Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Musings

I had a good weekend, despite the prematurely autumnal temperatures.  Saturday I had an almost private concert with an amazing singer in a cold, windy parking lot in the middle of nowhere.  Strange but true!  Sunday I spent a couple of hours wandering through Sobeys, perusing merchandise, reading labels to find things I could actually eat, and discovering new Jamie merchandise!  I didn't buy this:

I already have it on pre-order for 40% off elsewhere.  It's not officially supposed to be released until next week!  Sadly, every copy was plastic wrapped so I didn't even get a peek inside.  I did, however, buy this:

I got a bargain at $15, even though it was marked at $50 (thanks to my JO stamps and Club Sobeys points).  Now I have a complete set of dishes for Thanksgiving, along with a gravy boat and this lovely platter.  Next up, I want to start collecting the cutlery!  :)

I cleaned out my upstairs freezer and found a few things to use up.  Among them were some spicy sausages and last year's beet greens. Since I'm now apparently allowed to eat pork, I thought I'd recreate the Sausage Gnocchi 15 Minute Meal using a beautiful broccoli from the market, along with that delicious, warm kale beet green & green bean salad.  Say that three times fast!  What makes it so good is the pan-fried bacon & hazelnut topping with a hint of maple syrup.  Mmmmmmm.

For the week ahead, I'm trying to base my meals around what's in my fridge & freezer. 

lunch - deli cajun chicken wrap
dinner - left over sausage gnocchi & warm salad
prep - defrost chicken

lunch - Asian noodle soup with savoy cabbage
dinner - chicken with Dairy Free Southern Mac and Cheese

lunch - left over mac and cheese and/or noodle soup
dinner - pumpkin rice laksa soup
prep - defost tuna steak

lunch - left over pumpkin rice laksa soup
dinner - Asian Seared Tuna with roasted balsamic beets
prep - defrost pork roast

lunch - left over pumpkin rice laksa soup
dinner - roast pork with mashed potatoes & broccoli

Saturday/Sunday I'd like to do something with the left over pork from Save With Jamie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake

My naturopathic doctor advises me that I should limit my gluten intake to three times a week (ideally) or at least once a day (realistically).  In an attempt to have some GF options in the house, I scoured the shelves of a few health food stores this weekend.  It's an exercise in frustration!  While it's not hard to find GF products, and a wide variety to boot, they generally use a mix of different flours to get the correct consistency.  Sadly, that usually means some type of cornstarch, brown rice or chick pea flour is included (all of which I have to completely avoid).  So I've come to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to consciously NOT eat breads or crackers or cookies or cakes at certain meals....unless they are flourless.

445.  Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake recipe

This is a flourless cake, and I was able to manipulate the recipe to also be dairy-free, by substituting some Earth Balance for the butter.  Since I only had 100g of ground almonds in the cupboard, I decided to cut the quantities in half.  Probably a good thing since I really don't need to eat a whole decadent coffee cake by myself!  I also thought I'd attempt to make these as individual would be that much easier to have some portion control!  Ha ha.

This was a three-part process:

1.  Melt dark chocolate, butter (or butter substitute) over simmering water on the stove, with a small amount of espresso or strong coffee.
2.  Combine egg yolks & sugar, whisk until smooth and pale, then fold in almonds and chocolate mixture.
3.  Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold this into the batter.

I greased my six part extra large muffin pan, then added paper liners, and filled them almost to the top to use up all the batter.  I put these into a 325 F oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre came out clean.

Oh wow, talk about indulgent!  I am actually not a coffee drinker (even though I love the flavour), so I ate this delectable treat with a nice cup of chai.  ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seriously Good Fish Tagine

I've rediscovered the 30 Minute Meals book lately.  It seems as though I worked my way through most of the chicken and vegetarian meals, but I missed a few good ones from the fish chapter.  This one doesn't have a TV episode associated with it (sadly).  It's been a while since I made a tagine....or a "stew with attitude", as Jamie calls them.  I've had some successes, some do-overs, and some failures before, but I was sure this one would be a slam dunk!

444.  Seriously Good Fish Tagine (Jamie Oliver's Meals In Minutes, page 155) recipe

The cookbook calls for monkfish, but this US-based website calls for cod.  I only had frozen Alaskan pollock, so that's what I used....along with mussels, of course.  Mussels are my life saver.  I mean, almost 2 pounds for less than $4, you can't beat that!  For the salad, I thought I'd have arugula rather than fennel (because it's what I had on hand).  The only other substitution I made was basmati rice in place of couscous.  I found out yesterday that I have to limit my gluten intake, along with about 35 other foods....but it could be worse.  They could take my fish away from me, and they aren't doing that!

I started out by making a big pot of basmati, so I could make the kids a quick fried rice, and parboiling some potatoes.  I saved some rice for myself, cleared everyone out of the kitchen, and got to work on my tagine.  I put my pollock in a square Pyrex roasting pan, and sprinkled it with minced garlic, fennel seeds, ras el hanout, dried oregano, salt and pepper, and drizzled it with a little olive oil.  This went under the broiler, while I sauteed onions & chiles on the stove top with a cinnamon stick and some more fennel seeds.  To this I added chopped tomatoes, a chopped preserved lemon, ras el hanout, some chopped cilantro and a pinch of saffron.  I added a cup of water and got things simmering, but did not attempt to fashion a tagine out of aluminum foil......screw that.  I just used a lid. 

I put the mussels into a colander in the sink to clean & debeard them, and checked for any that weren't closed.  I found a few.....I always buy more mussels than the recipe calls for, just in case.  I added the good ones to the "tagine", along with the potatoes.  Strangely, the book doesn't list potatoes as an ingredient, but the website version does.  I wonder if they got axed because of the 30-minute restriction?  I figured they'd bulk the dish out a bit, so why not add them?

I removed my fish from the oven carefully, using an oven mitt, and took it over to the sink to drain off some of the excess liquid (since the fish was partially frozen when it started cooking).  Just as I tilted the pan, it exploded in my hand!  Scared the shit out of me!  Thankfully most of the glass fell into the sink, and not onto the floor or into my face.  No one was hurt, but this is the second time this has happened.  I realize that tempered glass has to be handled carefully, but I didn't put it in cold water or anything like that.  It was just the temperature of the air, I guess.  Maybe the oven was too hot.  I think this was my last remaining Pyrex pan, but I don't plan to buy any more.  Just not worth the risk.

Sadly, my fish had to be thrown out because it, too, landed in the sink, amongst the shards of glass.  I decided I'd had enough at that point, so I sat down to eat my mussel tagine with rice and none of the other planned side dishes.  It was not as strongly flavoured as other tagines I've made, but it was tasty just the same. 

Tonight, I'll have the left overs with salad and spicy yogurt, barring any more explosions!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Monday Meal Planning

I've had a couple of off-the-cuff weeks lately, but it's time to get back to business.  Summer is over, we are into cooler temperatures this week, thanks to a mega storm the other night that was, frankly, quite scary.  We were out at the ballpark on a hot, humid night when this came over the tree line, moving fast, and we all went running for the cars!

It was like something out of one of those movies like The Day After Tomorrow or Twister or something, it came on so freaking fast.  Only one area of the city had damage to roofs and had trees uprooted, but still.  It lasted for hours.  When it was over, we'd dropped something like 15 degrees Celsius and summer was over.  Just like that. 

The only things left in my garden that are doing well are purple okra and some hot chiles (which have yet to turn red).  I'm also still getting a few green & purple beans, Swiss chard, and beets.  Oh, and the leeks are getting bigger.  I usually leave those into November.  I planted some arugula where the zucchinis used to be, to see if I can grow some before the snow comes.  It likes the colder weather.

Purple okra

This weekend was mostly spent at the diamond, watching my son's last baseball tournament of the year. However, one morning I got up early and made a coconut zucchini bread.  One evening, I took all the ingredients for some Beef Kofta Curry over to my son's house, and showed his g/f how to make it.  She loved it the first time I served it to her, but something got lost in the translation when I sent her the recipe.  She was unfamiliar with some of the ingredients, like ginger, spring onions, and coconut milk, so we had a hands-on session and I think she gets it now.  It's such an easy recipe, as it's just all combined in the blender!  For dessert, she made a wonderful apple crisp and went out of her way to buy me some lactose & sugar free vanilla ice cream.  I indulged.

This week, I need to use the big savoy cabbage I bought at the market a while back.  I thought I'd make a pot of Jamie's Italian Ribollita since it's getting cold at night.  This will do well for work lunches.  I grabbed my first two squash of the season at the market this weekend, yay!  I've been waiting patiently for them to be ready.  I refuse to buy them per pound in the supermarket.  So I might roast one of those up and do something with it...perhaps a pasta, if I can figure out a dairy-free cheese alternative.  If I feel like seafood, I discovered another untelevised recipe in 30 Minute Meals, for a Seriously Good Fish Tagine (including mussels).  I love that mussels are so affordable, so I'll go and grab a pound or two fresh when I need them.

So, maybe not the most precise meal plan, but I know what I have to work with, and I have some idea of what I'm going to do with it.  Good enough for me!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Swedish-Style Fish Cakes with BBQ Chicken & Green Beans

I got really ambitious on Labour Day, and decided to make two dinners, fish for me and chicken for everyone else.  I started in the afternoon, figuring that I could get things to a certain point and then go out for a late matinee movie, and finish when we returned home, hungry for dinner.

442.  Swedish-Style Fishcakes, Sprout Salad, Roasted Baby New Potatoes and Fresh Zingy Salsa (Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes, page 146) recipe

I used to eat fish cakes as a child (of the frozen variety).  I've made them myself with salmon and even with risotto in recent years, but never with three different varieties fish all at the same time!  Now, normally I'd never consider chopping up a tuna steak.  They're too damned expensive.  But I lucked into 4 x 4 oz tuna steaks from a chef friend of my daughter's.  They only use the best cuts in the restaurant, and then usually dispose of the trimmings. 

I defrosted all the fish, cut it into pieces, and threw tuna, salmon & Alaskan pollock (in place of haddock) into my food processor, along with the zest of a lemon and a handful of parsley leaves from the garden.  I seasoned with salt and pepper and pulsed a few times until chopped.  In the meantime, I dug some bread crumbs out of the freezer, and spread them out on some aluminum foil.  I added a tablespoon or so of the breadcrumbs to the fish and formed it into two equal sized patties, and placed them on top of the crumbs.  I sprinkled more over the top and put them in the fridge until time to eat.

I peeled and boiled some potatoes as well, and left them to cool on the counter (covered with a tea towel). 

At dinner time,  I put the potatoes in a casserole dish with some fresh herbs from the garden, salt, pepper and olive oil.  I put that in the oven to brown up and got to work on my fish cakes.  I put some olive oil in a frying pan with a minced clove of garlic, and when it started to sizzle, added the two fish cakes.  I flipped them when they were nicely browned.  They didn't take long at all, and surprisingly didn't fall apart.  Easy peasy!  Instead of making the salsa, I decided to open one of my jars of homemade summer salsa.

I loved the crispy breadcrumb batter.  I actually used a loaf of curry bread for the crumbs, which isn't particularly Swedish I know, but gave a great flavour.  And the fish was moist but cooked through.  Yum.  In place of the sprout salad, I stole an Herby Arugula Salad from the Fish Tray-Bake meal in the same book.  Arugula is one of my favourite greens, and to boot it's considered a bitter green - one of those liver boosting veggies I'm supposed to eat.

443.  Barbecued Chicken With Warm Green Bean Salad recipe

This is another recipe on the website that doesn't list what book it comes from.  I haven't had a chance to go through all the indexes to see if I can locate it in my library of cookbooks, but if I do I'll update the title.

I deboned my chicken breasts, and then butterflied them.  I marinated them in lemon juice, rosemary & EVOO in the afternoon, placing them in the fridge.  I picked green & purple beans from the garden, along with yellow & purple cherry tomatoes, and cleaned them up.  That's about all the preparation needed for this recipe.

At dinner time, I put the griddle pan over a high heat, and grilled the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until done.  I seasoned the tomatoes, added a bit of EVOO, and put them in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes.  I boiled the beans until fork tender, then drained them and put them back in the pot with the tomatoes.  I made a quick mustard viniagrette and stirred that through the veggies.

The chicken disappeared before I even thought to take a picture of it.  My mom questioned the tomatoes, not believing they were actually tomatoes because "the ones at the store are always red".  Thank God the purple beans turned green during the cooking process or we might have had a mutiny on our hands.  No one complained about anything else, so I take it the chicken tasted good too.  ;)

I enjoyed the veggies so much that I took the left overs to work for lunch, along with some four grain salad.  I liked the mustard dressing in place of the usual EVOO, garlic & parmesan I am accustomed to using...and hey, it's dairy free!  :)

This post has been shared at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up at She Eats!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dairy-Free Four Grain Rice Salad

Jamie has added a bunch of new vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free recipes to his website.  It makes me quite happy, because the main food sensitivity I have been diagnosed with is dairy.  All the cheeses ranked highest, followed by cow's milk, and, strangely, yellow corn and beans/chick peas.  Avoiding dairy completely is going to be quite the challenge.  Thankfully, I can still tolerate yogurt, I assume because of all the cultures it contains.

My son invited me over for dinner tonight, and asked me bring a fruit salad and a "rice dish".  I remembered one I'd seen recently, so I went to the Bulk Barn and got everything required.

441.  Four Grain Rice Salad recipe

I was able to get wild rice and pearl barley in bulk, but I couldn't locate red rice.  I finally found it in the grocery store, but I surely didn't need a huge $7 bag of the stuff, so I substituted basmati rice instead.  I put all the rice & barley in a pot, along with a bulb of garlic (unpeeled) and the stalks from a small bunch of mint and parsley (picked from the garden).  I covered it all with water and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

I was supposed to save the cooking water but of course I strained the cooked rice in the sink, so I put a bit more water in the pot and brought it back to the boil.  I placed the strainer over the water, covered it with some foil, and let it steam for another 10 minutes before letting it cool.  In a small bowl, I squeezed out the garlic cloves and mashed them, then added the chopped herbs, juice of a lemon and olive oil.  Once the rice was cool, I mixed the garlic & herbs through and seasoned with salt and pepper.

The last step was to fry some fennel & cumin seeds in a bit of oil, then add some rolled oats and toast until golden.  I stirred half of this through the rice, and put the rest aside to sprinkle over at the last minute.

I found this salad quite bland, surprisingly, especially with the amount of garlic involved.  I suppose I should have checked the seasoning again prior to serving, as the rice seemed to have soaked up the dressing.  I added a bit more salt, pepper & lemon juice to my portion and that brought it up a notch.  I enjoyed the chewiness of the oats and wild rice but I'm not sure other guests did.  This type of dish is not up everyone's alley, but it would be great at a gathering of health conscious people.  I'm glad I brought it, because apart from the chicken served, the only other option was a Caesar salad (full of dairy).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I love seafood!

So what will I be doing on my five year blogger anniversary?  In past years I've attended a Michael Smith cooking demo, won an award, or cooked something awesome.  How can I top that?

This year, I'll be going for food sensitivity testing.  Whoop whoop!   Might not sound exciting to you, but I'm happy to finally have a doctor who wants to get to the bottom of my digestive issues.  I've restricted my diet to the point of losing 10 pounds this summer (not that I'll miss them!), but it would be nice to be able to eat somewhat "normally".  I'm sick of saying "I can't eat this, I can't eat that" when really, I'm just guessing.  I'm hoping for something more definitive.

Tonight, I'm going out for sushi.  Next week, I have plans to meet a friend at Red Lobster for dinner.  Please God, don't let them tell me that fish and seafood are bad.  Anything but that.  :p