Spiced Up Vodka Soda

A classic cocktail gets a contemporary makeover          

Sometimes you can’t beat a classic cocktail. There’s a few great reasons why the simple, delicious Vodka Soda has been popular for generations – it’s easy to prepare, doesn’t take a lot of special know-how and tastes super refreshing. In honour of the winter that won’t end in my part of the world, I bring you my take on this eminently sippable beverage. The twist: blend flavoured white balsamic with the vodka before topping with soda. I recommend white balsamic as it will preserve the cocktail’s characteristic clarity whereas a dark balsamic will make it muddy-looking (though delicious). The balsamic adds a subtle richness of flavour without detracting from the drink’s signature crispness. I recommend using premium vodka; my current favourite is Bob’s Super Smooth which is made from whey rather than potatoes, grain or corn used in traditional vodka. Like the name implies, it is indeed very smooth and ideal for a drink that tastes balanced and bright.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (4 tbsp / 60 mL) vodka
  • 1 ounce (2 tbsp / 30 mL) flavoured white balsamic *
  • Handful ice cubes
  • Soda water to top
  • fruit to garnish (optional)

* I used a Cara-Cara orange and vanilla white balsamic and it was terrific; next up I’m going to try mango.

Method

  • Put the vodka and balsamic in a cocktail shaker along with 3 – 4 ice cubes. Shake until blended and chilled, about 1 minute.
  • Pour vodka-balsamic mixture and ice cubes into a lowball glass. Top with soda and garnish with fruit if desired.
  • Close your eyes, take a sip and imagine you’re somewhere warm.

Makes 1 cocktail

 

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Baked sour cream doughnuts with maple glaze

Canada’s favourite flavours are easy to serve up at home

This recipe is a tribute to two of our Canada’s most-loved doughnut flavours: sour cream and maple dipped. While they are delicious right out of the oven, amazingly they are even better the second day (if you can make them last that long). If you really want to get fancy, you can even sprinkle the just-dipped doughnuts with cooked bacon bits, like these fantastic cupcakes. Doughnut pans are not very expensive and with this simple batter recipe as your base, you can make all sorts of sweet and savoury creations. Next up, I’m planning to makes some herbed doughnuts to serve as an alternative to bread with a tasty chicken stew.

Ingredients

Doughnuts:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt

Glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple extract
  • 1 cup (250 mL) powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) milk, if needed

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350. Grease standard sized doughnut pan with oil or cooking spray (even if the pan is labelled as non-stick, a little oil is still a good idea and will aid with browning).
  • Whisk together the sour cream, egg, vanilla, oil, & sugar in a bowl.
  • Add flour, soda, and salt; stir the batter together until well combined. Transfer batter to a heavy gauge ziplock bag. Seal the bag then snip one corner; this will make it much easier to transfer the batter in the doughnut pan.
  • Fill the compartments of the doughnut pan 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes then transfer to cooling rack, using a small rubber spatula to coax them out if they are a bit stuck. If re-using the same pan for a second batch, be sure to wipe it clean with a paper towel and re-grease before refilling with batter.
  • Maple Glaze: In a shallow, broad bowl, mix maple syrup with maple extract; stir in icing sugar to make thick, adding up to 1 teaspoon (5 mL) milk if needed to reach a thick but pourable consistency. For ease of cleanup, put a piece of parchment paper or a baking tray under the cooling rack. Dip one side of each doughnut into the glaze. Set back on the cooling rack and let stand until glaze is set, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Makes 12 doughnuts.

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Tasty Tropical Salad

A flavourful twist on traditional coleslaw

While it has the traditional coleslaw base of cabbage and carrots, the addition of pineapple along with a ginger-soy-lime dressing gives this tropical slaw a flavourful twist. Serve it with Asian dishes, burgers, or even pulled pork and get ready for the rave reviews from your taste testers. It’s super fast to prepare and can even be made a day ahead of time. Looking for another tasty variation on coleslaw? Check out this Vietnamese-inspired version.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated carrot
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced fresh pineapple
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) soy sauce (use tamari for gluten-free)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sesame oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime (approximately 1 tablespoon / 15 mL)
  • Few drops sriracha (optional but delicious)
  • Generous pinch salt
  • Garnish: a sprinkle each of toasted sesame seeds, additional thinly sliced green onions

Directions

  • Combine carrots, cabbage, pineapple and green onions in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients (or shake together in a small jar with a tight lid). Pour dressing over salad and stir to combine.
  • Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up 24 hours prior to eating.
  • Add garnishes just before serving.

Serves 4 – 6.

Posted in Asian, Dairy-free, gluten-free, Salads, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staycation food fun with kids

Three fun cooking projects to enjoy as a family

On busy weeknights (and even weekends), it can be hard to get kids involved in meal prep when all you want to do is get food on the table quickly. If you’re able to slow the pace a little – like when you’re enjoying a staycation at home – everyone will have more patience and enjoy both the process and the outcome. Here are three fun and tasty projects to try with your kids.

Homemade Rock Candy – kids will love watching the sugar crystals form, and after a week they can eat their delicious creations. Click here for the recipe

Rock_Candy_Finished2.jpg

5 Minute Magic Lasagne – that’s right – it only takes five minutes to assemble this delicious shortcut lasagne. Click here for the recipe.

magic_lasagne_hero.jpg

Cupcake Ice Cream Sundaes – these sweet treats are sneaky! While they look exactly like ice cream sundaes, they’re actually frosted cupcakes! Click here for the recipe.

Ice_Cream_Sundae_Cupcakes.jpg

 

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Quick Pickled Turnips, Lebanese-style

A terrific taste sensation from the Middle East

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have always considered pickles to be a food group, which is why there are quite a few pickle recipes on this blog. I love them all – pickled apples, pickled blueberries and pickled cauliflower are but three of my favourites. I’ve been asked many times to share my recipe for pickled turnips, so here it is. Note that these are made with the little white turnips that often have a rosy hue at one end, not yellow-fleshed rutabagas. They are commonly served with many Middle-Eastern foods, especially shawarma, but they’re great with plain roast chicken too! I sometimes chop them and add to salads for a crunchy burst of flavor. Because they’re fast to make, I like to prepare just one jar at a time but you could easily double or triple this recipe.

Pickled Turnips Lebanese-Style

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) cold water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white vinegar
  • 2 small white turnips
  • 1 small beet
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced into 3 pieces

pickled_turnip_collage_wm

Method

  • In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the water and the salt, stirring, until salt has dissolved (you can also do this in the microwave in a heatproof vessel). Add remaining water and vinegar; stir and set aside.
  • Peel the turnips and cut them into 1/3 inch (.6 cm) thick batons.
  • Peel the beet and quarter it. It’s a good idea to keep the beet in quarters so you can distinguish their shape from the turnips when serving (some people prefer not to eat raw beets).
  • In a clean glass jar with a tight lid, add about one quarter of the turnip batons, 2 of the beet pieces and one garlic slice.
  • Repeat the turnip, beet and garlic layers, adding the bay leaf. Pack the jar as full as possible, squishing the vegetables down into the jar with your fingers.
  • Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling right to the top of the jar.
  • Put the lid on the jar and let it rest at room temperature for 6 hours.
  • At that point, refrigerate the jar and let the turnip become saturated with the brine.
  • The pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will be good for about 3 weeks. After that point, they are still tasty although they will lose some of their crispness.

Makes one 2 cup / 500 mL jar.

pickled_turnip_pinnable

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Tuscan Tomato, Leek and Bread Soup  

A hearty meal that’s ready in just 30 minutes

I have to confess I really didn’t know as much as I thought I did about Italian cuisine until I went to cooking school in Tuscany. It’s a time I think of fondly almost every single day as I work in my home kitchen and one of the lessons that really stuck with me was that humble food can be just as memorable and impressive as the fanciest fare around. This rustic soup is a tribute to the traditions of the peasants of Tuscany, who long ago found inventive ways to use up everything they could grow (hello, stuffed zucchini flowers!) and made sure that no leftovers ever went to waste, a lesson many of us would do well to heed today. I based this recipe on the delicious Tuscan bread salad known as Panzanella and it’s the perfect way to use up yesterday’s baguette or crusty bread.

Tuscan Tomato Leek and Bread Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
  • Approximately 10 Roma (plum) tomatoes (to yield 4 cups / 1 L of purée) *
  • 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced button mushrooms (optional but delicious)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda
  • 3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) balsamic
  • 3 cups (750 mL) day-old bread, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) chopped fresh basil leaves, divided

* substitute with 4 cups / 1 litre of Passata (commercial tomato purée)

Tuscan Tomato Leek and Bread Soup

Method

  • Slice the leeks lengthwise and rinse under cool, running water. Thinly slice crosswise.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more.
  • While leeks and mushrooms are cooking, purée the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add to the pot along with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, baking soda, stock and balsamic. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add half the basil and the bread cubes.
  • As soon as the bread has softened (about 2 minutes), ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Top with remaining basil and, if you like, a splash of good-quality olive oil.

Serves 4.

Hearty Tuscan Tomato Leek and Bread Soup

 

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Hearty Pasta with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

A satisfying dish sure to be enjoyed by vegans and omnivores alike

This is a hearty, delicious dish that is amazing fresh out of the pan yet seems to taste even better the day after it’s prepared. In the Puglia region of southeast Italy, you’ll find many variations of this classic family favourite; many cooks there claim Orecchiette or ‘little ears’ are the ideal pasta shape into which the protein-packed chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) can nestle. Make it from scratch or speed things up with canned chickpeas and you can have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes from start to finish. Serve this with a green salad and crusty bread for a satisfying meal that everyone will enjoy. Note that it can be made with gluten-free pasta as well!

Hearty Vegan Pasta dish with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (155 mL) dried chickpeas *
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (.65 to 1.25 mL) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon (125 mL) each sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups (750 mL) finely diced plum tomatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) red wine
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 2 cups (500 mL) uncooked short pasta (I like Orecchiette)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • Grated Parmesan (or non-dairy cheese), to serve

* can substitute with one 15 oz (425 g) of low-sodium canned chickpeas and omit steps below to soak and cook chickpeas

Method

  • Put the dried chickpeas in a non-reactive bowl or container and cover by 2 inches (5 cm) with cold water. Let soak 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the soaked chickpeas then put into a medium pot with 2 cloves garlic (left whole) and 2 bay leaves. Cover by 2 inches (5 cm) with cold water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pot and let cook for 1 ½ hours. Drain chickpeas, discarding garlic and bay. At this point, the cooked chickpeas can be refrigerated in a closed container for up to 2 days.
  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 3 minutes, continuing to stir. Add the minced garlic and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly.
  • Add crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, cooked (or canned) chickpeas and cup of water to the pot. Stir, then let simmer 10 minutes until tomatoes are softened. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed then turn off heat and cover pot until pasta is cooked. Note that the sauce can be refrigerated for up to two days and reheated just prior to adding the hot, cooked pasta.
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, until just tender (al dente). Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add cooked pasta and the reserved cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time, to the pan of hot chickpea-tomato sauce, until desired consistency is achieved (you might not need all the reserved pasta water). Toss and transfer to warmed serving bowls; garnish with parsley and cheese.

Serves 4.

Hearty Vegan Pasta dish with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Posted in Main DIsh, Make Ahead, One dish meals, Pasta, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment