Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spicy Tortilla Soup & Spelt Cornbread with Jalapeno Honey Butter

I had a version of this soup at this modern Mexican restaurant the other night and have been wanting to try my own rendition of it since. It also gave me a reason to make one of my favorite sides that I thought would go nicely along with it, cornbread! I absolutely love cornbread and wanted to do a healthier version then my usual recipe, this time using whole grain spelt flour and a touch of Robin Hood nutri blend flour (a mix of white flour and ground wheat bran). I also used less white sugar and some agave syrup as well. (Honey or maple syrup would work well too). The base for this soup is so simple yet so tasty but I think the real highlight is all the garnishes, fresh farmers market tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, crispy oven baked tortilla strips, shredded chicken and a squeeze of lime. This is one soup I can eat in the summertime!

Spicy Tortilla Soup
8 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 28 oz can San marzano tomatoes
1 white onion, fine diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, fine diced
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp sugar

4 skinless chicken thighs (or 2 cups cooked roasted chicken, shredded)
2 avocados, cut in half
2 limes, cut in wedges
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

2 soft tortilla shells
oil,cumin, chipotle chili powder, salt

1. If using raw chicken thighs: In a stock pot bring chicken stock to a simmer and place chicken thighs in it. Poach until done. Remove chicken thighs, let cool and shred. Remove excess fat from chicken stock.
2. In another pot add a little oil and saute onion and garlic just until soft. Add 1/2 the can of tomatoes, chicken stock, sugar and spices in. Using a hand blender puree until smooth. Add the rest of the tomatoes in and the shredded chicken
3. While soup is simmering pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut tortillas into strips, toss with oil and spices and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake in oven until crispy approx 5-10 min
4. To serve place half an avocado in the bottom of the bowl, ladle soup on top, place tortilla strips into the avocado, and cherry tomatoes and cilantro in the middle, serve with lime wedges.

Spelt Cornbread
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup Robin Hood nutri blend flour (or use 1/4 white flour and 1/4 whole
wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixer blend egg, oil, sugar, agave nectar, vanilla and buttermilk together. In a separate bowl combine flours, salt and baking powder.
2. Slowly add dry mixture into the wet mixture. Add in cornmeal
3. Place in a greased 9" square pan and bake for 35 min or until toothpick comes out clean.

Jalapeno Honey Butter
1 cup softened salted butter
1 jalapeno, fine diced, reserve a sprinkle for the top
2 tbsp honey

1. Combine all ingredients together. Sprinkle extra jalapeno on top and a drizzle of honey

Insalata Caprese: Tomato Basil Bocconcini Salad with 15 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

I think I might have said watermelon feta salad was my favorite summer salad, but I was mistaken...THIS is my favorite summer salad! So simple and such clean flavours. It also doesn't hurt that there is the most amazing tomato stand at the farmers market right now. There are so many varieties, you know it's good when the lineup to fill a paper bag full of these little gems goes all the way down the whole market! These tomatoes are so good that I even pulled out my 15 year old balsamic vinegar that I brought back from Italy. Since it's aged so long, its thick and sweet and compliments the tomatoes nicely. I know it's not traditional to use balsamic vinegar in a caprese but I love the tang and sweetness it adds. Another good salad to bring to the beach!
Insalata Caprese
Tomatoes of your choice
Fresh Basil (chiffonade)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Fleur de sel

1.Depending on the amount you make, drizzle just enough to coat everything. Toss and serve.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rhubarb Blueberry Blackberry Crumble Cake

Ahh how I love summer farmer's markets...so inspiring! In season right now is the oh so lovely rhubarb, actually what am I saying? I used to hate rhubarb! Unless it was dipped in a pound of sugar of course. I think I may have found a new appreciation for it, the rhubarb I picked up this weekend at the market didn't taste anything like the stuff we used to pick from our backyard! I sauteed it quickly in a pan with a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of sugar just until soft. I know strawberry and rhubarb are usually the complimentary couple but I wanted to switch it up a bit and there were some nice looking blueberries and blackberries at my local grocer. I also doubled this cake recipe since I was feeding a bigger crowd for a bbq. Thanks to Dinner with Julie for another great recipe!

Rhubarb Blueberry Blackberry Crumble Cake (from Dinner with Julie)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup low fat sour cream or plain yogurt
Fruit of your choice

1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter (not softened)

1.Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 8" pan
2.Combine all crumble ingredients until well combined
3.For cake, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl
4. Using a mixer cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla
5.Alternate adding the dry ingredients and sour cream in, starting and finishing with flour.
6.Place batter in pan, top with fruit and then crumble
7.Bake for 35 min or until toothpick inserted comes out clean

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chocolate Banana "Pudding"

I think I might be the only one excited about this new discovery...but I'm sharing it with you anyways! For my birthday I recieved some Valrhona cocoa powder and I was trying to think of new ways to use this amazing product and it came to me, what if I combined my favorite yogurt with cocoa powder?! Much more healthy than homemade pudding and super easy, I just took some strawberry yogurt I had in my fridge and mixed it with the cocoa powder and voila! I layered the bottom of the glass with sliced banana, spooned the "pudding" in and topped it with amaretti cookies ala Giada De Laurentiis style. Next time I might try whipping some egg whites and folding it in, then you can call it chocolate mousse. Instant dessert!

Chocolate Banana "Pudding"
1 cup favorite yogurt (Greek style would make it more rich)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 banana sliced
1 ameretti cookie, crumbled

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summertime Salads: Watermelon Feta Salad and Cucumber Mango Salad Rolls

Summer is here! Okay, well it was last weekend anyways....prime beach weather and with that goes bbq's on the beach! I was in charge of the sides so I picked two of my favorite summer salads. Shown here is the watermelon feta salad and I also made my cantaloupe bocconcini salad. Cool, refreshing and light these are perfect for hot sunny days and pack and travel way better then a wilted green salad. Really it goes back to the basics, fruit and cheese, how can you go wrong? The mango cucumber salad rolls stuffed with fresh cilantro and mint made for good appys (and are good snacks for on the go). I just figured out how to use my mini charcoal bbq so stay tuned for anything I can get my hands on that goes good on a grill! Ohh yeaaa.

Watermelon Feta Salad
Watermelon, cubed
Feta, crumbled
Fresh mint, rough chopped
Fresh basil, rough chopped
Red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
Radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
Black olives, sliced (optional)

Lime Juice
Honey (if needed)

1. Toss together and chill in fridge.

Cucumber Mango Salad Rolls
Rice wrappers
Rice vermicelli noodles, cooked and chilled
Cucumber, sticks
Mango, sticks
Red pepper, sticks
Fresh Cilantro
Fresh Mint
Shrimp (optional)
Chicken (optional)
Favorite dipping sauce ( I used a sweet mango curry dipping sauce)

1.Dip rice wrapper in hot water, lay on flat surface and fill with ingredients. Wrap like a spring roll and keep covered with saran wrap.
2.Serve chilled.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Birthday Dinner: Hoisin Baked Trout w/ Lemon and Leeks, Wild Rice and Roasted Asparagus

Can you see where I get my love of food from? My ma! Now I can’t take credit for this dinner because this is my mom’s cooking! Ok, I did give her the idea for a hoisin glaze which she ran with and made her own and even then, I can’t even take credit because I got the idea from Dinner with Julie’s salmon rendition! When I was in town for mother’s day we also celebrated my birthday. Why is it there’s nothing like a home cooked meal made by mom? A trip home was just what I needed!

Hoisin Glazed Salmon
Hoisin Sauce
Sesame Oil
Chili flakes
Black Pepper
Warm Water

1 Salmon fillet
Leeks, sliced
1 Lemon, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine sauce ingredients to your taste and add enough warm water till you have sauce consistency.
2. On a lined baking sheet sprinkle leeks and lemon on the bottom and salmon fillet on top, skin side down. Top with hoisin glaze and bake for 20-25 min or until just cooked.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother’s Day Brunch: Tropical Coconut Pineapple Banana Pancakes & Open Faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

Ahh brunch, who doesn’t love a good brunch!? The only problem I have with brunch is what to order! I’m always torn between choosing something sweet or savoury. I had a chance to fly home for mother’s day and have had Cumin & Coriander's coconut pancakes on my mind for sometime, so I decided to make a similar version for brunch. Topped with toasted coconut, crushed pineapple, fresh mango, macadamia nuts and warm maple syrup, I think this could have even been a dessert! (Hey for real, when I was in Spain we ate at a restaurant that did a take on Americanized food and they had pancakes on their dessert menu! Oh and don't even ask why we were eating at a restaurant like this...I know it was so wrong!). Seeing as I was in charge of the menu planning and cooking, there was no need to choose between sweet or savoury! Toasted spelt bread was the base for the open faced sandwich topped with a low fat cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumbers, red onion and the first of the chives growing from our garden. Oh and ever wonder what to do with those leftover pancakes? Just freeze them and pop them in your toaster on those mornings you’re to lazy to make anything else, I swear I think they taste even better the second time around.

Tropical Coconut Pineapple Banana Pancakes
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 milk
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp coconut extract
1 banana, pureed
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
Pancake Garnishes
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup fresh mango, diced
1 cup banana, sliced
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
warm maple syrup

Open Faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches
Spelt bread (or any other kind you like), toasted
Low fat cream cheese
Smoked salmon
Cucumber, sliced
Red Onion, thinly sliced
Capers (optional)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

To Market To Market: Farmers Market Fresh Salad & Local Italian Pork Sausage

I flew back to Calgary this weekend and one of the first stops I always try and make is to the Calgary's farmers market. I don’t think I realized what great local products we have. From the local organic Italian pork sausage from Sunworks Farm to Sylvan Star’s gouda and gruyere cheese, these products are fantastic! My school course at the moment is called Eco-Nutrition and we are learning about the benefits of eating local and organic. I know I know, you hear it all the time, local, organic…but what does it really mean? Organic meaning free of pesticides, chemicals etc, local being products made, grown or produced near your area. When I first started school I even snubbed the idea of local and organic because I didn’t quite understand what it meant. An apples an apple right? I was wrong! I truly understood what it meant when last year at one of the Vancouver farmer’s market I tasted the crispiest sweetest apple, the ripest juiciest pear you could ever imagine and a tomato that tasted like a TOMATO. Sweet as candy I had never tasted anything like it, I can’t even tell you, it was outrageous! I literally had my paper bag of sungold cherry tomatoes and walked around popping them in my mouth like candy. I won’t preach because I rolled my eyes every time I heard “organic” at first, but the proof is in the product. What could be better then an apple picked fresh off the tree and sold to you days later? I can definitely taste the difference between that and a waxy apple that has been sprayed with chemicals, picked unripened and then gassed to ripen, sent across the country and sold to you a month later. I must admit I don’t eat local and organic all the time, but I definitely appreciate my food a lot more when I do! Today’s dinner incorporated products I found at the Calgary farmer’s market, from the Italian sausage to the whole grain baguette to the beets, apples and green beans, it was a nice light meal that would be perfect for those hot summer nights.

Sun gold cherry tomatoes from last years Vancouver's Trout Lake farmers market. I can hardly wait, next week is when Vancouver's farmers markets start to make their appearances!

Farmers Market Fresh Salad
Favorite greens (spring mix, spinach, baby romaine)
Shredded raw beet
Shredded raw carrot
Green beans, blanched
Apple, julienne
Avocado, diced
Feta, crumbled
Favorite vinaigrette (I used my fave homemade red wine garlic dijon dressing)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Midnight Baking:Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yesterday night I got home from a friends and not being tired just yet, I came up with the brilliant idea that I wanted to make cookies! It being 1:00 in the morning, I grabbed a pillow and stuffed it in the crack of my roommates door so not to wake them…I measured everything out and then proceeded to turn on my extremely loud Kitchen Aid mixer. How loud do you ask? You know that annoying sound of your neighbor’s lawn mower that seems to go off at hours way to early for any human being to be awake? That’s what mine sounds like! Now I know what you’re thinking, how inconsiderate of me! But hey, my roomies crank the blender for their smoothies at 5:30 in the morning everyday before work, so I think we’re even! It was all a fantastic idea until 1:45 rolled around and I was standing over the oven waiting for batch number three to come out and getting extremely sleepy…but it was all worth it in the end! I substituted some things such as using spelt flour instead of whole wheat flour, adding baking soda for a little extra rise and adding ground flax seeds in for texture and those good ol omega 3’s. For an even healthier version I think next time I will try using all spelt flour, no white flour and even cut back on the sugar. It tastes just like every other fabulous double chocolate chunk cookie so I definitely suggest you try making these! Just maybe not at 1 in the morning...

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(Adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food you Crave)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or whole grain spelt flour)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds (flax meal)
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 ounces dark chocolate chunks

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.In a mixer cream butter and sugars. Add oil, egg and vanilla.
3. In a seperate bowl combine flours, cocoa and salt. Slowly incorporate into wet mixture. Add chocolate chunks.
4.Bake until cookies are just set, about 12 minutes.