Peach and almond muffins

The best dairy-free breakfast treat ever!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Muffins are awesome, especially when they’ve got fresh fruit tucked inside. This particular version was inspired by one of my absolute favourite combinations – peaches and cardamom – and I’m pretty sure ginger would be equally delicious. I’ve used canola oil and almond milk to make these dairy-free, but you can certainly use melted butter and regular milk if you prefer. If peaches aren’t your thing, this recipe would be great with plums, nectarines, pears or apricots as well. For a few more fruitylicious muffins, check out these pear-gingerbread beauties, my favourite protein-packed ones with blueberries and bananas, or these heavenly caramel apple muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (90 ml) canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup (90mL – 125 mL) almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) finely chopped fresh peaches (about 1 large)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, for topping

Method

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line twelve muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Put flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a large bowl and stir with a fork. Add almonds and stir again.
  • In a 1 cup (250 mL) measure, combine the canola oil and the egg. Beat to blend then add enough almond milk to fill to the 1 cup (250 mL) mark. Add vanilla extract and stir gently to combine.
  • Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until just combined, forming a thick batter. Fold in chopped peaches.
  • Divide batter between the muffin cups. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over tops and bake in preheated oven 16 – 18 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick tester comes out with just a few crumbs.
  • Let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving. Freeze leftover muffins in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins.

delicious muffins made with peaches, almonds and almond milk

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Hearty, wholesome grain salad that’s better than tabouli

Cracked wheat with herbs and chickpeas is delicious and nutritious!

I remember the first time I had tabouli many decades ago – I loved how tasty and satisfying it was, with all that parsley and mint and yummy vinaigrette to dress up the bulgur (cracked wheat). Over time, however, my love of tabouli has dimmed, probably because I’ve honestly eaten bushels of it. I do still love a hearty grain salad, however, so wanted to come up with a new flavour profile for cracked wheat. You can use the aforementioned ripened cracked wheat (bulgur) or the green variety known as freekeh; both are ancient grains high in fibre with a low glycemic index. I served this salad with this amazing Lebanese-inspired roasted chicken and it was a match made in delicious heaven. If you like grain salads then I highly recommend this Greek-style recipe that is another crowd pleaser. It’s great to make a batch early in the week and then you’ve got a couple of days’ worth of packable lunches taken care of!

delicious nutritious hearty dish with bulgur or freekeh plus herbs and chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) cracked wheat (freekeh or bulgur) *
  • 2 cups (500 mL) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly-ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) chopped fresh chives or green onion tops
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped celery
  • 1 – 19 oz / 540 mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Lettuce leaves and lemon wedges, to serve

* you could also use quinoa, rice or barley in this recipe 

Directions

  • Put cracked wheat in a medium-sized saucepan along with water and salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat then immediately reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer 15 – 20 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes. Put cooked freekeh or bulgur in a large bowl and let cool 10 minutes. At this point, you can refrigerate the cooked cracked wheat for up to 24 hours until you are ready to prepare the salad.
  • While freekeh or bulgur is cooking, combine olive oil and minced garlic in a small microwave safe dish. Cook over medium-high power for 1 minute (this takes the harshness out of the garlic), then set aside and let cool.
  • In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together lemon juice, crushed coriander, the garlic olive oil (prepared in the previous step), salt and pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if desired.
  • When ready to assemble salad, combine cooked freekeh or bulgur, chopped herbs, celery and chickpeas in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Shake dressing in jar to re-blend then drizzle over salad and toss again.
  • Serve within the hour as is or on beds of lettuce leaves. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top when serving really makes the salad’s bright, fresh flavour pop.
  • Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Serves 4.

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Lebanese-style roasted chicken and spicy potatoes

A make-at-home version of my favourite takeout meal!

Given my passion for cooking, we rarely order takeout food, but once or twice a year I indulge my constant craving for Shawarma. Typically made with meat that’s been roasted on a spit then shaved off and tucked into pita bread with delicious sauce and other toppings, Shawarma and its close cousins (donairs, gyros and more) are my kind of flavourful fast food. Shawarma is so popular where I live that Ottawa, Ontario has often been referred to as the Shawarma capital of Canada!  I’ve developed this recipe based on the seasonings I most enjoy from middle-Eastern cuisine and while it may not exactly resemble your favourite take-out Shawarma, I can assure you that it was a standout hit in our house and something I’ll be making often. There are loads of accessories that would go well with the chicken, onion and potatoes – pita bread, hummus, chopped tomatoes, tabbouleh, garlic sauce and delectable pickled turnip to name just a few.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs / 900 g)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly-squeezed lemon juice (2 – 3 lemons)
  • 5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Potatoes

  • 24 baby potatoes (or 4 medium sized potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

make at home shawarma

Method

  • At least one hour before cooking (or up to 12 hours ahead of time), marinate the chicken. Combine the lemon juice and seasonings in a small bowl then whisk in the olive oil. Put the chicken pieces in a sturdy food storage bag and drizzle marinade over top. Seal the bag then gently massage the chicken for a minute to evenly coat with spices. Refrigerate until cooking time, flipping bag occasionally.
  • Potatoes can also be prepared for cooking ahead of time. Wash potatoes and cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces to yield 4 cups (1 L) of cut potatoes. Place cut potatoes in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil. Toss to coat evenly then cover and let sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
  • When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425F.
  • Add the onion pieces to the chicken and marinade in the bag and toss to coat the onion.
  • Drizzle about 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet and spread to coat evenly. Transfer the chicken and onion to the greased baking tray (discarding marinade left in the bag) and spread out in a single layer. I find it’s best to put the onion in the middle of the pan and the chicken on the outside edges.
  • Transfer prepared potatoes to a second lightly greased baking sheet and spread out in a single layer.
  • Roast chicken and onions for 30 – 40 minutes, flipping chicken pieces over halfway through cooking.
  • The potatoes will take a little less time to cook so put them in the oven after the chicken has been in for 5 minutes. Roast potatoes for 25 – 30 minutes, tossing occasionally during cooking, until crispy and brown on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • While potatoes are roasting, put remaining 2 tablespoons (10 mL) of olive oil in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook the minced garlic in the oil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cayenne, cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
  • Remove chicken and onions from the oven. Allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice chicken into thin strips and place on a platter with the roasted onions.
  • While chicken is resting, put roasted potatoes in a broad, shallow bowl. Drizzle with the spiced olive oil and lemon juice mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss again, then garnish with cilantro or parsley. Serve with the roasted chicken and your favourite accompaniments.

Serves 4.

make shawarma style food at home

 

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Review: delicious cottage fare made easy

Gourmet meals in a jiffy thanks to culinary wizard Rose Reisman!

One of the first “healthy” cookbooks I ever purchased was Rose Reisman’s Enlightened Home Cooking, published in 1996. I found it informative as our family had grown to include two kids and I wanted to educate myself about reducing fat and calories in our meals while still delivering good flavour. The spatters and stains throughout the book prove that this book, from one of Canada’s leading nutritionists and cookbook authors, was one I used often before I became eager to start developing my own recipes.

It was, therefore, with great interest that I recently learned about Rose Reisman’s newest project, The Personal Gourmet which involves the preparation and delivery of healthy fresh and frozen meals by subscription.

While the bulk of her meal services are only available in the Toronto area, there was one that caught my eye: her Personal Gourmet Cottage Meal Boxes, which are available for delivery to a broader area, including the GTA and a large swath of Ontario cottage country as follows:

  • Barrie/Simcoe/Orillia/Wasaga/Collingwood
  • Kawartha/Peterborough/Brock
  • Muskoka Region
  • Ottawa
  • Kingston/Leeds/Gananoque/Thousand Islands
  • Windsor
  • Ottawa/Belleville
  • Kincardine/Goderich
  • Prince Edward County
  • London/Grand Bend/Exeter

There are a couple of package options to choose from, as explained on the website. The premise is that the meals, prepared in a nut-free facility, offer busy families an easy option to enjoy satisfying, nutritionally-balanced and tasty meals that arrive at your cottage door fully cooked and flash frozen, ready to reheat and enjoy. The company has even designed nifty cooler bags in which to transport the meals and they are sturdy and effective.

The meal we enjoyed was a hearty, family-sized beef and cheese lasagna featuring loads of meaty tomato sauce as well as ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The package gave clear thawing and heating instructions, and said it served 6 but it was so huge that we found it easily supplied 8 adult servings. All I had to do was pop it into the preheated oven, whip up a side salad, sip a glass of wine on the dock, and dinner was ready. In addition to the convenience, I appreciated that nutritional information for the dish was also readily available.

As someone who genuinely loves to cook, I am always nervous about serving prepared foods, worrying particularly about whether or not they will be too salty or too bland. I’m pleased to report that the beef and cheese lasagne was very flavourful and everyone enjoyed it immensely, including me. Having an extra couple of hours to spend relaxing and playing in the water last weekend made me appreciate the meal even more.

Disclaimer: I was offered a sample meal to test. Opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

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Corn recipe roundup

Corn on the cob never tasted so good!

To say I am a huge fan of corn would actually be an understatement. From the moment I see corn plants peeking up out of the spring soil, I wait with bated breath for the arrival of the first baskets of local corn at nearby farmers’ markets. Here are some of my favourite corn recipes – notice they all involve grilling? You can boil or steam corn on the cob but if you haven’t tried grilling it, you don’t know what you’ve missing! Click on the titles below to access each recipe.

Grilled Corn, Tomatillo and Red Pepper Salsa

Grilled Corn, Zucchini and Carrot Salad with Lime Dressing

Spicy Grilled Corn Salad

Zucchini and grilled corn fritters

grated zucchini cooked corn in a gorgeous batter makes for delicious crispy fritters

Grilled corn salad with seared scallops

grilled corn on the copy grape tomatoes caper vinaigrette and seared scallops

Grilled Mexican-Style Corn (Elotes Mexicanos)

Elotes Mexicanos

Quick Pickled Grilled Corn

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Niçoise Salad with smoked salmon

A tasty makeover for a classic French dish!

During the hottest part of the summer, we eat composed salads quite often for dinner. With the right ingredients, they can take little time to prepare and be both nutritious and satisfying. I’m a huge fan of the classic Salade Niçoise which typically features either anchovies or cooked tuna as its main protein, but just for fun I made it with smoked salmon and it was a huge hit! Look for thicker smoked salmon strips if you can find them as they have a different texture and flavour than the thinly sliced varieties you may be more familiar with (although those would be tasty too). I enjoy preparing the potatoes, beans and hardboiled eggs early in the day; the beans and potatoes can be kept, covered, at room temperature while the eggs must be refrigerated. You can also make the vinaigrette ahead of time and re-whisk or re-blend it just before serving. With this work done, it takes just moments to assemble and serve this delicious meal. Pair it with a crisp white wine and some crusty bread.

A classic French salad gets a delicious makeover with smoked salmon

Ingredients

  • 8 – 10 small new red potatoes, scrubbed and halved or quartered to make 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) dry white wine
  • Handful (about 20) thin green beans, trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white wine or rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) water
  • 1/2 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon / 15 mL)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Freshly ground kosher salt and pepper
  • Few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced seedless cucumber
  • 12 small cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cups (1 L) mixed salad greens or Boston lettuce leaves, washed, dried and chilled
  • 4 – 5 ounces (115 – 150 g) smoked salmon, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) Niçoise or Kalamata olives

Method

  • Put potatoes and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of kosher salt in a medium saucepan and just barely cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat slightly and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, until just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain and place in a single layer on a plate, sprinkle with white wine then let cool.
  • Prepare a bowl of ice water beside the stove. Bring a fresh medium-sized pot of cold water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and immediately put beans into the ice water. Once cooled, dry well with a kitchen towel.
  • Place the eggs in the same saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes. Drain, then immediately run eggs under cold water to cool. Peel under cold running water and refrigerate.
  • Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, water, shallot, mustard, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl with high sides. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified. You can also use an immersion (stick) blender if you prefer. Cover and store at room temperature until using.
  • When ready to serve, put the potatoes, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes in a medium sized bowl. Drizzle three-quarters of the dressing over top and toss gently to coat.
  • Divide the lettuce between two plates. Arrange the dressed vegetables over top. Quarter the hard boiled eggs and add to the plates, along with the smoked salmon and olives.
  • Drizzle remaining dressing over top and add a bit of freshly ground pepper.

Serves 2.

Classic French salade nicoise gets a delicious makeover with smoked salmon

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Zucchini and grilled corn fritters

The tastiest, most versatile vegetable side dish ever!

If I were a poet, I suspect I would do nothing but write sonnets about fruits and vegetables. My love of produce is so deep that it actually invades my dreams….and this recipe is a case in point. A lovely backyard meal under the trees on a warm evening was the theme of my slumbering thoughts and when I awoke, I remembered just one dish from my dreamy menu: these fritters. A quick trip to the farmers’ market for corn, zucchini and green onions and my experimentation was under way. The light, crispy fritters were a snap to make. The topping is borrowed from this great Mexican-style grilled corn recipe and it was really fabulous on the fritters; they’d also be fantastic topped with your favourite salsa or chutney, for a little extra flavour pop. Last but not least, these fritters reheat beautifully so you can make them ahead for your next dream-worthy backyard party! I have served the fritters with grilled sausages and grilled fish and they were the perfect accompaniment for both. I also ate the leftovers with poached eggs on top for breakfast and that was pretty spectacular.

grated zucchini cooked corn in a gorgeous batter makes for delicious crispy fritters

Ingredients

 For the creamy, tangy topping

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) very finely crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly-squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 lime)

 For the fritters

  • 1 large or 2 medium ears of fresh corn *
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1- 2 medium sized zucchini
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour (use corn or oat flour for gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking powder

*I grilled the corn because I love those subtle, smoky notes but you could easily steam or boil instead OR substitute with 1 cup / 250 mL frozen corn kernels, cooked for 2 minutes in boiling water then drained really well

To serve

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Method

  • Make topping by blending together mayonnaise, sour cream, feta, chili powder and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Preheat barbeque to medium-high. Peel husks and silk from corn and brush with a little of the olive oil. Grill, turning often, for about 15 minutes until kernels are tender and lightly charred. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then remove kernels from cobs with a sharp knife or corn stripper. Measure out 1 cup (250 mL) of corn and reserve the rest for another use.
  • While corn is cooking, grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Measure out 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) coarse kosher salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible with your hands, then transfer to a clean kitchen towel, wrap edges, and squeeze gently to remove more moisture. Dry the bowl and return zucchini to it.
  • To the zucchini, add the grilled corn kernels, green onions, beaten egg, milk and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add to the zucchini mixture and mix to blend well.
  • Preheat oven to 325F if serving fritters right after frying in batches.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet placed over medium-high heat. Drop a large dollop – I used a 1/3 cup (90 mL) measure – of the zucchini mixture into the skillet, then use the back of a spoon to gently spread out into a thin, round layer about 1/3 inch (1.2 cm) thick. Repeat with 2 – 3 more dollops (depending upon the size of your pan).
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side; transfer cooked fritters to a rack placed over a baking sheet and let cool if serving later or keep warm in the preheated oven while remaining fritters cook.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture.
  • Fritters can be cooled then packed in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. To reheat, put on a wire rack placed over a baking tray and warm in a preheated 375F oven for 12 – 15 minutes.
  • To serve, sprinkle the hot fritters with cilantro then serve with sauce and lime wedges.

Makes 6 large fritters; recipe can easily be multiplied.

grated zucchini grilled fresh corn in a light and crispy fritter

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