a subtle kick of heat that enhances rather than overpowers everything it touches. You should be able to find it at most specialty food stores.

Ingredients

  • 24 stalks asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of za’atar spice
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) harissa paste (or more, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Place asparagus spears on a clean baking tray. Drizzle with oil, then lemon juice and toss with your fingers to coat evenly. Sprinkle with za’atar and toss again.
  • Preheat grill (or cast iron frying pan) to medium-high heat.
  • While it’s heating, make harissa sauce. Put egg and egg yolk in a blender. Blend for 10 seconds, then with the blender running, add the boiling water to partially cook the egg.
  • Add lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon, harissa paste and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Blend again, then taste and adjust lemon, harissa and salt to suit your tastes.
  • Grill (or fry) asparagus, turning often, until tender and just beginning to char.
  • Put cooked asparagus on a clean plate and drizzle with a little bit of the harissa sauce. Serve a bit more of the sauce little dishes for dipping; refrigerate remaining sauce for up to three days.

Serves 3 – 4.

 

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