Sunday, May 31, 2009

a savory loaf

Who would have thought that I would be making a ground chicken loaf... on JUNE 1st??? Normally June is a month full of salads - but the month of May has been a cold one... so I thought I would warm myself up (and my week) with my version of a meat loaf - using ground chicken.

Using the chicken and keeping the ingredients fresh makes this a light version of the original meat loaf. So although this isn't a traditional "summer" dish - it hits the spot! Serve with fresh veggies from the market, and then you'll get the best of both worlds.

Chicken Loaf
1 lb (450g) ground chicken
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 sm. onions, finely diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, cut, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
cumin powder
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
hot sauce (I used Nunavut - again from Stone Faced Dolly's)
1 egg white

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Prepare all your veggies. Now heat your pan over medium high. Add your celery, onions and peppers to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Your base should get soft - that's when you'll add the garlic and all the spices - use all of these spices to your liking. Once everything is well blended together, remove the pan from heat and put everything in a large bowl. Allow to cool for about 2 minutes.

Add the ground chicken, hot sauce (as much as you like), egg white and the seeded diced tomatoes to the large bowl. Combine everything really well.

Place the mixture into your loaf pan. You'll want to cook this in your oven for about 40 - 50 minutes (depending on your oven).

I LOVE how the cinnamon plays off the hot sauce - it lends an almost sweet taste to the poultry. Again - most of this was inspired by looking at my spice rack and seeing what would work when combined. I hope you are inspired to try making this ol' classic a little differently. Enjoy!

a hot little stir fry

My favourite part of going to Stone Faced Dolly's for brunch is not only the molasses bread (which is so good) but it's also trying the assortment of hot sauces. Every time I think I've picked my favourite one, I try a different flavour. I brought home a bottle of the Jamaica 1492 and pulled it out today when I was making lunch.

I was basically grabbing things out of the fridge to create a really simple and fast lunch and added several dashes of the hot sauce for an added kick! Any hot sauce will do - this "recipe" is just a reminder that you don't always have to use hot sauce once the food is cooked - it's a good marinade as well.

Season according to taste - I seem to like things HOT!

Cleaning out the fridge Chicken Stir Fry
1 chicken breast, cut into slices
hot sauce - in my case it was Jamaica 1492
salt and pepper
jalapeno pepper, diced
cayenne pepper
1/2 red pepper, cut in slices
left over diced canned tomatoes (about a cup)
chicken stock
handful of spinach
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Combine the hot sauce, the salt and pepper, jalapeno pepper and cayenne pepper together. Add the chicken and allow to marinade - I'd recommend at least 30 minutes - but if you need to eat immediately, then you can start cooking everything.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray - or use some olive oil (up to you). Once the pan is nice and hot, add the chicken and stir fry for about 4 minutes (or no longer pink) - the strips should cook quickly enough. Remember, this is a fast lunch :0) Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Throw in the sliced peppers and cook them until they're a little tender. Add the canned tomatoes. This is where I added some chicken broth - it thinned out the tomatoes a little and allowed me to stir the cooked in flavours from the bottom of the pan (the jalapeno from the chicken marinade).

Once the sauce thickened a little, return the chicken to the pan to heat it back up. Throw in the spinach to allow it to wilt a little. Once everything is heated through, take the saucepan off the heat.

Add the juice of the lemon - it should really bring out all the flavours. Like I said, this is really just a simple and easy lunch that can be made when you want to make use of your leftovers. Just remember to use some hot sauce :0)

a dozen little treats for the new homeowners...

A couple friends of mine bought their first place and moved in over the weekend! How exciting is that!!! Although it means I don't have my morning companion to walk into work (boo) it does mean that there will be some great bbq'ing going on this summer :0) (hint hint Courtney).

I wanted to bake them something - since both of them have patiently participated in my baking taste tests over the course of the past few months... so here's my take on "welcome to a new home" treat - incorporating firm favourites... so you all know that means there will be some sort of peanut butter, banana and CHOCOLATE. But heck - why fix what ain't broke?!

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
3/4 c. self-rising flour
1/4 c. dark chocolate cocoa
1 LARGE handful of peanut butter chips

1/2 batch Peanut Butter Frosting

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer. Once creamed, add the brown sugar and combine the two together until fluffy. Add the banana, the eggs (as always, combine each egg with the beater individually), and the milk. Once your wet mixture is well combined, add the flour and the dark chocolate cocoa. Beat everything together to smooth. Add the peanut butter chips and using a wooden spoon, mix everything (make sure you scrape from the sides).

Take your small ice cream scoop and scoop into the paper liners (you should be able to get 2 scoops into each liner).

Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. When mine come out I still like the cupcakes to be a little gooey. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Remember how I had that left over peanut butter frosting (from my May 25th blog)? Take that out of the freezer and frost the cooled cupcakes.

I hope that these cupcakes make Courtney and Jamie feel even more at home in their new place.

Congrats guys!

Monday, May 25, 2009

a nutty birthday treat!

Today is a special guy's birthday... he turned 9 and loves peanuts and chocolate. I have to say - he's got great taste (since that combo is probably one of my favourites too)!

I decided to create a little birthday treat - so my nutella and peanut butter came out of the fridge and were put to use in this recipe. A handful of peanuts add a nice crunch to top these babies off...

Happy Birthday Manu!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
3/4 c. plus 1 tbsp self-rising flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 c. nutella

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners - set aside.

In a large bowl, and with your hand mixer, beat the butter until it's fluffy. Add in the brown sugar and beat well. Add in the eggs, one at a time, combining after each one, then beat in the milk, flour and cocoa powder. Start off with the mixer on low so that all the flour doesn't fly everywhere :0) then speed it up until everything is well combined and smooth.

Using your ice cream scoop (or a spoon) put a scoop of the batter into each muffin liner. Smooth it down a little with a teaspoon and then add a tsp of nutella on top of each cupcake. Now top each of them with the remainder of the cupcake batter.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack.

If you wanted to add some mashed banana to the cupcake batter these could be over the top delish. Or add a tsp of espresso powder to turn these into double chocolate espresso cupcakes... all of these combos work well with these basics - simple recipes for you to twist however your tastebuds dictate... I know I'm looking forward to making them again - with a slight twist (of course)!

Now to make a super simple frosting...

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
handful of peanuts, to top

In a large bowl beat everything together until smooth.

Top each cupcake with the frosting - and then top the frosting with peanuts. If you have any left over frosting (I sure did) - put in a plastic container and freeze. Defrost the next time you need some.

Probably one of the best cupcakes I've ever had...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

the lowly banana...

I realized late last night that I haven't baked in quite some time... so I pulled out those overly ripe bananas that I keep in the freezer before I left for work this morning and came home excited to bake some... MUFFINS!!!! Some of my favourite memories of my childhood are of me coming home from school to the smell of my mother's oatmeal chocolate chip muffins. She'd bake dozens at a time, and with five kids - all of whom had a weakness for these muffins - they'd last all of a week (if we were lucky).

My inspiration for this recipe comes from that recipe. I decided to change certain things about it... including replacing chocolate chips with my homemade nutella :0) A dollop of that hazelnut chocolaty goodness in the centre of this muffin modernizes one of my all time favourite baked goods... hope you enjoy this as much as I will!

Oatmeal Banana Nutella Muffins

3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. oatbran
1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp b. powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 c. buttermilk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. nutella

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners - it'll keep the muffins moist and makes for easy clean-up.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together - flour, oats, bran, cornmeal, sugar, b. powder and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, beat together the mashed bananas with the egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir everything until just combined (your batter should be moist, but not over mixed).

Using a small ice cream scooper - scoop batter into the paper liners. Put a tsp of nutella on top of each scoop of batter. Now cover the nutella with another scoop of the muffin batter.

Bake in your oven for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Not only does this batter make a dozen good sized muffins - but the smell of them baking will bring a smile to your face (and probably a rumbling tummy too)!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

add a dash of cayenne pepper...

Ok... well maybe I added a bit more than just a dash... I think I added almost an entire tablespoon of cayenne pepper - suits me fine, but this isn't for the faint hearted :0)
Yes, today I am giving you my hummus recipe. This is the sort of recipe that doesn't call for anything out of the ordinary - so long as your pantry has a tin of chickpeas, I bet you have everything else in your fridge. So go forth and make this for your weekend picnic!

Hummus à la Lynne

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 tbsp plain peanut butter
4 tbsp plain yogurt
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon PLUS 1 tbsp lemon juice
dash of cumin powder
dash of cayenne pepper (or as much as you like)
salt and pepper

Grab your food processor and dump everything into it. Yep. That's it. Hit "on" and blend everything together. Season and flavour depending on your personal taste.

**If you have tahini, feel free to replace the peanut butter with it. But like I said - this really is made up of everyday, simple ingredients that you will likely already have on hand.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

yet another lunch...

I guess you've noticed that I've gone from uploading all those baking recipes to blogging about my brown paper bag lunches...but I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about lunch this week :0)

I made a chicken satay (marinated in my homemade peanut sauce) and a potato salad. Not just your regular "run of the mill" potato salad - this one is filled with seasonal veggies and a nice light creamy dressing. I hope you enjoy both!

Peanut Sauce

4 tbsp cold water
3 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp curry powder

Combine all the ingredients in in a mini-mixer and whiz everything until really well combined.

This sauce can either be used for dipping or - like I did this time, use it as a marinade. I marinated 2 large chicken breasts (cut into smaller pieces) for 5 hours - the longer it sits the better. Then I baked everything in a casserole dish @ 350F for 20 minutes (or until done).

Seasonal Potato Salad
a bunch of baby red potatoes, quartered
a handful of yellow string beans, steams removed and cut in half
a bunch of fiddle heads, ends trimmed off
half a red pepper, diced
half a green pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in the potatoes. Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes, then toss in the carrots and 2 minutes later the string beans. Everything can cook together (less clean-up).

Bring a smaller pot of water to a boil. You'll need enough water to cover the fiddle heads. Toss in the fiddle heads. Boil for about 4 minutes. Drain. Repeat. Yep - sounds strange - but fiddle heads are a little gritty and dirty, so by boiling them twice you make sure you remove the grit. Boil for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.

You're larger pot should be ready by now, test the potatoes (make sure that a fork can pierce through easily). Remove from heat and drain. Cool with cold water. Set aside to make sure that the veggies are well drained.

Creamy Dressing

1/3 c. plain yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1 tbsp dijon mustard
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to season

In the bottom of a large bowl - combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Whisk everything really well together. Taste and season to your liking (also, add other flavours if you feel like it). Put the veggies - potatoes, string beans, carrots, peppers and fiddle heads on top of the dressing in the bowl. Toss carefully - use your hands to make sure that the dressing covers all the veggies.

Because it's a yogurt based dressing, make sure you don't leave it out and cover it well in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

UPDATE - bird salad

As promised... I said I'd let you know if the salad stands up to the test of time... and... YEP! I think it gets better - AND the best way to eat it is with a good serving of plain yogurt. Indian spices and plain yogurt always seem to compliment each other.

This salad is brown bag lunch recommended! Enjoy :0)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

bird food salad... :0)

I've been informed that adding nuts, seeds and fruit to a salad turns it into "bird food". Well... I like bird food. So when I spotted this recipe on the website I knew I was going to give it a try. Less than an hour committment - from start to finish this salad is going to hopefully hold up well for my lunches this week (I'll update and let you know in a few days).

Bird Salad (aka: Indian Spiced Chickpea and Quinoa Salad)
2 tsp olive oil
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finly chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored and stalks removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp anise seeds
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 c. white wine
3/4 c. quinoa
1 1/2 c. water
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 x dried bay leaves
1/3 c. raisins
1/2 c. (mixed) pistachios, pine nuts, slivered almonds
salt and pepepr

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onion, pepper, fennel, garlic, anise, garam masala, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Stir everything together, cover and let cook for about 6 minutes.

Add the wine and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes - bringing everything to a boil. Add the quinoa, water, chickpeas and bay leaves. Once everything is at a boil, lower the heat to medium to simmer. Cover and cook for about 18 - 22 minutes - water will be absorbed.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the raisins. Cover and let everything sit for about 3 minutes. If the quinoa isn't as tender as you'd like it, add a bit more water (about 1/4 c.) and return the pot to the heat and cook until the water is absorbed (about 3 - 5 minutes). Stir in the assorted nuts.

Season well with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Makes very generous servings (4 portions). So if you too like bird food I hope you give this a worms - I promise!

Friday, May 1, 2009

ahhhh cake....

Who doesn't love a good chocolate cake? I've been eyeing this recipe for quite some time and decided that it was time to give it a shot.

I saw it on the sugarlaws blog and noticed that it's a bakers recipe challenge (from February). My first challenge(margarita cheesecake)went so well I figured this cake would probably be a winner too (plus the pictures on the blog made it way too tempting)!

I picked up some good quality chocolate with hazelnuts and decided to try the simplest, least complicated recipe ever... when a recipe only calls for 3 ingredients, you really can't go wrong... (note: the original calls for semi-sweet chocolate, so use whichever you prefer)...

Chocolate Valentino
400g bar of milk chocolate and hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 c. milk chocolate disks
1/2 c. butter @ room temperature
5 large eggs, separated

Heat your oven to 375F. Take a round pan and butter it, line it with parchment paper and then butter the parchment paper (I find it easiest to take a paper towel and cover it in butter and spread the butter that way).

In a bowl over simmering water melt the chocolate and butter together. Continue to stir the mixture until everything is well combined and smooth. Remove it from heat and allow to cool.

While the chocolate is cooling, simply separate the eggs. The egg whites should go into a glass bowl (they whisk better that way) and you should put your egg yolks in a large bowl.

Using a hand-held mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form peaks. Set aside. Take the mixer and quickly beat the yolks together. Add the melted chocolate to the yolks and combine well (everything should be incorporated).

Take 1/3 of the egg whites and fold them into the batter. Once they are folded in, add the remaining egg whites and fold those in too. You want to make sure that your cake doesn't loose the volume - so don't over mix, but make sure you don't see any more white.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it should go about 3/4 of the way up). Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes.

When you remove it, the top will look like a brownie. Remove it from heat and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Now... be careful removing it from the pan (a spring form pan is best) since the middle is really gooey. Allow it to cool... sigh. I can't wait to try this with some peanut butter. The result is like a truffle.

Really easy - but you'll impress the pants off of everyone!