Super crispy roasted potatoes

An easy way to make restaurant-worthy spuds!

A chef friend from Switzerland made this dish for me many years ago and it’s one that’s lingered in my mind ever since. I love potatoes prepared any way (a few favourites include potato and pancetta puffs, baked potato chowder and potato pancake poutine – search this site for lots more ideas) but this version is a cut above the rest. Unlike most other roasted potato recipes, the flour in this one is really a game changer as it coats the par-boiled potatoes then mingles with the hot oil to make a deliciously crispy crust. Feel free to adjust the seasoning; we like them simply garnished but you could easily add chili powder, cayenne, pepper…whatever you like! Although they’re best served straight from the oven, leftover potatoes can be refrigerated and reheated at 350F for about 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds (1.25 to 1.5 kg) potatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) flour (regular all-purpose or gluten-free)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (optional but delicious)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 415F.
  • Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces. Place in a large pot and add just enough cold water to cover. Stir in 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the salt; cover pot and bring to a boil.
  • While potatoes are coming to the boil, drizzle olive oil on a baking tray with a rim (one about 12 x 18 inches or 30 x 45 cm) and place in the oven to heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium (maintaining the boil) and cook for about 4 minutes, until potatoes are just beginning to soften.
  • Drain potatoes in a sieve or strainer and slowly sprinkle the flour over top, shaking the strainer as needed to distribute the flour evenly on the potatoes.
  • Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and carefully transfer the potatoes to the baking sheet, arranging them in a single layer, cut sides down to begin.
  • Roast the potatoes for a total of about 40 – 45 minutes, flipping the pieces every 10 minutes so each side gets golden brown. After 30 minutes of cooking time (and the third flip), sprinkle the chopped rosemary and remaining salt over top. Roast until golden brown all over and serve hot.

Makes 5 – 6 servings.

 

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Easy homemade pita crisps

An inexpensive way to make a tasty snack!

My family and I love sandwiches made with pita bread, but only when it’s really fresh. As a result, the leftover rounds from each bag end up in the freezer. Rather than being cause for despair, I’m actually excited to watch them accumulate because once I have about 8 or 10 pitas saved up, it’s time to make another double batch of this delicious treat. Not only do I find them more flavourful than the commercially prepared ones, I think they are also much tastier. These crisps are also great because they’re baked, not fried, and using a flavoured olive oil gives them such a great taste that you can probably omit the salt, making them an even healthier snack, especially if you choose whole wheat pitas. My favourite is roasted garlic olive oil but I’ve made them with regular oil, spicy jalapeno oil and others, all with great success.

Ingredients

  • 4 pita breads (white or whole wheat)
  • 6 – 8 tablespoons (90 – 125 mL) bsp regular or flavoured olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) dried thyme, oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) black pepper

Method                          

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Cut each pita into 5 strips with scissors or a serrated knife.
  • Snip end of each strip and separate to make 2 single layer strips (10 strips in total).
  • Place pita strips, split side up, in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  • Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Watch them carefully as they can go from brown to burned in seconds!
  • Serve at room temperature, with or without dips.
  • Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Makes about 40 crisps.

 

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London Fog tea cakes

A easy, delicious treat!

I’m not a big fan of light cupcakes that takes like sugar and air, but I do always enjoy rich dense ones. If I’m going to indulge in a sweet treat, I want it to be satisfying. These tea cakes – a step up from cupcakes – are perfect for a tea party, and not just because they’re made with Earl Grey tea infused butter. I came up with this recipe to surprise my husband, who is a huge fan of the popular London Fog beverage, make from the same tea, with steamed milk and vanilla syrup. He gave the edible version two thumbs up.

Ingredients

 Cakes:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) Earl Grey tea (whole leaves, not contents of tea bags)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla bean paste (or 1 tablespoon / 15 mL vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vanilla (or plain) yogurt

Glaze:

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons (30 – 45 mL) cold water
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla bean paste (or 1 tablespoon / 15 mL vanilla extract)

Method

  • Line 12 compartments of a muffin tin with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter and add tea leaves. Reduce heat to low and let steep for 5 minutes; remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes more. Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve placed over a bowl, pressing down on the tea leaves in the sieve with the back of a spoon. Let stand until solidified but still soft. If you’re in a hurry, put it in the freezer for 10 – 15 minutes but stir often and be sure to remove before it solidifies completely.
  • Prepare cake batter by whisking together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand mixer and large mixing bowl), beat infused butter and sugar together until fluffy (2 – 3 minutes).
  • Beat eggs in one at a time, followed by vanilla. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, alternating with the yogurt and mixing until just blended.
  • Scoop batter into the compartments of the prepared muffin pan.
  • Bake for 20 – 22 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Remove cakes from pan and place on wire rack until completely cool.
  • To make glaze, beat together icing sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water in a medium-sized bowl, adding additional water a few drops at a time until a smooth, pourable but still thick glaze has been created.
  • Remove the papers and dip the tops of the cakes (upside down) in the glaze one at a time, letting most (but not all) of the excess drip off. Place the dipped cakes on a cooling rack set over a plate or board.
  • Sprinkle with decorations as desired and let glaze set for 10 – 30 minutes before serving.
  • Store cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If baking ahead of time, freeze tea cakes before glazing then thaw and glaze on the day you plan to serve them.

Makes 12 tea cakes.

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Stuffed pepper soup

A delicious new way to enjoy a classic dish!

When I revisited stuffed peppers to come up with a more contemporary version a few months ago, it reminded me of how much I enjoyed this classic flavour combination. It’s nourishing, comforting, delicious and satisfying. While I’ll continue to make my snazzier stuffed peppers often, I wanted a version of that dish that would be a little more portable and this is it. I love taking thermoses of soup on our winter adventures and this will likely be a recipe I turn to time and time again. Note that if you want to make this recipe ahead of time, it’s best to prepare the meat, vegetables, broth and seasonings and then stop at that point. The mixture can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours. 45 minutes before serving, reheat the soup base; when it’s simmering, add the rice and cook until tender before serving. If you prepare the complete soup ahead of time the rice will absorb too much liquid. To reheat leftovers, more broth or water may be needed to return the soup to an ideal consistency.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 pound (454 g) ground turkey (or vegan equivalent)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) each dried oregano and basil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) red wine (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegans)
  • Few shakes Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) toasted brown rice *
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh parsley or basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated mozzarella or cheddar (or vegan alternative)

*  toasting brown rice before cooking gives it a rich, nutty flavour and also causes it to cook faster and be more fluffy and tender upon completion. Toast it ahead of time by placing rice in a dry, medium-sized saucepan and warm it over medium heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan often, until it is just starting to turn a golden brown colour and you can smell it becoming fragrant. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool.

Method

  • Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot over medium heat until shimmering (or use an InstantPot set to Sauté). Add ground turkey, salt and pepper; use a wooden spoon to break it up into large pieces. Stir occasionally while the meat cooks and all traces of pink are gone (8 – 10 minutes).
  • Add the vegetables and dried herbs to the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 – 7 minutes. Stir in red wine, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, broth and rice.
  • Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
  • If using an InstantPot, place lid on pot and close steam valve. Press the Rice button and let it cook. Quickly depressurize when the cycle has finished.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs and a sprinkle of cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

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Meat lovers’ pizza Sloppy Joes

An amazingly delicious mashup of two great dishes!

I grew up eating a LOT of Sloppy Joes. They were inexpensive and quick to prepare – two essential elements of feeding a family of eight. My mom served these open-faced sandwiches of saucy, seasoned ground beef on toasted hamburger buns and they were a real favourite. Many years later, I came up with a healthier version of Sloppy Joes that uses ground chicken or turkey and skips the salt-laden spice packet (don’t even get me started on canned Sloppy Joes or Manwich….) and my family loves it. But then I thought, why not combine my healthy recipe with the best elements of meat lovers’ pizza (Italian sausage, pepperoni, pizza sauce and mozzarella) for a whole new taste sensation? My husband swooned over this meal and I can’t wait to share it with others. It’s ideal for apres-ski gatherings, Superbowl parties or quick weeknight meals as it freezes beautifully.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (454 g) mild or hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casing
  • 1 pound (454 g) ground chicken, turkey or beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced fresh garlic, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each dried basil, oregano and smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) Tabasco sauce (or more, to taste)
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon each (5 mL) kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) maple syrup or molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sliced pepperoni, coarsely chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (400 mL) pizza sauce
  • 2 cups (500 mL) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock or water
  • White, whole wheat or gluten-free buns, split
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced fresh basil leaves

Method

  • Set a large, heavy-duty pot (use a Dutch oven if you have one) over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive oil. Let the oil heat for one minute then add the sausage meat, using a wooden spoon to break up the clumps. Cooke 5 – 7 minutes, until no longer pink.
  • Add the ground meat to the same pot and cook, stirring often and breaking up clumps, until no longer pink, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Add the onion, green pepper and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the minced garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Stir in the basil, oregano, paprika, Worcestershire, Tabasco, baking soda, salt, pepper, cider vinegar and maple syrup.
  • Add the pepperoni, pizza sauce, crushed tomatoes and stock (or water). Increase heat so the mixture begins to simmer, then cover the pot and lower heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • After 30 minutes, set the lid so it is halfway on the pot and simmer for another 20 – 25 minutes, allowing mixture to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine the remaining oil and minced garlic; add butter. Cook over very low heat to infuse the oil and soften the garlic slightly. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
  • Place the buns, cut side up, on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the garlic butter (2 halves per person is a typical serving). Bake in a preheated 375°F oven until golden brown, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • To serve, spoon the hot meat mixture over the toasted buns. Top with mozzarella and fresh basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Serves 6 – 8.

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Baked butternut squash rounds   

An easy way to cook a tasty, nutritious vegetable!

I adore squash and have often wondered why more people don’t cook it. I recently started asking and the most common answer I received was that it’s too finicky to peel. Well, guess what? You don’t have to peel squash before cooking and, in fact, the skin is not only edible, it’s extremely tasty! This method is so simple and it makes a really excellent side dish. The number of rounds you get will depend upon the size of butternut squash you purchase; look for ones with long, skinny necks.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Olive oil (regular or flavoured; I like to use roasted garlic oil)
  • Salt, pepper and dried thyme leaves
  • Grated parmesan cheese (or vegan alternative)
  • Fresh thyme leaves, to garnish (optional but delicious)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F and wash the squash under hot water.
  • Take a thin slice off the top of the neck (the long, skinny part) and discard. Slice the rest of the neck into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick rounds. When you get to the seeded part of the squash, you have run out of neck to slice.
  • Note: reserve the seeded bulb portion of the squash for other uses (slice in half, scoop out seeds and steam or roast until tender, then scoop out flesh and make soup).
  • Lay the squash rounds on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil then sprinkle each with a pinch of salt, pepper and thyme.
  • Bake for 12 minutes then flip slices. Bake for 10 minutes more, then sprinkle about 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of grated Parmesan over each squash round. Return to oven for 3 – 4 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to crisp up.
  • Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves (if using) and serve hot.

 

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Quick and easy spicy crackers

A tasty alternative to deep-fried snacks!

A friend from the southern United States recently taught me about one of her state’s most popular snacks: Alabama fire crackers. These highly seasoned, sometimes re-baked crackers appear at so many meals – from fancy buffets to casual cookouts – that they’re almost ubiquitous. She said she even crumbles them to use as croutons and her family won’t eat soup without sprinkling some on top. I’ve adapted the recipe to make them less fiery than is traditional but you can easily increase the heat if you prefer. I also chose to use whole wheat saltine crackers, to make them a little healthier. Feel free to use your favourite gluten-free crackers if you wish. I like to enjoy them as a flavourful snack – they’re a great alternative to potato chips and perfectly packable for lunch boxes too.

Ingredients

  • 2 sleeves whole wheat crackers (use unsalted ones if you can find them)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 packet dried ranch dressing mix (2 tablespoons/1 ounce/28 g)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like things really spicy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method

  • Line crackers up standing on one edge in a container with a tight lid.

  • Whisk together canola, ranch dressing, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and pepper. Very slowly, whisking again as needed to keep the spices from settling at the bottom, drizzle this mixture evenly over the crackers.
  • Put the lid on the container and let crackers marinate for 20 minutes, gently flipping the container over every 5 minutes, giving it a very gentle shake each time to distribute the coating.
  • After 20 minutes, bake as below, or simply transfer the crackers to a clean airtight container.
  • This step is optional but makes for extra-crispy crackers: after the crackers have been in the container for 20 minutes, preheat the oven to 250F. Remove the crackers and spread out in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets. Scrape out any of the seasoned oil remaining in the container and drizzle it evenly over the crackers. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking trays before transferring to an airtight container.
  • Unbaked crackers will keep at room temperature for one week; baked ones will last for two weeks.

Makes approximately 80 tasty crackers.

 

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