Summer Salad

When I was a kid, once a summer or so we used to block off the whole court, drag out the BBQs into the road and have a huge party. It was the greatest thing ever, with the neighbours offering up their pools to all us kids and all the summer BBQ favourites you could eat!

Even as a little kid, this recipe of my mom’s was one of my most looked-forward-to summer recipes. It was only ever broken out for special occasions, like the court party or a pool party at the neighbours, and I used to gobble up big plates of it every chance I got.

A quick google shows  tons of recipes for Broccoli Salad, almost all of them laden with lots of bacon and a cup or more of full fat mayonnaise. Which tastes fantastic, but isn’t so easy on the waistline. Tonight, with a washed and ready bag full of broccoli hanging out in my fridge just begging to be used, I decided to try and lighten up a traditional broccoli salad.

This salad is super easy, very quick and so yummy!

1 large head broccoli

4 slices bacon

2/3 cup 0% Greek yogurt

2 tbsp light mayo (I love Hellman’s light olive oil mayo)

1/2 cup light cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup raw pepitas (sunflower seed centres)

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Wash your broccoli really well; I like to soak all my hardy produce in a sink full of water and a cup of white vinegar when I bring it home, so everything in the fridge is ready to go when we want to eat it! Soak for about 15 minutes, then rinse with cool water and store in the veggie crisper until ready for use. The only thing I don’t do this with is berries, as they’re so fragile they always seem to end up mushy and gross if they’re pre-washed.

Next, crisp up your bacon either in a pan on the stove top or in the oven and then dice it into small pieces. Side note – I recently discovered baking bacon in the oven and it is *fantastic*! Line a rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and lay out your desired number of bacon strips on the pan and put it into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 400C and leave for 17-20 minutes (until desired crispiness) and you’re done, all with no grease splatters!

To make your dressing – mix the yogurt, mayo, salt & pepper together.

Put the broccoli, pepitas & bacon into a big bowl and mix in the dressing until well distributed. That’s it! Even the medic – who was super skeptical, said it was yummy 🙂

broccoli salad

-J.

 

 

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Fall 2.0 (aka I had leftover caramel spread)

So the medic told me that the local apples I’d bought at the grocery store were icky and a little mealy 😦 So I decided to turn them into apple sauce! This recipe is for my friends who went apple picking the other day (so jealous, since I was stuck in the hospital from the time the sun came up til it went down again that day). Going to have to go to the orchard near my place and pick up some good apples!

I had all the apples chopped and in the pot and I started pouring maple syrup into my measuring cup, thinking that would be a great way to sweeten my applesauce. Then when I opened the cupboard to get out a new bottle of syrup, I saw the leftover caramel from my muffins and decided caramel applesauce would be *amazing*!  So i poured the maple syrup back into the bottle and scraped the caramel into the pot!

Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce

6-8 medium apples, any variety, cored and roughly chopped

1/3 cup Grenache caramel spread

1.5 tsp cinnamon

2 shots Spicebox Pumpkin Spice Whiskey (or 3oz apple cider)

 

Put all ingredients in a pot, cover and turn on low. Let simmer until the apples break down and it starts to look like apple sauce. You can leave it a little chunky or use a potato masher to break up all the chunks for a smoother consistency. Peeling the apples is optional, I’m far too lazy to peel and chop apples, so I leave the skins on. I think mine was on low for about two hours; I just stirred it every now and then as I made dinner. When the medic came in from work,  he said the house smelled like pumpkin donuts! Enjoy my friends!

 

– J.

Welcome to Fall!!

Welcome to September my lovelies! Today I decided to go all out and make a total fall dinner and dessert before the medic had to leave for night shift.

Turkey Veggie Chili:

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 small to medium onion, diced

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (like more heat? add more jalapeno or leave in the seeds and ribs)

1 orange bell pepper, 1 inch dice

1 28oz can plum tomatoes, diced

1/2 c sundried tomatoes (not oil packed); blanched and diced

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp chili powder

1lb ground turkey breast

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Place the diced eggplant in a baking dish and toss with 2 tbsp (ish) olive oil and cover with foil. Bake at 350F for half an hour, stirring once.

While the eggplant bakes, place a heavy bottomed pot on the stove (I got a Le Creuset  pot from my MIL for a shower gift…I *love* it) and warm a couple tablespoons of oil. When the oil is warm, add the onion and cook until translucent about five minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute before adding in the jalapeno and bell pepper.

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Side note – I love my Rachael Ray spoons that rest so perfectly on the side of a pot!

Cook the peppers for five more minutes, then add in the tomatoes and seasonings. I used the can of tomatoes (and juice), as well as a diced regular tomato I had on my counter and a half pint of whole grape tomatoes.

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Let simmer while you brown the ground turkey in a separate pan. Once your turkey is browned and your eggplant is cooked, add them to the pot, along with the beans and diced sundried tomatoes. You can find the dry packed sundried tomatoes in the produce section usually. To blanch, cover with boiling water for two minutes, then drain and use as needed. Leave the pot to simmer for at least twenty minutes, longer is better!

When it’s done, it’ll look something like this:

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We topped ours with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. It would also be awesome eaten with your favourite tortilla chips, sour cream and green onions! Original recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/spicy_vegetarian_chili/

And now on to dessert:

Pink Salted Caramel Pumpkin Muffins

I know, right? Can’t get much more fall than pumpkin anything, can you? Another wedding shower gift – Mostly Muffins by Jean Pare. This recipe was originally for a loaf, but since I planned on bringing the remainder to work, I adapted it for muffins, since they’re so much more portable and easy to eat.

2 cups flour (I used half unbleached, half whole wheat)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg

1/2 milk of your choice (I used 1%; almond or soy would work well too)

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cup canned or fresh pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup Grenache caramel (found near the peanut butter…or you can use caramel/butterscotch ice cream topping)

Himalayan pink sea salt, coarse grind

Preheat oven to 375F

Measure all the dry ingredients (except the pecans and butterscotch chips) into a large bowl, whisk together. In a separate, medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, butter and pumpkin. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and add the butterscotch chips and pecans.

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Mix until just moistened, it’s okay if you can still see some flour! Overmixing is the *worst* thing you can do to batter, you’ll end up with dense, heavy muffins.

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Line your muffin tins with good non-stick liners…these muffins get sticky! Divide the batter among the cups (this will make 16-18…I did 1.5x the recipe and got a full two dozen). Easiest done with an icecream scoop that has a release lever. Once your batter is divided, use a small spoon to drizzle some of the caramel over each muffin. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester (or toothpick…or steak knife) inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let the muffins rest in the pan for a few minutes, then sprinkle a small amount of pink sea salt over the muffins before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

The finished product:

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Fair warning – the caramel bubbles up like mad and makes a *huge* mess on the muffin tin. Line the lower rack of your oven with tin foil, just in case, because you don’t want to be trying to scrub burnt caramel out of the bottom of your oven (it was bad enough scrubbing it off the pans)!

Lots of love, enjoy the weather!

– J.

BBQ Pizza

This is one of the medic’s favourite barbeque meals that I make and has become the only way we make pizza in our house! It’s a little bit of a pain in the ass getting started and don’t be surprised if you screw it up the first few times (pro-tip: start with individual pizzas first, they’re easier to handle).

Fresh pizza dough (make your own or buy from the bakery section)
Pizza sauce of choice (we love Unico garlic and basil)
Dried oregano to taste
Your favourite pizza toppings
Olive oil
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Flour

Our toppings of choice are usually pepperoni, red onion and mushrooms. I also really like using barbequed chicken and barbeque sauce instead of pepperoni and pizza sauce, with the mushrooms and onion.

Start by flouring your counter and rolling out the pizza dough. This part is one of my least favourite parts. Trying to get the dough to stretch out into a nice, relatively symmetrical (I’m OCD like that) rectangle makes me want to throttle someone so sometimes I give up and go back to it after shredding the cheese or whatever. Once your dough is stretched, transfer it to a cookie sheet or big cutting board and set aside.

Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that I prefer to sautée my veggies prior to putting them on the pizza because the BBQ is really only capable of warming then through, not cooking them.

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Assemble all your ingredients (toppings, shredded mozzarella, sauce, oregano and dough) somewhere close to your barbeque and pour a little oil into a bowl or mug.

If your barbeque has a removable upper rack, take it out and then heat the barbeque to medium. Once the grill is warm, take some folded up paper towel and dip it in your oil. Holding the paper towel with barbeque tongs, oil the grate of the barbeque (be careful of flare ups! Don’t soak the paper towel in oil and have water nearby just in case).

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The next part is a two person job if you’re doing one big pizza as opposed to a few individual sized ones: transfer the dough to the grill (a real son of a bitch sometimes). I find it easiest to have my assistant hold the tray with the dough close to the grill and then I just kind of pick the dough up and throw it on the grill really quickly (before it has a chance to tear). Once the dough is on the grill you have about one minute to try and tug it into a shape you’re happy with, then just shut the lid and wait!

Dough likes to do this when you cook it on the barbeque:

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You can pop the bubbles if you want but it doesn’t really matter. Once the dough starts to get some grill marks and colour, turn it 180 degrees (if your barbeque is big enough, otherwise, turn it as much as you can). Close the lid and let it continue cooking. Once the bottom is fully cooked, pull the dough off the grill, flip it cooked side up on your pan and turn the grill down to low.

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Top your pizza with sauce, and sprinkle with oregano to taste, then add your veggies, cheese and meat.

Again with two people (or super carefully by yourself), transfer the now topped pizza back to the grill (oiled or not, it generally won’t stick and half the time I forget to oil it before putting the pizza back on). Close the lid and let the pizza cook. Keep checking on it and when you start to get grill marks, turn the pizza. It’s done when the dough is cooked through and your cheese is all melty 🙂

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– J.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Okay so I know I promised a chocolate covered strawberry cupcake tutorial but about halfway through making them, I stopped taking pictures because it was such a tedious process between picture taking and baking (talk about labour intensive cupcakes…I’ve realized there’s a reason I normally used boxed mix and pre-made frosting )! There was a moment of panic about ten minutes into whipping the meringue and butter where I thought it would never curdle and turn all frosting-y but it happened in the end! They did turn out amazingly, so maybe I’ll blog them some other time:

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I pretty well followed the original recipe, just drizzling the chocolate instead of dunking the cupcakes. I also doubled the cupcake and icing recipe…and made enough buttercream to frost my house…So if anyone has any ideas for four cups of frozen strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream (other than being a fat kid and eating it with a spoon), let me know!

Try them out for yourself (but they are labour intensive…they took me about three and a half hours!): http://what2cook.net/2013/05/18/chocolate-covered-strawberry-hi-hat-cupcakes/

On to today’s post: Sasuage Stuffed Mushrooms! The medic (my husband) and I are trying to get into a more healthy lifestyle, with healthier foods and more exercise so I changed this recipe up a little to make it somewhat more figure friendly than the original.

6-8 large portobello mushrooms; stems and gills removed

454g Italian sausage (I used pork but for an even healthier switch use chicken or turkey)

1/2 – 3/4c old fashioned oats; pulsed in a food processor

1/2 c chopped spinach, defrosted

4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

225g light cream cheese (one package of the non-spreadable stuff)

juice of one lemon

1/4 c (ish) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1/2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Remove stems from mushroom caps and set aside, scrape out gills with a spoon (the fresher the mushrooms, the easier this step is). Place the caps, scraped side up on a tinfoil coated & cooking spray covered baking sheet:

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Remove the casing from your sausages, breaking up into small pieces and brown in a pan with the olive oil:

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Once your sausage is cooked through, drain off any excess fat and mix in your pulverized oats and spinach. The amount of oats you add is up to you and really depends on the amount of sausage you have. My package was 500g, so I used about 3/4c of oats, if you have a smaller package of sausages, use less oats! Set aside to cool. I used frozen spinach that I thawed out in the microwave and squeezed dry, but you can use fresh spinach wilted in a pan with a little water. You can also dice and sautee the mushroom stems if you want to add them to the filling as well. And feel free to change up the greens with whatever you have in the fridge (kale or Swiss chard both sound like good options to me).

In a separate bowl, mix together the garlic, cream cheese and lemon juice then add your cooled sausage mixture to the bowl and combine. Distribute among the mushroom caps based on the size of the cap (the bigger the cap, the more stuffing it gets!) and top each with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I highly reccomend splurging on a block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese…like $10-15 for a piece is not unreasonable as far as I’m concerned. A little goes a long way because it has so much more flavour than the pre-packaged stuff. And when you get to the last bit of the rind (the part that’s stamped) don’t throw it out! Put it in the freezer – nothing makes bottled sauce taste like homemade faster than being simmered with a couple glugs of red wine and a chunk of parmesan rind!

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Bake for 15-18 minutes at 400F, until the filling is hot and the cheese is all melty. If you’d like to serve these as appetizers, rather than entrees, you’ll need 40-48 cremini or white button mushrooms, stems removed.

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We had it with quinoa and a super simple Greek salad (cherry tomatoes, quartered cucumber, orange bell pepper and cubed feta dressed with Renee’s Greek vinagrette).

Adapted from: http://www.johnsonville.com/recipe/sausage-stuffed-mushrooms.html

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ever since I was a little kid, my mom has been making these muffins from an old muffin recipe book (who’s name escapes me at the moment). They are far and away my favourite muffins on the planet, and every time I took them somewhere when I was little, at least one person would ask for the recipe.

They’re pretty easy to customize and change up with a little imagination, I like replacing the banana with mashed sweet potato, the white sugar with brown, halving the nutmeg and adding a teaspoon or so of cinnamon!

1/2 c butter, room temperature

1/2 c white sugar

1 egg

1 c mashed banana (about two medium bananas)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp hot water

1 1/2 c flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup chocolate chips (more or less to taste)

 

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric mixer:

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Dissolve your baking soda in the hot water and add to the bowl along with the bananas and egg. Feel free to throw some vanilla in there too if you’d like!

I hate bananas that have brown spost on them. Seriously, the second a banana has a spot on it, it is inedible as far as I’m concerned. When they get to that point, I peel them, break them into chunks and freeze them in muffin-batch-sized portions in freezer bags. Then when I want to make muffins I can just pull them out of the freezer and let them thaw before adding them to the mix. I’m not going to lie – defrosted bananas look super icky but they make for moist muffins so it’s worth it!

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If you use fresh bananas, you’ll have to mash them before blending everything together with the electric hand mixer, otherwise just blend it all up with the hand mixer. Once the wet ingredients are blended, take another large bowl and whisk together your flour (I doubled this recipe and used 1 cup whole wheat and 2 cups unbleached), nutmeg, salt and chocolate chips. Then tilt the whole thing into your wet ingredient bowl and fold together until just combined. Be super careful not to over mix or you’ll end up with tough muffins.

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Pre-heat your oven to 375F (or if your oven is the ninth circle of hell like mine, 350F) and spray your muffin tins with cooking spray or line them with paper liners. Divide your batter evenly amongst your tins, this recipe makes 10-12 depending on how much you fill each tin.

Tip from mom: use an icecream scoop to portion out the batter…perfect amount every time! You can even get mini icecream scoops/melon ballers for mini muffins.

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Bake for twenty-ish minutes or until a toothpick/cake tester/bbq skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (try to avoid the chocolate chips, that doesn’t count as not coming out clean! Just pick a different muffin and try again. Let them cool in the tin for five minutes or so, until you can handle them and then transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

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– J.

Smokey Burgers with Lattice Bacon and Donkey Sauce

What is Donkey Sauce you ask? I said the same thing the first time I was introduced to it. It is (not surprisingly) a product of Guy Fieri’s culinary genius – and he says he called it Donkey Sauce because, “You’re an ass, if you don’t like it!”. It was stumbled upon by my husband when he was reading Maxim…for the article of course. Turns out, there was actually a pretty good article that had this gem of a sauce in it. I would put this stuff on damn near anything!

Donkey Sauce:

one large head of garlic, roasted

1 cup mayo (I used light, olive oil based)

5 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1t yellow mustard (yup just standard French’s)

1/4 salt

pepper to taste

To start preheat your oven to 400F then cut the top off of a clove of garlic and drizzle with oil.

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Wrap the garlic in tinfoil and throw it in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. When it’s done, it’ll look like this, all warm and golden and fragrant:

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Let the garlic cool until you can handle it, then you’re going to need to squeeze it into out of its skin and into a food processor. Or, if you have a Kitchenaid immersion blender that came with one of these attachments, I highly reccomend using it:

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It’s my favourite thing ever for making sauces and marinades. Once you’ve squeezed in your garlic, add the rest of the ingredients and blend!

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Lattice Bacon:

One package applewood smoked bacon (I like President’s Choice)

Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil. I usually cover it with heavy duty BBQ strength tinfoil, and then again with a layer of the Alcan Slide tinfoil.

Cut three strips of bacon in half and lay three of the halves down parallel to one another:IMG_0446

Then pull the centre piece back just a tiny bit at one end and lay another of the halves perpendicular to the first three:

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Put the middle piece back and pull the outside pieces up about half way on the opposite end and lay another piece perpendicular to the first three:

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Finally, put the outside pieces down and pull up the centre piece from that same end, putting your final piece of bacon in perpendicular to your first three again before putting the centre piece down:

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Put the cold pan in a cold oven, and turn it on to 400F, then just walk away for twenty minutes! When you come back, your bacon should be getting crispy. Keep a close eye on it, and when it’s as crispy as you like it, take it out of the oven. Let it cool on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

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Smokey Burgers:

750g medium/regular ground beef

2t liquid hickory smoke

1T Worcestershire sauce

1/4c finely chopped red onion

1 egg

1T minced garlic (I cheated and used jarred)

1/2c (ish) seasoned breadcrumbs (enough to make the mix not too wet)

salt

pepper

extra old cheddar cheese

red or green leaf lettuce

roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

garlic dill pickles, thinly sliced

Put the ground beef, egg, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, minced garlic and red onion in a bowl until combined.

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Put the formed burgers on a plate and cover with plastic wrap, then put them into the fridge for firm up for a bit while you heat up your BBQ. Guy Fieri says you can use a grill pan but I love to barbeque 🙂

Spray the burgers with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Once the barbeque is at medium low, put your burgers on sprayed side down and close the lid. Once the burgers start to form grill mark, turn them 180 degrees to get a pretty cross hatch pattern (and to make sure they get cooked through).

Flip the burgers and cook a few minutes more until you start to get grill marks on the opposite side, turn 180 degrees again and put on your cheese and bacon lattice. Close the lid again and cook until the cheese has melted and the burger is cooked through. All-in-all, it takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to cook the burgers.

To assemble, put some of the Donkey Sauce on a pretzel bun (we also like bakery ciabatta-type buns if you’re not into baking them yourself) and then layer on the burger, lettuce, tomato and pickles (plus whatever out you like…maybe some sliced onion?)

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And that’s it! My little brother-in-law said he loved me when he ate his, so I guess they must be good! Coming sometime this week (or maybe next) Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins…and Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes!

-J.