Sunday, 6 July 2014

Chai from Scratch


Last week I forgot to put a tea bag in my lunch bag and ended up going to the cafeteria to get a hot drink. I had a choice of decaffeinated tea (uggh!) or a chai tea bag in hot water. The chai was weak and watery unlike the creamy and delicious drinks I have been served at Indian restaurants. This week I experimented with masala chai recipes and came up with one that is versatile and inexpensive. Vanilla beans are the most costly item but they are optional. The best way to make vanilla chai is to add vanilla syrup as your sweetener. My vanilla syrup recipe is here. The cinnamon sticks in the ethnic section of our supermarket were less than half the price of the cinnamon sticks in the baking aisle. The other spices were purchased at a bulk store. I like the heat of ginger and added a generous amount but any of the spices can be increased or decreased according to preference or availability. Assam tea is traditionally used and a bold black loose tea is my choice. Green tea or rooibos tea can also be used.

This recipe is based on one found at Crunchy Betty's epic guide to making your own chai. I like a stronger brew and increased the amount of tea and some other spices. It is worth reading the information about chai at this link.

  • 7 cinnamon sticks (3 inches long), broken into smallish pieces
  • 15 green cardamom pods  (crushed/cracked with a mortar and pestle)
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 5 allspice berries coarsely crushed
  • Ginger root- 2-3 inches, cut into slices
  • 1 tsp black or white peppercorns coarsely crushed
  • 2 vanilla beans, sliced open (optional)
  • 9 cups of cold water
Combine the above ingredients in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes on the stove. Remove from the heat and add

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed (or anise seed) 
  • 4 tablespoons black tea leaves or equivalent amount in tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Let the tea steep for 15 minutes (less or more time according to preference) and strain into a jug.
You now have 8 cups of chai concentrate which can be kept in the fridge. When you are ready to have a drink, heat the chai and add warmed milk and sweetener of your choice. I like a ratio of 3:1 tea to milk and add 1 spoonful of honey to a 12 ounce mug.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Black Bean Soup


The temperature this morning was "minus double digit" cold again even though it is March. This relentless winter pushes one to hibernate or fill up on warm comfort foods. This morning I put the high fibre cereal box back in the cupboard and heated some delicious black bean soup left over from dinner last night. With a freshly made sourdough whole wheat tortilla and a cuppa tea, I was ready to face the day.

In a large pot add
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 1/2 large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeƱo pepper, diced
Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until onions are starting to brown.

Add
  • 2 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh salsa (I used Costco's fresh salsa)
  • 4 cups black beans
  • 1/2 cup corn (optional)
  • Additional seasonings like basil, oregano, cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili powder to taste
Simmer until vegetables are tender and then crush 2 cloves of garlic in soup.
Put half the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Add blended mixture back into the pot. Stir and serve. Garnish as desired with sour cream, lime, tortilla chips.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lentil Curry

I made this tonight in 30 minutes and it was a warming, nourishing meal before we went out to shovel the snow that fell today.

Early prep: Soak 1 cup of brown or green lentils overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft but not mushy. OR- use 3 cups canned lentils

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1-2 tbsp minced ginger (I used some from a jar)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1-2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 medium onions coarsely chopped
2 large portabello mushroom, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 cup water
6 oz coconut milk (small tin)
3 cups cooked lentils
a couple of large handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Heat oil in a wok and add crushed cumin seeds, onion, ginger. Cook onions until translucent. Add other seasonings. Add portabello mushrooms and potato and toss until coated with spices. Add water and simmer with lid on until potatoes are tender. Add lentils, coconut milk and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Adjust seasonings adding more salt if desired.

Serve on rice or with a flatbread. Serves 4 generously.

Options: This recipe would work well with diced carrots, cauliflower or sweet potato instead of the other vegetables. Other greens could be used instead of spinach.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Cardamom Rice Pudding

I had a couple of bags of milk that needed to be used up before their expiry date and decided to make rice pudding on this cold and blustery day. I usually make rice pudding in a double boiler with short grain rice, milk, eggs and raisins but decided to try a version I had tasted in an Indian restaurant. After reviewing a few online recipes I used these ingredients to make a very comforting and aromatic pudding.
  • 4 cups milk- I used 1% cow's milk but a combination of cream, coconut milk and other milks can be used
  • 1/2 cup white basmati rice
  • 8 cardamom pods crushed with pestle. Remove the seed hulls and crush the black seeds. You could use 1 teaspoon ground cardamom instead.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white sugar or other sweetener to taste (optional)
Combine ingredients and cook them over boiling water in a double boiler until rice is very soft. This takes about an hour. Stir mixture occasionally. When it is starting to thicken up add:
  • 1/4 cup diced apricots or raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds or pistachios
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional but tasty)
  • a dash of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Let the pudding simmer for another 10 minutes or so without letting it get too thick and dry. Remove from heat and let it cool before serving. I like it warm or chilled.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

This is creamiest chocolate pudding ever! Put four ingredients in a blender and dessert is ready in less than 5 minutes.

Serves 4

2 large ripe avocados peeled and quartered
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)

You can also add a little vanilla or flavouring of your choice.

Blend until smooth and serve.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Easy No-Bake Coconut Cocoa Cookies

I made these cookies twice this month. The first batch was a tasty disaster, edible only if frozen. It is important to use quick cooking oats rather than large flake oats and the milk/sugar/butter mixture must boil for 3 minutes before adding the other ingredients. I doubled the recipe from the link below but cut the sugar down to 3/4c (1-1/2 cups in the double recipe). I had these at a local buffet and they were served as squares rather than as drop cookies. In either form they are easy and delicious.

What's Baking in the Barbershop?!: Easy No-Bake Coconut Cocoa Cookies: This week is all about bringing you recipes that don't require the oven. The first no-bake recipe I shared this week was on the hea...

Here is the recipe in case the link above goes dead. The sugar amount has been decreased

Ingredients:

-1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
-1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 cup quick cooking oats
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp. vanilla
-pinch of salt
-approx. 2/3 to 3/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Instructions:

Line two cookie sheets with wax or parchment paper. Put butter, milk, and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 3 minutes; this is important! Set a timer to be sure it boils for 3 full minutes. After 3 minutes, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the oats, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. If using, stir in the coconut. Drop mixture by spoonful onto the wax or parchment paper. Let cookies sit until they are set and easily come off the paper. Store in airtight container. Makes about 20 cookies.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Vegetarian Cassoulet


This is what is left of the cassoulet we had for Thanksgiving dinner today. I combined ideas from two different recipes and added different seasoning. It is an ideal vegetarian dish for a special occasion.

Ahead of time...

Cook white beans (navy, kidney etc). You will need 4 cups cooked beans or the equivalent amount of canned beans (2 cans)

I used a wok with a lid for this part of the recipe...

Add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and add

  • 2 stalks of celery cut in half and sliced 
  • 1 large diced onion
Cook until starting to soften and add
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed or finely diced garlic
  • 1 large potato diced in 1 cm squares
  • 1 large carrot diced like the potato
  • 3 diced roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • herbes de provence*

We were given several pouches of savoury herb rub with our turkey and I added one to the cassoulet. It was perfect. Herbes de provence include a mixture of marjoram, sage, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary and fennel seeds. Add a tablespoon of the herb mixture to the broth and vegetables.

Add 
  • 4 cups cooked white beans
Simmer the vegetable-bean mixture until the carrots are tender and some of the liquid has cooked down. You can mash the beans and vegetables a little to thicken the stew.

Topping...

Take 3-4 thick slices of crusty bread (like a baguette) and blend them to make 2-3 cups of coarse bread crumbs. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, some salt and pepper and 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the crumbs. You can also add some parsley and garlic of you want (I didn't this time). Spread the crumb mixture thinly in a 9x13 pan and lightly toast it in the oven for a few minutes. 

Add the vegetable mixture to a casserole and top with the crumbs. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

How to Make Korean Pancakes - Bin Dae Duk

How to Make Korean Pancakes - Bin Dae Duk (link)

This is one of the best recipes I have tried in a while. The quantities in the recipe above make a lot of pancakes but they freeze well. We made the dipping sauce as well.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Aramanth and Millet Breakfast Cereal

For one serving

1/4 cup hulled millet
1/4 cup aramanth seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds

Cover seeds with at least 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp ACV or lemon juice and let them soak overnight
In the morning, drain the seeds in a fine meshed sieve and rinse well. Put the soaked seeds in a pot and add 1/2 cup of water and a dash of sea salt.

Bring to a boil and then simmer until liquid is absorbed and the seeds are puffed up.
Put into a cereal bowl. I add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, fresh fruit, maple syrup or honey, and non-dairy milk.

The cooked seed mixture is the right consistency to use in tabbouleh or in a bean salad. The possibilities are endless.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Chickpea Flour Crepes

We are really trying to cut down on the amount of wheat used in our meals. During the peak allergy seasons in summer and fall, wheat, dairy and sugar heighten our allergic reactions to pollens. I do not want to buy over processed "gluten-free" products and looked for some ethnic alternatives to bread. This is the first recipe I tried and it turned out very well. It is supposed to last a few days, but the crepes I made are half gone already! Chickpea flour or besan is readily available in our supermarkets.

Here is the link to the recipe on an excellent blog called Lisa's Kitchen.


Chickpea Flour Crepes

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sweet Potato-Bean Patties

This is burger season and I find that most store bought veggie burgers are too salty and full of processed ingredients. I found a recipe for sweet potato and bean patties that looked promising but I altered it considerably. I think this recipe is quite versatile and substitutions would work well.

2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potato (1very large or 2 medium potatoes)
2 cups mashed white beans like white kidney beans
1 eggs
1/2 cup oat bran (could use bread crumbs or another flour as a binder)
2 large garlic cloves, minced (or use garlic or onion powder)
1/3 cup hulled hemp seeds (optional)
1 tsp salt
dash or two of cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix all ingredients together and mix well. The mixture is quite sticky and you can make the patties with your hands or scoop it with a spoon into the frying pan.

Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and heat the pan until it is hot. Add patties and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until browned nicely. Serve with a salad or in a bun with toppings.

Here is the recipe I based this on.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Taste Testing 1

We have monthly potluck lunches at work and someone will usually bring a new recipe along with the standard dishes. Walking through supermarkets, especially warehouses like Costco, we try samples of new items offered throughout the store. Canada's multicultural citizens have opened many ethnic restaurants and we love trying new flavours and dishes. The internet is full of recipes and I use Pinterest to bookmark things I want to try. Here are a few things we have enjoyed recently.

Avocados

I love this oily, nutritious fruit and sometimes eat a half with a few drops of soy sauce in the centre. Recently I have tasted it paired with corn, tomatoes, cilantro, onion and lime juice in a salad. It is also delicious with orange segments or strawberries with lime or lemon juice dressing.

Greek Food

A co-worker introduced me to a street corner Greek deli in our city called Malitsa's. We tried take out yesterday and enjoyed the black-eyed pea, tabbouleh, and orzo salads. All of them keep well for a few days in the fridge. Today I tried a wrap with Fontaine Sante´'s roasted garlic hummus and tabbouleh salad at Costco. Delicious!

Blogger Ginger is travelling in the Far East and posted a picture of the breakfast she ate in the Seoul Airport. She told me there is sticky rice under the vegetables and a spicy/sweet sauce that is mixed in before the food is eaten with chopsticks. I found a recipe for authentic Bibimbap sauce and located the Korean red chili paste which is used as the base (Gochujang Sauce) at a local Asian grocer.  I bought nori and fresh bean sprouts to make this tomorrow.

Coconut, Pineapple, Mango and more

Ataulfo mangos are in season and are more available in Canada each year. This week they are 50 cents a piece so we are eating them daily. The imported fruit is not as sweet as the tree ripened ones in Mexico but they will do. My dad told me about a spinach and mango salad he tried at my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Tepic MX so I looked up a recipe on the internet. This one has a delicious dressing made with mango, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and is combined with toasted walnuts, scallions and tomato.

I had a pineapple coconut smoothie sample today and found it refreshing. I am going to try the combination in popsicle moulds. Coconut milk has enough fat to make a creamy ice cream substitute for summer time treats.


And speaking of treats...there is an amazing European deli too close to our home (!) that sells the most decadent desserts. We sometimes buy a square or slice for a special occasion such as TGIF. The assortment above was purchased for The Becka's birthday in March. Recently I enjoyed a lemon-rosemary cupcake. The centre was filled with lemon curd and the cake had fresh rosemary leaves baked in the batter. Fresh herbs are certainly popular in savoury and sweet foods these days.

Here is my Pinterest link which is turning into my own specialty cookbook.