Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hot cheese, hot cheese!

This morning I woke up to find the right side of the roof of my mouth quite sore and swollen. I couldn't think of what I could have possibly have eaten that had gotten jammed that far into my gums. I had flossed since the last time I had popcorn. Oh wait I had a cheese and salsa quesadilla for a snack last night. Maybe I had jammed a bit of crispy tortilla in my gums. Oh wait, it's a burn. That's right I burned the roof of my mouth. Wow, this was bad, it is really swollen. Thank goodness gum heals fast (I know this from my gum surgery a year and a half ago). Sad part, I was sober so my stupidity for eating the quesadilla while it was too hot was just my stupidity. And the fact that I couldn't remember doing it this morning is just me trying to think before I open my eyes in the morning...

On a more positive note, I whipped up a great side dish last night. It was so beautiful yesterday that I just had to bbq. I had some green beans that I wanted to cook while they were still nice and fresh so I grilled them. I also grilled a slice of red onion and a chunk of red pepper. Then I cut everything into bite size pieces and tossed them with one tablespoon (for one serving) of goat cheese. It made the most lovely sauce. A truly tasty dish that went perfectly with my bbq'ed chicken breast. Lovely.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pizza Pops? Not around here! And a salmon pasta recipe.

I have been cooking. Oddly enough, when I procrastinate over everything else, I still like to get in the kitchen and bang my pots and pans around. Friday night I made a delicious, quick pasta dish that was definitely company worthy. And everything came out of the freezer! It was the perfect Friday night dish. Pour a glass of wine and feel like you are totally indulging yourself.

This recipe was for one person but you can do the math to make it for more (see word problems really do have a real life application...). I started with a salmon fillet and about 10 asparagus spears. Yup, the asparagus was frozen. Arctic Garden has a wonderful resealable package of frozen asparagus. Perfect for pasta! I just put on some rotini and while that was cooking I made the rest in a saute pan. I cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces and diced the salmon also in 1/2 inch pieces. I sprayed the pan with nonstick spray. I seared the asparagus until it started to brown a little. I then added in a tablespoon of cream cheese and between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of white wine. I tossed in the salmon and cooked it for a minute or two and then added the pasta right from the water with a slotted spoon. I like to save my pasta water in case I need it to add to the sauce. I used a tablespoon of the pasta water just to make the sauce more saucy. I let it all cook together for just a minute. On a plate, sprinkle with parmesan and I had dinner! It was yummy. If guests show up unexpected I know what I'll be serving. And the cream cheese? Well you can use the light or flavoured or flavoured light - it's up to you. I would not attempt this with the fat free stuff. It's too altered to work well but I find that with most 'fat free' substitutions. Stick with reduced or light products and you'll be fine.

Okay on to Saturday night. I was feeling frisky for some stromboli. I had a pillsbury pizza dough in the fridge. About this dish - it is perfect for making ahead for after school snacks or lunches. It is great cold! Make up a batch or two on Sunday with the kids, with ingredients they like and they'll have healthy quick after school snacks all week. It's way better than those pizza pop thingies.

You can use any dough you like. I drop the heat as recommend on the package because I'm stuffing the dough so longer lower is the rule. Shape your dough in a circle or rectangle. Put in your cheese first, then your sauce then any other toppings. Fold and seal. That's it. I cooked mine at 375 for 20 minutes. I made 2 different types. One was mozzarella, spinach, red onion and goat cheese. The other was fontina and asiago cheese, pancetta, porchetta and basil. Both had my standard pizza sauce. Un-freakin-believable! So easy and so tasty!

I managed to grab this pic before there was none left. Yes, I'm home alone, what's your point? It makes a fantastic breakfast too...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Procrastination is an art

I'm procrastinating. I should be cleaning or getting showered so I can run a few errands but instead I'm drinking coffee and watching soccer on TV. I am the queen of procrastination. It's Saturday, my day shouldn't be that structured. I should be able to do whatever I like. But I have a list of things that must get done. *sigh*

I have decided to make a beef ragu tomorrow. And I'm contemplating making a roasted corn and smoked salmon chowder sometime soon. The dogs are clean, okay I did that yesterday but still, it's done. The spare bed is in the middle of being changed and washed. I unpacked from my trip to Halifax. See I've done stuff today. I just don't feel like doing anything else.

I've talked about ragu before - http://thegourmetgoddess.blogspot.com/2007/04/sunday-suppers.html but I'll post my actual recipe once I make it. As for the roasted corn and smoked salmon chowder, I've made it before but I don't think I wrote the recipe down, never mind blogged about it. I'll share that one too. It's awesome.

Right now Manchester United is down 0 -1 to the Blackburn Rovers. I must go rally the troops! And here's hoping I find some motivation (don't worry about tonight's supper, I have that French Onion Soup from my freezer I'll have tonight!)

Friday, April 18, 2008


I just got back from Halifax where I went to see my mum for a couple of days since she just turned 65. Which means I'll be 40 this summer. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe I'll finally get a clue (newfie expression) although I'm not that optimistic. So far in this life I've been pretty clueless....

I'm home alone for a while as Tim is in Europe on business. I am still cooking and tonight am thinking of a salmon, asparagus and pasta dish. Or I may just eat out of my freezer. I've taken out a french soup (just defrost, heat, add some dried bread also from freezer, top with cheese and broil) in case I'm not up to cooking. I have 2 large hairy dogs to bathe today so my energy may be used up by the time I think of dinner. Once again, I must stop and salute my freezer. If I don't feel like cooking for the next 2 weeks I'll still eat well. But it's getting warmer and as I mentioned a couple of days ago, my thoughts are turning to bbq. Last night it was so warm and wonderful when I got back here that I took out a steak. It was cool and dark by the time I was ready to cook it so I used my grill pan on the stove but still - my heart was in the right place.

While I was in Halifax we had Chinese food from a place on Robie St. The Silver Dragon. It was really good. Standard Canadian interpretation of Chinese food. Tasty! One of my diner companions commented that she felt there chow mien was really more of a chop suey. I suspect that you can't find either type of dish in China.

Most ethnic foods are 'Canadianized' or 'North Americanized' when immigrants set up shop here. They have to find an interpretation of their native cuisines that meets with the local tastes. I found a big difference between Chinese food in the US versus what I get here when I first moved back home. It's funny, in Europe you are far more likely to get the ethnic food that is more like the original. Some of the best Italian food I've ever had was in Sweden! The Tex Mex I had during my first trip to Stockholm was a bit of a shock though. So imagine what a Chinese person thinks when they eat at a Chinese restaurant upon arriving in Canada!

The popular donair that originated in Nova Scotia came about because the local palette did not respond to the original gyro sandwich. So an immigrant to Halifax changed the sauce to a sweet sauce and the donair was born. Blessed is the need for change! And for the record, I like both donairs and gyros.

I do have two hints for eating ethnic foods. One, keep an open mind. Leave your expectations at the door. Just because it isn't as you think it should be doesn't mean it won't be good. Second, if you see someone of that ethnic group patronizing the restaurant run for the nearest table. It's a sure sign that the food is good and authentic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Last night I made Double Chocolate Cupcakes from Cooking Light for Mom's birthday. This is the picture on the cover of December's Issue. Pretty isn't it?

I love the idea of cupcakes. They look so pretty and ready to pop right in your mouth. The batter was delicious. There was cocoa powder and chopped dark chocolate in it. Yum. The recipe called for buttermilk but I used yogurt instead. This is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Or at least this is my understanding. They look nice, don't they?

I had one last night. They seemed dry to me. Nothing is worse than dry chocolate cake. I'd like to try the recipe again and stick to the buttermilk to see if that helps. But I don't have time to redo them now. Luckily my mom has lived through many of my kitchen experiences so she doesn't disappoint easily. The fact that she is getting dry cupcakes and knitted gifts that aren't done is a bit much though. Man I'm bad. I have to accept the fact that I can't bake. I have one success and get all cocky about it. sigh.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chicken Fingers, Sweet Potato Fries and Kitchen Injuries

The chicken fingers were a hit.
This is all that is left and I ate him at around midnight. Great snack!

I did The Kid's in shake and bake and I did ours in plain bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, herbs and some grated parmesan cheese. Tim loved them. And no salt! Didn't even miss it. The Kid thought his were as good as any he's had and he used to be a chicken finger/nugget addict. I was quite pleased. I baked them at 400 (200C) for 20 minutes, flipping half way through. We'll be seeing these around here again. Next time we'll try making a big batch and freezing some for the convenience of frozen fingers on the fly.

Okay, panko, where do you get it? (and for those of you who don't know what it is - it's japanese bread crumbs, they are just crispier and more coarse than regular bread crumbs) I used up what I had of mine and now can't find any at the Sobey's. I haven't looked at the Superstore. I don't know where I got the original bag. If anyone knows of a place to get panko here in Moncton, let me know. I will try the Asian market we have here. I just don't like to give out recipes with ingredients everyone can't easily find. If you can't find panko then grind up some premium saltine crackers. They will give the same type of crispiness.

And the sweet potato fries? They were a hit too.

You can do this with regular potatoes too. Just cut them into the size you want, toss them in egg whites then toss them with salt, pepper or herbs. I use Ms. Dash Herb and Garlic. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 425F. I do cook them on parchment paper because the parchment paper has oil in it that really helps them get crispy. You can find parchment paper in larger grocery stores in the cling wrap and aluminum foil section.

The Kid is a teenage boy. This means carbo loading. Yup, how else are you going to fill up a growing boy? I swear he had 2 cups of mashed potatoes with his dinner last night. Ate every bit too. Try to keep healthy carbs in the house if you have growing boys. I'll often give The Kid extra potatoes, rice or pasta with his meal but skip it for us. Yes, later we'll have to undo the bad eating habit of carbo loading but he's only a stick right now! I'd rather he have homemade, natural carbs than processed carbs. He gets whole grain rice, rainbow pasta (we haven't made the leap to whole wheat with him yet) or potatoes. I'll keep trying to expand it to things like couscous, quinoa, etc. But don't panic, teenage boys eat. A lot. Give them good options. Last night The Kid also had a huge portion of steamed broccoli, his fav. I can't complain.

Okay I have to come clean. I'm a bit of a klutz in the kitchen. I know, a seasoned professional like me?! I am an expert with ceramic glue. Most of my better dining pieces are glued. Yup, I break things. A lot. I also cut and burn things, mostly myself. When I got my first professional grade knife I lobbed off the top of my thumb. I have learned not to try to cut anything while listening to Stuart MacLean's Vinyl Cafe. It's hard to see what you are doing through the tears (of laughter or sentimentality, it doesn't matter). I'm a bit of a sap.

So Friday night I was using my standard pot holders.

Did you just say "CJ, that is not a pot holder!". Okay, okay, I hear you. It is a silicone grabby thing but when you are as accident prone as I am, it really doesn't qualify as an acceptable tool. So of course it slipped and I burned 3 fingers. Oh for the love of parmesan! And I had knitting to do that evening, I'm on a deadline.

I immediately ran the fingers under cold water (if I had been thinking about the environment I would have gotten a bowl, put water and ice in it and not stood there for 5 minutes with the icy water running out of the tap but well, I wasn't thinking about the environment right at that very moment). When the fingers were good and cold and the heat was gone, I put a good goop of Aloe on them. I keep a big bottle of pure aloe vera gel in the house. Only one finger seemed to end up with any damage.
Can't see it? Nope, it looks great. Minimal light blister. Didn't even raise the skin, just a little white mark really. So there you go, first aid for burns by the gourmet goddess.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bad Habits and Good TV

Last night was pizza night so no new recipes to share. Tonight we are attempting homemade chicken fingers and fries. I'll keep you posted.

After I filled up on pizza last night, I curled up on the couch to indulge in my other passion (see http://www.thegourmetgoddessknits.blogspot.com/) and some Food TV watching. Friday nights are fun on Food TV Canada. It's travel night! Very relaxing after a long week.

I just got side tracked (surprise!) while looking to copy a link to the Food TV Canada website. The comments about the spring schedule are interesting. If you're a foodie you may want to hear what everyone is saying. I love a lot of the programming on the Food Network but the reruns lately have been making me crazy. Anything new is interesting at this point. And while I like Canadian programming, I also really enjoy a lot of the American shows. It's a balancing act and I'm glad I don't have to make the decisions!

We are starting to get a new show from the US, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Oh my golly miss molly, the food. It's the epitome of what is wrong with the North American diet. Fat laden, vegetable missing dishes, high in calories, low on nutrition. And by gum it makes me hungry! Last week there was Stromboli. Stromboli is a divine dish. Growing up outside of Philly, I've seen my fair share. Beautiful rolled up pizza. Excuse me, had to wipe the drool off my chin. And then there were Cheesesteaks. Now Cheesesteaks are a cultural icon, near as I can tell. Heaven, shear heaven. I have some Cheesesteak meat (known as Steakums in the freezer section in the grocery stores around the northeast coast of the US) in my freezer. I actually have a recipe for making the meat into a Japanese inspired soup... a nice healthy alternative for the meat but really, why would I do that when I can make greasy cheesy sandwiches?

Last night on the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the host, Guy (pronounced like the noun, not like the french "gee") made a corn dog wrapped in bacon and cheese and then deep fried it. I felt a clog forming in my artery just watching! But I'll be honest - man did I want a taste. I have some pizza dough from last night so you may see a Stromboli attempt in the next couple of weeks. Maybe I'll attempt a healthy type of Stromboli, maybe something with broccoli...

Holy Mackerel! I just a saw a robin in the yard. That means it is officially spring. I'm having a hard time buying it as the snow falls and is actually sticking to the grass. sigh....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring has sprung!

Oh my god, the snow is finally starting to melt. There is grass under them there white bits! The tennis balls in the back yard are being released from their icy graves.

It's like the post Ice Age period right in my yard! Oh wait.... now it's mud season. There are things I don't like about spring. The need to buff and polish skin that was hasn't seen sunlight for months. Self tanning, exposing wobbly bits that were nicely concealed under winter's cloths. And mud. When you have two large hairy beast mud is the enemy. Oh well, everything comes at a price, now does it?

Now my thoughts turn to BBQ. I stocked up on steaks the other day. I do this all the time. I buy a cheap, lean, boneless roast and cut it into steaks. It's cheap and I get great steaks this way. I cut them super thick and because they are so lean we can feel okay about having steak once a week. I make sure I only cook them to medium rare though. Lean steaks cooked to medium or more will be tough. There is no fat running through it to keep it tender. You can marinate a lean steak with something that has an acid in it to break down the fibers and keep it more tender. Try lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or red wine with some herbs. Did I mention this is a cheap way to put steaks on your plates?! Bring on the BBQ!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I'm going to talk about risotto yet again. I know, I know, I do go on about risotto. What can I say, I really like it, it's cheap, quick and tasty. What's not to love?! Today I just wanted to share with you a wonderful ingredient I added to last night's risotto - Pancetta! Fan-freakin'-tastic. I diced up 2 ounces and sauteed it at the start with the onions. What a beautiful flavour it added to the dish. I'm just sayin'....

Okay, enough about risotto, on to the next tidbit. We had a delicious Jigg's Dinner on the weekend. This is also knows as a Boiled Dinner, a New England Boiled Dinner or Corned Beef and Cabbage. It involves boiling corned beef, carrots, turnip, potatoes and cabbage in a pot. What makes it Jigg's Dinner is that you add a pudding bag with split peas to the pot and make a peas pudding (it's the best!). After dinner I save the liquid from the pot for pea soup and the rest becomes hash. This is why I make a Jigg's Dinner - for the hash!

But you don't have to make a Jigg's Dinner to get hash. Any leftover 'cooked' dinner (that's what my Newfoundlander parts call it) will do. Making a roast and veggies? The leftovers will do nicely in a hash. Basically any leftover roasted, boiled or mashed root veggies will do. You can just cook them together and use them as a side dish later in the week. Or add you leftover meat, beef, pork, ham, even chicken or turkey will work. Don't have leftover meat? Buy a small ham or get some thickly sliced lunch meat, like roast beef, pork or ham from the deli counter. Make extra veggies when you are making a big dinner so you can toss them in a hash! We're 'Hash Happy" around here these days. I'm getting hungry.

Speaking of the pot liquor, again, a term from my Newfoundlander parts, as I mentioned I save the liquid out of the pot when making a Jigg's Dinner. It is awesome as a broth for the base of pea soup. And coincidentally, I happen to have a pea soup in the works as we speak. My crock pot is peculating and the soup will be ready for dinner tonight. Easy, cheap and healthy. Because I let the pot liquor sit for a day or so in the fridge, all the fat congealed on the top and I just scoped it off. There wasn't much. I diced some celery, onion and carrots, tossed in a bag of peas and that's it. Peas pudding also converts nicely into a base for pea soup but we never seem to have any leftover for soup... It makes a lovely late night snack.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Food is Culture

I was just talking with a friend of mine who is planning a trip to Prague. They have booked an apartment and I am very jealous. This means they get to shop the local markets and grocery stores and cook with local ingredients. You see my ideal trip involves partaking of the local food traditions. Food is culture. It is the bases for what makes up any society. Anyone can see the sites. Actually, you can see the sites of any destination by looking at pictures in a book or online but you can only taste the local tastes by being there (or maybe by preparing them yourself at home but we'll get to that).

When you travel and you book a place to stay that has a kitchen you are really immersing yourself in the culture even if it is just across the state or provincial line. Shop like the locals, cook like the locals. Now that is an experience. You can still go see the sites, I know, I know, you are there, might as well see the sites. But really experiencing the place you are visiting - that means understanding the local ingredients, talking to the local vendors to learn what they sell and how it is prepared. Now that is traveling! And you'll find most people are only too happy to boast about their local fare, food customs and traditions.

The last time I was in Sweden I was looking at a menu in Swedish. After years of regular travel to Sweden I could get by with a Swedish menu (they do have them in English at almost all the restaurants so don't worry). There was a word that stumped me so I asked the waitress what it was in English. She didn't know what it was called in English but she could tell me what it was like. She looked around to see if anyone was listening or watching. She then leaned in close and said "I don't know how you say in English but they look like sperm". I immediately knew she meant the word was bean sprouts. I don't know which was funnier, that the waitress had made a sperm to sprout analogy or that I immediately knew what she meant. Either way, immersing yourself in the food culture is big fun!

You can even take a culinary getaway. There are a lot of cooking schools in some of the most popular travel destinations these days. Italy, France, Spain, California, Mexico and the list goes on. All of these places now have culinary vacations you can book. Typically you cook and/or shop in the morning, for the midday meal and then tour around in the afternoon. Do your research. This is a wonderful way to really see the world!

On the other hand, not the one doing the traveling? The best souvenir I get is a cookbook full of local favorites from anywhere my family or friends travel. I just got one from our Austrian guests who came to dinner a few weeks back. I consider this an excellent gift for any foodie. I love going through the pages of authentic recipes and look forward to trying them out. You can even order books online from various cultures and travel the world without leaving home or relying on gifts from thoughtful friends and relatives! It's an inexpensive getaway you can create at home. This Austrian book I got was put out by the Committee for the Preservation of the Culinary Heritage of Austria so it is an excellent authentic take on Austrian food culture. Try to get books that are put out by government or heritage groups, they are really trying to give a clear picture of the real food culture.

Happy Travels!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Breakfast on the goo - Muffins

So you hate to cook. Don't know how to cook. Only thing your momma ever taught you in the kitchen was how to bake. Ah ha! Then you can make breakfast. Better yet, you can make a breakfast for on the go! Yup, we're talking muffins. This recipe is easy, quick and delicious.

There are a few odd ingredients but you can get them all at your local grocery store. Keep whole wheat flour, wheat germ and wheat bran in a cool dry place. They will go rancid if you don't store them properly. I keep the wheat germ in my fridge while I store the whole wheat flour and bran in air tight containers in my cool basement.

Blueberry Grain Muffins with Streusel Topping
Makes 24
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup wheat bran
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups fat free buttermilk or lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups blueberries

Streusel Topping

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Lightly grease muffin pans for 24 muffins
  3. Mix the dry ingredients (flour through to salt) in a large bowl
  4. Beat together the egg, molasses, oil and buttermilk in a medium bowl
  5. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just blended.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries
  7. Mix together the streusel topping
  8. Fill muffin cups 2/3 – ¾ full
  9. Sprinkle with streusel topping
  10. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Nutrition Information based on 1 muffin per servings: Calories 139, Calories from Fat 28; Total Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 236 mg; Carbohydrates 26g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 14g; Protein 3g; 3 Points.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Uncooked

We had some great success last night with our pub night in. Once again the wings were fantastic. So fantastic that Tim was looking for more for tonight. The only added step I would do with these is drain off the sauce (save for dipping) and put the wings under the broiler for 2 -5 minutes to crisp them up. But the flavour from cooking them in the sauce.... fan-freakin-tastic! These are seriously a snack night regular around here.

Okay, Artistic shot.

Who knew a blooming onion could look so creative?!

Now for reality... This was the onion before it went in the oven. Not pretty or perfect but a reasonable facsimile of a blooming onion.

It was, however, bad. I dipped it in buttermilk which was just way toooooo thick for the overall structure of the cut onion. Add on the flour mixture and it was just too much for the poor thing to ever get properly cooked inside. The recipes I saw did call for egg whites, next time I'll try that a as a binder. But even just spraying with oil and then sprinkling with flour and/or bread crumbs would have worked better. The flour mixture did taste good. The seasoning was right. The dipping sauce was yummy. But we kept adding cooking time every time we checked the poor thing. This is a recipe still in the works... Anyone have any tips or recommendations?

All that being said, today we are taking the leftovers and making onion petals. There may be a beer batter involved and some light frying. I'm against it but after the blooming onion failure, I may get out voted..

We never even got to the zucchini sticks (we had a some steamed mussels too, too much food) so we'll have those today.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Night Pub Fare

I'm feeling inspired to make some pub food tonight. I've made boneless, healthy chicken wings for Super Bowl Sunday and they were fantastic. So they are definitely on the menu again. I like to try and sneak in as many veggies into what seems like a naughty snack night. I want to make baked zucchini sticks and I still haven't tried to make the baked onion rings. Tim made a request to attempt a blooming onion. Keep in mind that it has to be baked. I don't deep fry anything. Not that I am adamantly against deep frying, I just don't own the proper equipment and I'm a little afraid of a pot of hot oil. It's a good fear to have, I figure.

So I googled 'blooming onion'. Everything is deep fried. I do see that most recipes require that you soak the cut onion to help it bloom before battering. I was planning on dipping it in seasoned flour, then buttermilk then crumbs. This is not at all like any of the batter mixes I see but they are all for frying. A few of the recipes also say you should let the battered onion sit in the fridge for an hour before frying. I did get a good grasp on the dip recipe. Here it is:

Blooming Onion Dip:


  • 1 part Mayo
  • 1 part Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • 1/4 part Chili sauce (I don't have any so I'm going to take ketchup and mix is with horseradish, paprika and ground pepper)
  • Cayenne Pepper to suit your taste.


Mix it all up and let it sit for a couple of hours so the flavours can blend and bloom.

Okay lets google "healthy baked blooming onion" and see what we get...

Okay, the pickin's were slim. This is an indulgence that either people don't want to mess with and just give in to their cravings every once in a while (nothing wrong with that) or not many people think they can make a good healthy alternative. Well I love a challenge so here's what I plan to do.

Possible Healthy Baked Blooming Onion Recipe:
Since I have a good knife and fairly decent knife skills I will attempt to cut the onion into wedges. Hopefully I can do this without ending up with a pile of onion slices. Step 2 - I'll soak the onion for a bit in cold water to let it 'bloom'. Then I think I'll dip it in some buttermilk. I have buttermilk that I bought to make onion rings and I really don't want it to go to waste. Then I'll dip the whole thing in some seasoned flour. I'm going to put paprika, garlic powder, pepper and cayenne pepper in the flour. Then it's off to the fridge for an hour. This works out great because I can do this ahead of time and just pull it out when I am ready to bake it. To try and replicate the fried crispiness I'll spray the whole thing liberally with some olive oil from my spray pump bottle. Then it's off to the oven to bake at 375 for 30 minutes. If it's not crispy enough then I'll turn up the oven to 425 for 5 - 10 minutes. I'm going to go make the dipping sauce now so it has lots of time to sit and blend. Wish me luck! It it works out I'll finalize the recipe and post it.

Now on to the zucchini sticks. What makes these easier is that you let the parchment paper do the good browning and crisping work for you. Invest in some if you want to bake fried imitation recipes. Wow, the google results for "healthy baked zucchini sticks" were plentiful. Awesome! These are good to get the kids into veggies, just slice them thinly so they aren't too gooey inside. We may like the texture but soft vegginess will often turn a kid off. Serve with ranch dressing and you kids will be munching on veggies in no time!

The real key to getting these right is to cook them quick and at a high heat.

Baked Zucchini Sticks
  • 3 small zucchini, cut into sticks or wedges
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal and grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp dried basil and oregano
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder and dried thyme (preferably ground)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Beat the egg whites in a bowl
  3. Combing the rest of the ingredients, from bread crumbs to cayenne pepper in another bowl or plate.
  4. Dip the zucchini in the egg white, then the crumb mixture and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
  5. Spray the zucchini sticks with cooking spray
  6. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, turn the sticks over and cook another 5 - 10 minutes depending on how thick you cut them and your preference for crispiness.

I serve these with ranch dressing to keep it simple. I'll already have 2 other dips for the wings (leftover sauce that they were cooked in, reduced and thickened) and for the onion (see above) so I'd prefer not to make a third sauce but you can do whatever tickles your fancy!

I'll let you know how are pub night in turns out. But in the meantime, it's Friday! CHEERS!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

White Fish Fantastic

Last night I made haddock. I've done this before and I've blogged about it but it is such a good way to enjoy fish that I just had to blog about it again. Most of us have a hard time getting enough fish and seafood into our diets. Which is odd when you think how quick it is to cook most fish and seafood, making it great for quick weeknight dinners.

Here is my super simple dish.

Take haddock or any mild white fish fillets, one for each person, top with some sort of creamy cheese spread (yes you can use cheez whiz for the kids, anything to get them to start eating fish!), I use cream cheese, boursin, laughing cow, etc. Then top that with proscuitto, pancetta, smoked turkey, ham or even bacon. I'd only use bacon if I was really trying to get kids on board with eating fish but one or two slices isn't going to hurt for sure so don't sweat it.

Bake 375 (I used to recommend baking at 350 but I've found it stays moister if you bake it under a slightly higher heat more quickly) for 10 - 15 minutes depending on how thick the fish is. The rule is 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness.

That's it! Dinner is ready in under 20 minutes.

You can steam some veggies while the fish is cooking. Or if you are really on the ball, you have veggie side dishes already made and in the freezer. The only planning ahead required is to take out a veggie dish the night before. Here are some of my ideas. Or you could serve this with some nice pasta or red pepper sauce (check out mine) with a bit of pasta. I'm also working on a veggie au gratin so stay tuned. Veggie side dishes in the freezer will get more and more useful as we head into grilling season and you just want to come home at the end of a long day, pop some meat on the bbq, warm a veggie dish and enjoy the warm evenings. (I've heard rumours that there may be warmth some time in the future, I don't believe it yet with all the snow we still have down but I'm trying to be a believer)