Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Evolution Cucumber Salad

I admit it - I watched Rachael Ray yesterday. Anyway, it was okay because she wasn't very screachy and it was rather lucky actually because there was Jamie Oliver in all his Britishness speaking about good food and easy recipes. I copied his recipe down with the PVR on slow-mo and made the cucumber salad the other night for dinner (as a side). Since my own notes are quite basic, I will copy the recipe from RR's website and post it here for you. Go here for a video and picture of the salad - my salad looked EXACTLY the same! It was a very, very good salad. So easy and honestly, much nicer than cucumber salad sounds. I am trying the Evolution Potato Salad tomorrow.

Jamie Oliver's Evolution Cucumber Salad - Serves 4
Peel 2 cucumbers, using a speed peeler, chop off the ends, and halve them lengthways. Use a teaspoon to gently scoop the seeds out, and discard them. Chop the cucumber into irregular bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl. Seas with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and mix well. Pick some leaves off a few sprigs of fresh mint and roughly chop them. Add them to the salad and toss together. Serve the salad simply as it is, or let it evolve…
Add a large tablespoon of natural yogurt to the cucumber salad. Toss until well coated and serve drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.
Put a large handful of black olives on a clean surface and press down on them with the palm of your hand to remove the pits. Discard the pits and add the olives to the salad. Toss together well.
Halve 1 fresh red chile lengthways, seed, and finely chop. Scatter over your cucumber salad and serve drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Poached Eggs on Spinach & Polenta

This is a good brunch idea or even a great light dinner for the warmer months. I made it tonight for dinner and found it filling enough (for now...wait 'til midnight strikes). A good vegetarian option for those of you hosting an Easter lunch or brunch this weekend.

This recipe is from Food & Drink magazine (LCBO Spring 2010, page 118)

Ingredients and Prep: Serves 4 - adjust accordingly for # of guests

1 tube store bought polenta (500 grams)
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of sliced shitake mushrooms (I used cremini)
10 cups of baby spinach (I used the Europe's Best frozen squares because it is easier!)
salt and pepper
4 eggs
4 thin slices of cheese (of your choice)

Preheat your oven to 300F - this is just to keep the polenta warm so use your warming drawer if you have one.

Slice up half your tube of polenta. Fill a wide saucepan with a bout 2" of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and add vinegar. Add half the oil to a frying pan. Fry up your polenta until golden on each side. About 10-12 minutes. Place on a heat proof plate and keep warm in oven or warming drawer. Add remaining oil to pan and fry up your mushrooms, then add your spinach. Drain any water from the spinach (especially if you use the frozen kind) prior to adding if you can. Season spinach and mushrooms with salt and pepper. keep on a very low heat to keep warm. next, poach your eggs. Keep the yolks slightly runny. Remove with a slotted spoon.

To serve, plate polenta first, then cheese, spinach & mushroom mixture and the eggs on top.

Yum. And Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cream of Tomato Soup

Long time no seems time is flying by these days. As usual nothing was in the fridge or cupboard last night so I used some canned goods and cream from a dinner party the weekend before to make this yummy soup. Tomato soup is one of my favorites and always tastes good to me! This was my first time making it from scratch.

I used the basic concept of a recipe I found on epicurious and changed it to suit how I wanted the soup to taste. A good tip from this one...use some baking soda in the tomatoes before you put them in the milk so it won't curdle. Here is the epicurious recipe:

Here is what I did.

Ingredients and instructions:

5 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
5 tbsp flour
2.5 cups skim milk
.5 cup of heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1.5 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda (for tomatoes)
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes in tomato puree (not water)
1 small can of tomato paste
2 cups of tomato puree (I use the Molisana brand in the glass bottle)

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion and cook until soft. Add flour and let cook for 1-2 minutes or so. Slowly add all the remaining ingredients except the tomato items and the baking soda. Add the baking soda to your whole tomatoes in a separate dish. Now add all the tomatoes items to the soup. Stir and bring to a simmer. Take off the heat. Put the soup through a strainer (don't forget to catch it!), and use a wooden spoon to get all the liquid out from the tomato and onion bits. Save what is left and serve over some fried up polenta. I did this and it was very good! Waste not want not, right? Taste the soup and adjust flavour with salt/pepper/thyme to your liking. Reheat and serve.

No picture as it is all gone...the baby really liked it too (with some alphabet pasta mixed in)!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Classic Comfort Food - Grilled Cheese

It's a snowy day and some comfort food was in order. I was still in my pajamas by the time lunch rolled around so it only seemed fitting. For the record, I don't typically sit around in my jammies all day but I am home with the baby all day today. We are relaxing.

This took about 7 minutes to make. That's about the time it takes the baby to eat one of her Mum Mum crackers - a good distraction tool.

Ingredients and Prep:

  • 1 plum tomato (these have the least water in them so I find they are a good option as your sandwich won't get soggy)
  • some brie (I remove the rind because I want nothing coming between me and smooth melty brie)
  • a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 slices of bread
  • some butter
Prepare as you would a typical grilled cheese (do I have to tell you how?). You know, butter each slice of bread on one side. Place 1st piece in frying pan, add brie, tomato, fresh thyme leaves, top with 2nd slice of bread. Turn on the heat to medium and grill until golden brown.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Menu: Hash Brown Casserole, 7 Layer Salad & Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing

Well, I have only a couple of hours to finish everything up, pack up the husband, baby & dog and head over to my brother-in-law's house for the game. Football isn't really my thing, but my in laws love it so I go for the socializing. But who's kidding who here? It's really because I like the food. As a non meat eater in a carnivorous family, I like to contribute to the menu so that a) I have something to eat and b) I can see how long it takes my Father-in-law to realize that it's not "real" bacon that he's eating!

While I can't say what everyone else is bringing - here are my contributions:

- 7 Layered Salad with homemade Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing
- Veggie burgers (Yves brand)
- Hash brown Casserole with Faux Bacon, Onions & Cheese
- Brownies (from a box - we all cheat sometimes)

Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing

*try using an old mason or pasta sauce jar to make your dressing in...
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup 2% plain yogurt
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp green onion or chives, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • salt (to taste)
  • white pepper (to taste)
Put the liquid ingredients in your jar first, then the remaining ingredients. Stir up or shake madly. Let the flavours infuse for a few hours or overnight.

The 7 Layer Salad

This was supposed to be a vegetarian Cobb salad - you can see it is not. All I can say is that of the 2 stores and 4 avocados I bought, 0/4 could be used. Instead it became a layered salad made from a variety of ingredients.

From the bottom up...

Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, chick peas, green leaf lettuce, boiled egg, green onion.

This will be served with the Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing so that will make it much better.

Hash Brown Casserole with Faux Bacon, Onion and Cheese

I pretty much followed this recipe from Cooking Light but used fake bacon (Yves brand) and I eliminated the green onions. I also used 2% plain yogurt instead of sour cream because I had it leftover from the dressing recipe.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's the Superbowl tomorrow and the pantry is bare

As I sit here with my glass of milk and freshly baked brownie, I can think of nothing to make tomorrow for the Superbowl. I've been considering the standards - veggie chili, nachos, dips, cheese, cheese & more cheese, pizza. Nothing is making me feel good about sitting through hours of football yet. My shopping list is empty and the pantry is bare. It's 4:45 on Saturday so I better get my act together!

Any ideas? What do you want to eat tomorrow?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vegetarian French Onion Soup with Sweet Vermouth

I love French onion soup - always have, always will. The only problem is 2 years ago we gave up the likes of beef broth (thank you Michael Pollan) so French onion has been missing from the menu.

I am on a soup kick this winter and have changed many recipes from chicken or beef stock to veggie so why would this be any different? Another change was a switch from Brandy to Sweet Vermouth and the results are divine! It really makes a subtle but very interesting change to the flavour of the soup. I have yet to perfect making a crouton and tonight was not the night to start messing around in the kitchen. The "croutons" are sub-par but still had a great taste - perhaps the result of a gooey mess of melty Swiss?

The key to this soup is taking your time with caramelizing the onions. This is the hard part. After that, it's a piece of cake.

The recipe is a compilation of many recipes including Chef Michael Smith, various home chefs from, random recipes on the Internet etc.

Ingredients and Prep:

For the Caramelized Onions:

  • 6 medium sized yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 swirls of the pan of olive oil
  • smidgen of salt
  • smidgen of sugar

For the Soup:

  • 6 cups of vegetable stock (traditional FOS calls for beef stock but this is a veggie recipe so we use that)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (leaves only, no stems please!)
  • 1/2 cup of sweet vermouth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • bread of your choice cut to fit the bowls you are using, toasted (or grilled in the pan grilled cheese style)
  • Swiss cheese, your choice on the amount! (Gruyere is often recommended but very expensive)
Add the butter and olive oil to your soup pot. Once hot and before the butter burns add the onions. Stir until coated. Add the salt and sugar. Turn the heat to medium low (more low than medium) and let them cook for about 1 hour. Stir periodically so they don't burn and add more butter/evoo if they need it. Once they are golden and caramelized, add the rest of the ingredients (not the bread and cheese though!) and simmer for 15 minutes.

Put the soup in your oven proof bowls, add the bread on top, then the cheese. Put them on a baking sheet under the broiler until bubbling and golden.

Bon Appetit!!!

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

I am trying to be good and eat like Oprah tells me to eat (Afterall, she is the boss of advice). Wasn't her diabetes show scary? I can't imagine that 80 million Americans are living with pre-diabetes or diabetes. Crazy.

Anyway, I made this broccoli soup and have no idea what the glycemic index of it may be but it sounds healthy and there is no added sugar. I was inspired by the boss of food, Ms. Martha Stewart.

Original recipe from Martha Stewart -

Martha Stewart's Recipe below:


Serves 8
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bunches broccoli (about 3 1/4 pounds), stems and florets chopped separately into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 7 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock (or veggie stock like I used)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated or crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8 thin slices crusty baguette
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and broccoli stems; cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add stock and salt; cover, raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Add broccoli florets; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, until florets are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove soup from heat, and let cool, about 10 minutes. Fill a blender no more than halfway to puree soup in batches until smooth. Return soup to pot; stir in milk and cayenne. Cook over medium heat until heated through (do not boil).
  3. Heat broiler. Divide cheese among bread slices; toast under broiler until melted and golden brown, 45 to 60 seconds. Divide soup among bowls. Top each bowl with a cheese toast, and serve.
Instead of making the baguette toasts with cheddar like Martha instructs, I added cheddar directly to the soup at the end of the process. I added approx. 1 cup of shredded extra old cheddar. Healthy? Maybe not in this case, but delicious? Of course!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This & That Flatbread

Another inspiration from Fresh365. I took Erin's basic recipe for flatbread and tweaked it a little to suit our taste and what we had in the fridge.

Here are the ingredients for Fresh365's basic flatbread recipe:

3/4 c water
1/2 t dry active yeast
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt

I used organic whole wheat flour and had to add more water but you just play it by ear based on what your flour is doing. Here are Fresh365's instructions for preparing the dough.

Preheat oven to 500F. In a small bowl, add water and dry active yeast. Stir well, and set aside 3-4 minutes until yeast has dissolved. In a food processor, add flour and salt. Blend. Through the hole in the cover, slowly pour in the water-yeast. Dough will quickly form into a bowl. Transfer dough to a floured surface and divide into two equal size balls. If needed, knead dough until smooth, 1 minute. Roll each ball out until very thin, but not transparent. Transfer to individual baking sheets."

I put my oven at 450F as it gets very hot. I just added a couple minutes to the cooking time later on. I also used the whole ball of dough and didn't break it up so it was a slightly thicker flatbread. Too crispy = crumbs all over the house which I don't like!

Here are Fresh365's instructions for baking:

Bake dough 4-5 minutes, until beginning to brown. Remove from oven. Top each dough with a drizzle of olive oil, arugula, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola cheese. Bake 5-7 minutes, until edge begin to brown. To serve, slice flatbread and sprinkle with black pepper, to taste."

As I said before, I just added a few extra minutes.

Fresh365 made a Gorgonzola, Caramelized Onion and Arugula Flatbread. I used up a bunch of things from the fridge. That's why it is a This & That Flatbread. Probably one too many ingredients but it was awesome anyway! be creative and add ingredients to suit your menu or what you have on hand.

- sauteed spinach
- sauteed zucchini
- caramelized onions (I was making French Onion soup so borrowed some from that recipe)
- chopped black olives
- chopped green onions
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 1/4 c crumbled feta
- 1/8 c crumbled blue cheese
- drizzled olive oil

Here is a link to Fresh365's original:

Spinach & Tortellini Soup Recipe from Fresh365

I was looking for an easy weekday meal idea for a cold, gloomy January and happened upon Fresh365 - an amazing blog for vegetarians (it`s been in my bookmarks forever but I usually forget about visiting those sites). This recipe was Erin`s 3rd most popular recipe of 2009. Enjoy!

I made the soup and it was very good, very simple and very easy to prepare.

Here is the original recipe from Fresh365 -

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pumpkin Bars

Who doesn't have a stray can of pumpkin puree lying around in the cupboard, right? Well, mine had been there for a while and I want a clean slate so to speak so I am using up the old forgotten items. I googled pumpkin puree recipes and up popped an epicurious tag for a Paula Deen Pumpkin Bar. I love Paula Deen for her crazy personality and her free use of all things sugar and butter.

These bars (or "muffins" which I also made which the extra batter) are delicious and really moist. Super easy to do as well. I can guarantee they are easy as I made them while holding the baby (she was put down away from the stove though before I put them in - no children harmed during the making of these muffins/bars!).

Here's what you have to do...

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin (that’s about 444ml for the Canadians reading - I had to check)
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened (1 standard size package of Philly)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.
Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Slowcooker Vegetarian Chili - the easy method

Wow - I just realized how long it has been since I have written a post. I can assure you we have been eating as much as always but the time to take pictures and write about our meals has somehow dwindled down next to nothing.

I have been on a chili kick lately (and a homemade soup kick too - more on that next time). It's got to be just about the easiest and cheapest thing to make while still be healthy and filling. Here is the recipe for my vegetarian chili made in a crock pot.

Ingredients and Instructions:

Can of black beans
Can of white kidney beans
Can of red kidney beans
Can of sliced mushrooms or fresh if you have them
Can of whole tomatoes
Can of mini diced tomatoes ( you know the kind, the meal starters???)
4-5 tablespoons of EVOO (I add the olive oil as it gives it some richness that is missing without it)
4-5 tablespoons chili powder or to taste
2-3 tablespoons of cumin
3 bay leaves (remove before eating)
Salt to taste

Make sure to rinse the beans before using them. Use the juices from both cans of tomatoes. Toss it all in the crock pot and set the time for when you want to eat it! Serve with yummy crusty bread.