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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maple Banana Crunch Muffins

Tis the season for maple! The weather is warming up and the maple trees are treating us to our favorite sweets. The local sugar shacks of buzzing with activities and multiple products to offer. Depending on what your locals have to offer, you may be lucky enough to taste to just about anything, cooked in maple syrup; bacon, eggs and sausages. If you don't feel like eating all of these delicious items and to overdose on maple, you may want to give these moist and flavorful bundles of joy.

Maple Brown Sugar, given to me by friends

In this recipe for Banana muffins, I substituted the sugars with maple syrup and added a crumble topping to add in even more maple flavor to the muffin. Of course, if you want to keep it simple, you may discard the crumble and just make the muffin recipe.

Maple Banana Muffin
- 3/4 Cup Melted Butter
- 3/4 Cup Maple Syrup 
- 2 Eggs
- 3 Ripe Bananas, mashed
- 1 Tsp Vanilla
- 3/4 Cup Milk
- 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
*Preheat your oven at 350F
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, syrup, eggs, bananas, vanilla and milk. 
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. 
3. Incorporate the flour mixture into the wet mixture, and FOLD in the flour until just incorporated. It is important to not over mix the batter. Doing so will simply result in tough muffins. 
4. Fill 12 muffins molds at the 3/4 mark with the batter. At this point if you don't want the crumble, simply put the muffins in the oven for 30 minutes until the edges are a golden color. If you'd like to add the crumble, keep on reading. 

Maple Crumble 
- 1/4 Cup + 1 Tbsp Maple Sugar
- 1/4 Cup +1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/4 Cup Butter, melted
- 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1. Combine the sugars, the spices and the melted butter in a medium sized bowl, mix well.
2. Sift the flour in the bowl and stir slowly with a wooden spoon. You may finish mixing the crumble with your hands to obtain a light and airy crumble, just to bring it together. 
3. Place a small amount on top of the muffin batter to cover lightly the batter. 
4. Put in the preheated 350F degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges become golden. 

After having the aroma fill your kitchen, if not your entire house, you will want to taste one of these as soon as possible! Simply let them cool off 10 minutes after taking them out. They will come out easily from the muffin tin and will be just the right temperature to enjoy, and not burn your tongue!

Eat well, sleep well, and till next time!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

When most of us thing of squash, we normally think of a warm stew. Probably why the spaghetti squash is part of what is called, the winter squash family. An other squash in that family is the acorn squash. Compared to many other people who use squash during the winter season, I reunite with the spaghetti squash in full spring, when wanting to eliminate all carbohydrates from my diet to get in shape for the summer months. Why is that?! Well, as it's name suggests, it resembles a lot like spaghetti, as it falls apart in strands when cooks. It can then be used to replace spaghetti. I usually make a chunky tomato sauce to put on top and then cover with cheese for added flavor.  Here's what I made the other night.

Without complicating things too much here's what I through together in the pot.
- 3 Carrots, cut in a small dice
- 3 branches of celery, cut in a small dice
- 1 medium sized onion, small diced
- 4-5 basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 3-4 garlic gloves, minced
- 1 can of diced canned tomatoes
Pour some olive oil in a medium sized saucepan and cook everything but the tomatoes. When the onions start becoming translucent, pour in the can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer. This sauce is best if left to simmer for just over an hour, to complete cooking of the carrots mostly and develop more flavors. During that time cook the squash.

 To do this you will need a large saucepan, half filled with water, bring the water to a boil. Cut the squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Cut the halves in half to make 4 quarters. Plunge the pieces of squash in the boiling water, making sure that the meat of the squash is submerged under water to cook properly. Cook the squash until a fork enters easily the flesh, similar to testing boiling potatoes. Once the cooking is done, take the pieces out of the water, being careful because these will be very hot. Handling the cooked squash with a dry towel, take a fork and scrape the flesh off the skin of the squash. It is fall apart and resemble spaghetti. To finish it off, simply stir the squash with some butter and a small amount of salt to taste.

Simply put some spaghetti squash on the plate, pour as much of the veggies on top as you would like, and then top with you favorite cheese. The cheese will melt nicely and will unite all the flavors. This vegetarian dish is one of my favorite dishes to make, and of course to eat! Hope you enjoy this dish soon!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemon and Tarragon Chicken

When wanting to cook chicken, the first thing that comes to my mind is my grandmother's tarragon chicken. So when faced with a 2 Lbs, thawed out chicken in the fridge, I can't help but to take out the tarragon leaves. Always trying to find new combinations, I decided to make a apply a simple dry rub and then sprinkle with lemon juice. Here's how I proceeded.

Combine in a small bowl;
- 1 Tbsp Onion Salt
- 2 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tsp Ground Pepper
- 1 Tsp Chili Powder
- 2 Tbsp Dried Tarragon Leaves
With your fingers, crush all ingredients together to obtain a fine mixture.

To assemble the dish, follow these simple steps;
- Brush the casserole dish fitting your bird, with butter. 
- Place the chicken in the dish and pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Apply a coat of butter on the chicken, and then the rub... everywhere. 
- You may stuff the bird with a few vegetables, I did so with onions, celery, carrots and lemon slices. I also scattered some of those vegetables all around the chicken. 
- Before putting the dish, covered, in a 400F oven, I simply squeezed the juice of one lemon on top of the bird to give it an initial glaze and I added a few Tbsp of water in the bottom just so it doesn't turn out too dry.  
- Give it about 45 minutes in the 400F oven with the lid and then remove the lid to brown the bird for another 20 to 25 minutes, giving it a total of just over an hour of cooking time. Anything over 3.5 Lbs, add about 8-9 minutes per pound. 

Et voila, my chicken, perfectly cooked with a beautiful golden color and aromas that are OUT OF THIS WORLD! I really recommend keeping the dripping of this dish, along with the vegetables, lemons and bones of the chicken to make a broth. The bottom of this dish contains plenty of amazing flavors. For now, try it out,  give it a try, and enjoy!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time, 


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Game Night Bread (Jalapeno & Cheddar Beer Bread)

On "game night", there are only a few things that take priority over the game, obviously shown on the best technology available in T.V.s today. Of course these things are; the food and the beer, in whichever order of importance you'd prefer. Of course, when we think of "game night" food, we think greasy, cheesy, spicy foods, preferably something you can order by phone and through away the packaging after.
This recipe will not only deliver on the cheesy and spicy aspect of the food, can be very easily made before your guests arrive. This is without any doubt, the easiest and simplest recipe for bread that I know. The secret? Beer! Although there are many "Beer Bread" recipes out there and some more complex then others, this is a simple version and uses baking powder to rise. Let's get right to it.

Here are the few ingredients to put together this recipe.
Combine in a large bowl;
- 3 Cups All purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tsp Salt
Prepare on the side;
- 1 Cup Marble Cheese, grated
- 2-3 jalapeño peppers, depending on how hot you want it, finely chopped.
- 1/2 Cup of basil leaves, finely sliced (this will add another dimension to the taste, can be omitted)
Now, to get the dough going, pour in the 355ml of beer, right into the flour mixture;

You will get a thick dough, which I finishes mixing by hand to get a better and more even texture. As i was lightly kneading the dough, I incorporated all the fixings and incorporating them in. If, at this point,  you think the dough is too dry, you may add a couple drops of water until it all comes together. Then press into a buttered/floured, 8-inch loaf pan and bake in a 375F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in teh center, comes out clean.

Wait for the loaf to cool, and it should slide right out of the mold. Now, for a few ideas on how to use this bread for game night. This bread would be very very good with a big bowl of chili, or even simply served with a fresh salsa. Either way, this bread will bring something spicy to the table and fill you up so you can enjoy the best things in life; watching the game, with your beer in hand. 

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!


Verdure riche / Deap Rich Greens

Épinards - Spinach

Popeye aurait il raison? Est ce que la tenure de fer de l'epinard peu donner de la force aux heros? Malheureusement, manger de l'epinard ne te transformera pas en heros, car sa teneur en fer n'est pas particulierement elevee. La popularisation de l'epinard date du temps de Catherine de Medicis, quand la France commenca a utilise cet ingredient provenu de la Perse. Mais c'est avec leur climat tempere, que la Chine a maintenant le monopole de la production de 85% des epinards du monde avec plus de 10 million de tonnes d'epinards produit par annee. Alors si l'epinard ne nous transforme pas en heros, quesque cette plante potagere puisse faire pour nous? Le plus que puisse faire, est d'ameliorer l'afflux de sang dans certaines zones du cerveau et qui pourrait, avec le temps, prevenir la demence. C'est grace a une erreur de tape, faite par une secretaire americaine, que l'on puisse attribuer la rumeur du haut niveau de fer dans les epinards. Parcontre, l'epinard est une des meilleures sources de vitamine B9.
L'epinard est un ingredient tres versatile et peut se retrouver dans n'importe quel plat. Omelettes, pains, casseroles, soupes; tous peuvent contenir cet ingredient. Pour aujourd'hui, ajoutons de l'epinard a un plat indien; Cari aux epinards et pois chiches.

Would Popeye be at fault? Does spinach contain enough iron to turn you into a super hero? Sadly, eating spinach will not turn you into a super hero, because it is not the best of sources for iron. The popularity of this Persian leaf started in France by Catherine de Medicis. But nowadays, it is thanks to China's calm weathers that they produce 85% of today's spinach, translating into more then 10 million tons of spinach yearly. So if spinach does not turn us into heros, what does this edible flowering plant have to offer us? Spinach is more commonly known for its high levels of vitamin B9 and for its capabilities to help the blood flow to certain parts of the brain. After a period of time, this can prevent dementia in elderly people. It is thanks to a typo made by an American secretary that we can attribute the wide spread rumor of iron levels in spinach. Meat is a better alternative for a good source of iron.
Spinach can be found in almost any modern day dishes. Omelets, breads, casseroles, soups and much more; all can contain this ingredient. For today, lets add it to an Indian dish; Spinach and Chick Pea Curry.

Spinach and Chick Pea Curry
This simple dish if full vitamins and even more flavor. As all good curries, we start by frying our spices to release the heat and flavors. Then we fry the vegetables, deglaze with, in this dish, coconut milk and then let simmer to perfection. You then have the option of eating the dish as is with roti, or have it on top of rice or potatoes. Let's start cooking.

- 2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp Hot Yellow Curry Powder
- 2 Tsp Turmeric
- 1 Tsp Cumin seeds (use powder form if not available)
- 2 medium size Onions, finely chopped
- 2 small bunch fresh Spinach leaves (roughly chopped, not to much of the stems)
- 1 can of Chickpeas, drained
- 1 can Coconut Milk

Putting this together is simple enough.

1. Heat the pan to medium-high heat with the oil. Add the spices and stir with a large spoon. make sure it's a spoon that you won't mind staining, if this happens.
2. Add the onion and fry at medium heat.Add the spinach and the chickpeas. Fry on medium high heat for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low to keep the curry to a simmer and reduce the liquid.

Personally, if I am serving this dish on rice, I will leave more of the liquid, so not letting it reduce as much. Compared to if I were to serve this on its own with roti, I would let it reduce some more to better handle it when eating.

In the dead of winter, when I feel like eating a heartier meal, i will fry up some potatoes, hashbrown style. Peel the amount of potatoes you'll want and cut them in small cubes. To make the frying process quicker and easier, blanch them in boiling water, enough to cook them till you can start pushing a fork inside a cube. Do not cook them through or it will turn to mush in the pan. Heat up some oil at medium high heat and place the drained and partially cooked potatoes, in the oil and fry to get a nice golden color and complete the cooking. Simply add salt and pepper to taste or even try adding my personal favorite, cilantro, for another layer of flavor and freshness.
Whether you add spinach to a curry dish, pasta dish, pizza or spanakopita, it's always an easy way to add more nutrients to your dish. Who knows, you might turn into Popeye!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!
A bientôt!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Rolls with Beef and Mushroom Dumplings

Once in a while we all crave something fresh, refreshing and new to have for dinner! Although very convenient to drive down the main drag and pick your desired ethnic food, knowledge is power and this food will empower you to want to learn much more! Try these easy and delicious foods today!

Spring rolls:

- Rice paper wraps
- Vermicelli rice noodles
- Cilantro and Mint
- Soy germs
- Mangoes
- Cooked Shrimps
- Sweet Chili Sauce

How to assemble? 
- Boil a pot of water for you vermicelli and soak them in the water once boiling, just until soft, it doesn't take long at all!
- Prepare a large bowl of warm water to soak the rice papers to soften them, one or two at a time.
- Prepare your other ingredients to have them at hand to better assemble the rolls; slice thin mango pieces and have the shrimp thawed out of cooked and dry.

On a dry towel, place the softened rice paper wrapper. on the bottom part of the wrapper place a small amount of the vermicelli noodles and a few sprouts. At this point, if you want to add some heat, squeeze a few drops of Sriracha chili pepper sauce. Continut with the stacking, adding 2-3 shrimps depending on the size with 2 thin slices of mango. Top with a couple leaves of mint and some cilantro.
Start by folding the bottom of the wrap over the fillingto secure them in place. Then bring in the sides to close it up and wrap the roll forward by maintaining a tight roll. Be careful, the wrapper is fragile enough and might tear. Repeat and repeat again until you have a sufficient amount of rolls. Serve with Sweet chili sauce! With the refreshing flavors combined with a little heat, it's hard to stop eating them, as they become very addicting!

Beef and Mushroom Dumplings:

When it came to making dumpling, any type of spoon-able mixture tends to work as a filling. With a leftover roast, which had already cooked in its own juices all of yesterday, it was deemed a good idea to try and fuse a stew like flavor into these wonderful Asian pockets of joy. As for other possibilities; Teriyaki chicken and mushroom, Leak and Chive, Shrimp and Chive, or anything you can blend together with your hand mixer that you would think would taste good. These dumplings could easily become pot stickers by frying them in a pan, or you could do as I did and cook them in a bamboo steamer. Either way, I would suggest that the filling would be cooked before placing in the raw dumpling wrapper. These wrappers can be found in most supermarkets where you can find an Asian foods isle and mostly in the frozen section.

To assemble:
-Thaw out the wonton wrappers before working with them and have a small bowl of cold water beside you.
-Have you mixture ready (I used  left over beef with mushrooms and corn, all very finely minced together)
- spoon a very small amount in the middle of the wrapper and with your finger, wet the surrounding edge of the wrapper.
- Fold in half to form a crescent shape. At this stage them are many ways of folding a dumpling. Here are a few video links to give you a better idea on how to achieve the next few steps.

- Either cook in a well oiled frying pan, or in a bamboo steamer. These steamers are a really neat thing to have in your kitchen and will, without a doubt, impress your friends at your next dinner party. To use this method, place the steamer on top of a large sauce pot with water inside, which the steamer will sit securely on top. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a medium-high setting to keep creating steam to fill the bamboo chamber. Using a brush, apply some vegetable oil on the bottom of the steamer to prevent the dumplings from sticking, or use the more traditional method of placing the dumplings on lettuce or cabbage leaves inside the steamer. Cook until the wrapper becomes translucent and the mixture is steaming hot. 

In every package of wrapper, you will find around 100 wonton wraps and if your up to it, please feel free to make that large amount and freeze them before cooking them to have them on hand. Combine store made dumplings with your own to create a variety. I strongly suggest serving these with a spicy peanut sauce or your favorite Asian inspired sauce. Enjoy!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!


Snack Time!

Whether it is the dead of winter, or summer in full swing, these snacks will keep you going through the afternoon while thinking of what to make for dinner! These are my two favorite dips which I make myself, very easily, which are packed with refreshing flavors. With today's society and it's health conscious diets, premade hummus and guacamole are  readily available in multiple flavors. Unless these products are on sale, a can of chickpeas at 1,50$ and a clove of garlic, comes at a way better price with the added insurance of knowing exactly what you're eating. Here are some healthy alternative of having chips and dips.

Alternative to chips: 
1. Purchase whole wheat pitas at your local supermarket.
2. Cut in triangular pieces and place on a foil covered baking sheet.
3. Brush lightly with olive oil and add your favorite seasoning (garlic powder, salt, cayenne pepper...)
4. Put undo your oven broiler until crispy, remove and turn the chips over and return under broiler till crisp.
Make a large batch and keep in a tightly sealed plastic container for easy and healthy snacking at your fingertips.

- 1 -19oz can of chickpeas, drained and placed in a bowl
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
Blend all ingredients together, either in a food processor, or a hand stick blender, and enjoy!

- 2 ripe avocados. (to learn more about avocados click here)
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced.
Mash all ingredients together with a forks and serve as a dip.

REMEMBER: You ARE what you EAT, so KNOW what you EAT!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!