August 29, 2010

Brown Sugar Oatmeal with Berries

It's getting cooler here in the morning. One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday morning is snuggle up with my dog, a hot coffee and a warm breakfast and watch Sunday Morning on CBS. I usually make pancakes, but sometimes I'm looking for something easier so last week I pulled out a bag of Quaker oatmeal and I might not turn back. 

I pretty much followed the recipe until the end when I opted to make it a little more decadent by adding cream and sugar -- balanced out with some blueberries of course. 

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)
  • 1/2 cup Quick oatmeal (3-5 minutes to cook)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

  • Bring water to a boil and add oatmeal cooking for 3-5 minutes (or, as per the bag's directions)
  • Remove from heat and add brown sugar and cream. Stir in
  • Add blueberries and mix in, letting warm up slightly
  • Serve in bowls and sprinkle lightly with more brown sugar and a few more blueberries

August 26, 2010

Bacon Rollups

Appetizers, in my experience, tend to be cold because the cook is always using the oven for the dinner. But when I get an opportunity to use the oven for an appetizer, I make these bacon rollups that my dad has been making for years. 

Ok, they're pretty bland looking (though they're better if you bake them seam-side down as I indicate in the recipe), and have no illusions about the health content of these little guys -- bacon and cream cheese?! -- but they explode like little bites of heaven in your mouth. I know it's everything in moderation, but I could eat the entire plate of these. Don't judge until you've tried them.

  • 6 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 oz. cream cheese
  • 15 slices sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

  • In a skillet, cook bacon
  • Add mushrooms and onion for 5-8 minutes
  • Stir in cream cheese until melted
  • Trim crusts from sandwich bread and flatten slices with a rolling pin
  • Spread 2 tsp of bacon mixture on each slice
  • Roll each piece like a jelly roll and secure with a toothpick
  • Place seam-side down on a baking sheet
  • Cover and chill for at least an hour
  • Brush with melted butter
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until brown
  • Remove toothpicks, cut in half and serve

August 23, 2010

Salmon Cakes

We grocery shop on Thursdays so by Wednesday, we're pretty much out of food. I'm desperate to learn how to menu plan (any tips out there?), but I'm thrilled if I can scrounge something up for dinner on Wednesday.

Enter: salmon cakes.

My dad makes these and they're simple to make and use ingredients that I always have on hand. I was able to whip these up and still have something healthy for dinner.


  • 1 potato (fairly large or two small)
  • 1 tin of salmon, drained well and cleaned
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 7-8 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Boil potato while cleaning the salmon and sauteing the onion and green onions
  • Lightly mash the potato and add it to the salmon and sauted onion and green onions in a bowl
  • Add egg and all other ingredients
  • Mix ingredients and divide the mixture into six
  • Shape into six patties and place them on a plate
  • Cover and chill in fridge for 30 minutes
  • In a skillet containing melted butter, sear the four patties for three or four minutes on each side, until lightly browned
  • Put the patties on a cookie sheet and place in oven and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes
  • Serve with lemon wedge or roasted garlic mayonnaise

August 22, 2010

Mango Chicken Curry

One of my favourite restaurants in Toronto is Salad King. They make the most delicious mango chicken that is sweet with a mango sauce full of chunks of mango and red and green peppers and served with a steaming side of rice. Due to a problem in the building, Salad King has been closed for months and I have been craving this delicious meal so to satisfy my craving, I turned to Google. I think mango chicken as I know it must be a Salad King original but I found a decent recipe on

This dish was more of a curry (and for those of you who don't know me well, spice and I are not super close), but since I was making it I could monitor the amount of spice I put in. This was also the first time I had cooked with coconut milk and I really liked how it added a light thickness to the meal. And, with the exception of the coconut milk, I had everything else on hand.

Overall, not exactly what I set out to make, but still a really good dish that I will certainly try again. 

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1 medium green pepper, julienned
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chopped, peeled mango
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (I used lite)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • hot cooked rice

  • In a large skillet, saute onion and red and green pepper in oil for 2-4 minutes or until crisp tender
  • Add the chicken, curry, ginger, garlic, salt and cayenne. Cook and stir for 5 minutes
  • Stir in the coconut mil and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Add mango and simmer for a couple more minutes. 
  • Serve over hot rice.

Recipe from 

August 20, 2010

Peach and Vanilla Bean Pie

(it was hard to take a pic with eight people watching and wondering what I was doing!)

I love vanilla. It's one of my favourite ingredients to cook with and when I saw this recipe over at Ezra Pound Cake, I was excited for the opportunity to bake with a vanilla bean. I found whole vanilla beans at a local/organic type shop (The Big Carrot in Toronto) and the smell was divine. Even the grocery clerk smelled it and I enjoyed the scent wafting from my bag all the way home.

Using the bean was easier than I thought and I simply sliced it open and scraped out the paste. I feel like I've crossed another culinary milestone by using this fresh ingredient!

The vanilla took this basic peach pie over the top and I was excited to bring it up to a friend's cottage as a "thank you." I found it a little nerve-wracking taking up a dessert I myself had never tried (it's rude to cut a slice out before bringing it, right?), but the response was an overwhelming success! Whew!


  • 2 basic flakey pie crusts
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 cups peeled, pitted, and thickly sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds from the bean and place them in a food processor. Add the sugar and process for about a minute. (I did this with my hand mixer/immersion blender and it worked fine). 
  • Take 1/2 cup of the sugar and put in another bowl and mix with cornstarch. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the peaches, sugar-cornstarch mix and lemon juice. 
  • Roll the bottom layer of the pastry and place in pie plate. 
  • Fill pie shell with peaches and dot the top of the fruit with butter.
  • Drape top layer of pastry over filling. Cut off excess pie crust and tuck top layer over bottom layer and fold into pie plate. Flute edges with fingers and then poke steam vents in top of pie with a paring knife.
  • Place the pie in the centre oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 40-45 minutes, untill pie is browning and you can hear the juices bubbling. 
  • Transfer the pie to a wire rack and immediately sprinkle half the remaining vanilla sugar (about 1/4 cup) over the top.
  • Let cool for at least two hours.
** have some extra vanilla sugar? Try it in your coffee!!!

Recipe adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

August 17, 2010

Summer Fruit Crostata

When I make my flakey pastry dough, it makes five shells. This means I get two double crust pies and one pie bottom. Last time, I made butter tarts with the left over shell, and this time, I delved into the rustic pie or what Ina Garten calls a Crostata.

Hours before we had company for dinner, I pulled the pastry out of the freezer, let it thaw, threw in some fruit, loosely "closed" it and baked it. It was definitely rustic looking but something I would be proud to take as a dessert to a barbecue or picnic.

In mine, I used peach and blueberries because that's what I had on hand, but you could use any kind of pie filling and it would be great. Glad I have this quick and easy dessert in my back pocket for emergencies!


  • 1 flakey pie crust
  • 1 pound ripe peaches, peeled
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 tbsp flour, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 tbsp sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, diced


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Roll the pastry into a large circle on a lightly floured surface and transfer to sheet pan.
  • For the filling, cut the peaches into wedges and mix with blueberries. Toss them with one tbsp of flour, one tbsp of sugar, the orange zest and the orange juice. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. 
  • Combine the 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and butter. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Rub with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let cool for five minutes then use two large spatulas to transfer to a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa at Home

August 15, 2010

Mixed Berry Muffins

It's berry season here in Ontario and I had an absolute abundance of berries on hand when I decided to make these. I laughed when I looked at these half way through cooking because the recipe told me "these muffins hide a sweet surprise" -- but the surprise of the berries were bursting all over my muffin tin. I actually think they looked better than if they were just a plain looking muffin. 

I will note that the "muffin" was pretty dense though -- more like a shortcake or even a scone. These would work really well as a summer dessert too -- add some fresh whipped cream and some extra berries on the plate and you're done!


For the filling:
  • 2 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used blackberries, strawberries and raspberries)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest

For the muffins:
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup  butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Combine all the filling ingredients in a small saucepan. Gently bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes until the berries give some of their juices. Set aside.
  • For the muffins, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the butter, milk and egg in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  • In a 12 tin muffin pan, use half the batter and spoon into each cup. Then spoon a layer of the filling and the add the remaining batter.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.

August 12, 2010

Shrimp Scampi

On Sundays I like to spend time in the kitchen. It's an opportunity for me to unwind and relax and make a meal that will have a couple of portions left over for a relaxed dinner on Mondays.

I saw this recipe over at Annie's Eats and I immediately gravitated towards it because it had only a few simple ingredients and looked like a light summer supper. We don't eat a lot of fish at home but often have shrimp on hand and I really like how it was the star of this meal. I made the pasta from scratch and tossed it with this light butter-lemon sauce and it was a hit. Unfortunately, it was such a hit, that there weren't any leftovers!


  • 3/4 lb. linguine (try to make homemade like this)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

  • Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, in a saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. 
  • Add the shrimp in an even layer and add salt and pepper. Once down side of shrimp turns pink, flip and cook second side evenly. 
  • When shrimp is opaque, remove pan from heat and stir in the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
  • Drain pasta and add to the saute pan and toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately.

Recipe from Annie's Eats

August 11, 2010

Plum Tart

Black plums are my favourite. They're in season right now and they're just massive in size and ridiculously delicious. We went to a new grocery story the other day that sells mainly local and organic foods and the plums were calling my name. As much as I love them though, I couldn't eat as many as I bought before they went too mushy so I decided to make a plum tart and boy was it incredible.

First of all, as a new baker, my presentation isn't always the best, so I love anything that is not only simple, but is easy to make look impressive. This one hit all the senses: it smelled amazing, it looked incredible and it tasted heavenly.

The decadent part of this tart is the sweet crust and the creamy custard. Sigh. This didn't last long in our house!

  • 2 cups thickly sliced plums (pitted, but not peeled)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Pat-in Sweet Pastry:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed

Pat-In Sweet Pastry: In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and cornstarch. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture clumps together. With floured hands, press evenly into 9-inch (23 cm) round tart pan with removable bottom. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Arrange plums, cut side up and slightly overlapping, in circular pattern over pastry. Sprinkle with all but 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the sugar.

Bake tart in centre of 400°F (200°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until plums are softened.

Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together cream, egg yolks, vanilla and remaining sugar; pour over fruit.

Bake tart for 25 to 30 minutes longer or until set, golden and knife inserted in centre of filling comes out clean. Let cool on rack. (Make-ahead: Set aside at room temperature for up to 3 hours.)

August 9, 2010

Zucchini and Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm having a cooking love affair with zucchini. It's such a lovely ingredient to cook with and because of it's high moisture content, everything I make with it is so moist and delicious.

Zucchini muffins seemed weird to me, but I was happy to add chocolate chips to it (as per the recipe!). As this recipe was from, lots of people suggested that this was a great way to feed vegetables to children. Truthfully, I don't agree. In a dozen muffins, there was one large zucchini, which nets out to hardly one serving. Either way, I really enjoyed these and they certainly didn't last long in our house!

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice and vanilla.
  • Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
  • Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips.
  • Pour into greased muffin tins.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

August 7, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Dear Ina Garten, 

Oh how you've inspired me. Every delicious dish I have made from the pages of your beautiful cookbooks have turned out perfect and your lemon loaf was no exception. You have certainly helped build confidence in this rookie cook and I look forward to many more wonderful dishes.


Our puppy Cooper, turned five last week, so I made this Lemon Yogurt Cake to celebrate. Well, T and I celebrated and Cooper just watched us enjoy it, but we were all ok with it.

This lemon loaf was moist and light. The only change I made was omitting the glaze that went on top, because, well, it just didn't need more sugar. I just opted for some icing sugar to finish it off. And you don't need a reason to celebrate to make this one. Making it to Tuesday is enough!Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup yogurt (I used vanilla, but plain would be fine)
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into one bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.
  • Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 
  • With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile, cooke the 1/3 lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
  • When the cake is done, pour the sugar and lemon mixture over top, letting it soak in. 
  • Cool for about an hour before removing from the pan. 

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home

August 5, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise

I eat a lot of zucchini. It's one of my favourite vegetables, and while I mostly eat it raw in salads, it is wonderful to cook with. Zucchini has a really high water content -- which not only makes it low in calories, it helps make foods incredibly and unbelievably moist. I learned this when I made zucchini and chocolate chip muffins.

Looking for new ways to explore this vegetable, I turned back to Ina Garten and discovered zucchini pancakes. My mother's immediate question was: "Do you put maple syrup on them?" Well, no. They're not those kind of pancakes -- more like crab cakes or the asiago crumpets I made.

I made these one night for dinner with a garlic mayonnaise and they were a hit. These could easily be served as a side dish with steak or meat, or as a part of a brunch buffett. And I have no doubt that kids would love them and wouldn't even think they were full of folate, potassium and Vitamin A!


Zucchini Pancakes:
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6-8 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Roasted Garlic Mayo:
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • Wash and shred the zucchini with a cheese grater.
  • In a bowl, whisk two eggs. Add 6 tbsp flour.
  • Add zucchini and salt and pepper and toss.
  • If batter is too runny, add the other 2 tbsp of flour. Note that this will be more zucchini than "batter," but it should be coated in the flour and egg mixture.
  • Heat olive oil in a frying pan and turn down to medium. Ladel batter into silver dollar-sized pancakes.
  • Cook each side for 3-4 minutes, until browned.
  • Serve with garlic mayonnaise.
To make the roasted garlic mayo, simply add one head of roasted garlic (squeezed and mashed) to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and stir. You may want to do this in advance so the flavours melt together better.

From Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home

August 2, 2010

Roasted Garlic

I love garlic. Ever since we discovered jarred garlic (minced and packed in oil), we put in pretty much everything. Making veggies? Add some garlic. An omelette? Add garlic. Risotto? Where's the garlic? 

Lately I've been cooking with fresh garlic and it is significantly better than the jarred garlic (which, after awhile, seemed kind of gelatinous in my fridge). With this new discovery, I've been looking for more ways to enjoy garlic and roasting it was just the thing.

Roasted garlic is very different than fresh garlic. It's mild and flavourful and you can eat it plain. I probably ate three heads of garlic when it came out of the oven -- it was just that good. And simple!! It's super easy to make and very impressive.

How can you use roasted garlic, you ask?

  • on garlic bread
  • in mashed potatoes
  • in mayonnaise 
  • with goat cheese as a spread
  • garlic heads (do five or six at a time, trust me)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Peel away the excess skin on the garlic, but leave the skin on the cloves in tact.
  • With a sharp knife, cut off the pointy end of the garlic so the tips of all the cloves are exposed.
  • Place garlic heads on tin foil and drizzle with olive oil (don't be shy on the olive oil) and use your fingers to make sure all cloves are well coated. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Create a package with the tin foil and put in over for 45 minutes or until garlic is soft when pressed.
  • Let garlic cool and then either peel away skin with a fork or turn upside and squeeze out garlic into a bowl.
  • Enjoy as is, or combine with your favourite recipe for a fresh new flavour.
** Tip: An easy way to freeze roasted garlic is in individual ice cube trays. Mash cloves first and then spoon into trays and freeze.

August 1, 2010

Summer Garden Pasta

I was recently given a gift certificate for Indigo and I knew exactly what I wanted to buy -- a cookbook by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. For years, I have enjoyed watching her on the Food Network for her simple, classic recipes and she always just looks so happy cooking! Though I guess if I had her kitchen in the Hamptons, I might too!

Anyway, so I just got two of her books in the mail and they are beautiful. Nice glossy pages with beautiful photos and I was immediately inspired to make three dishes of hers and they were all easy and full of flavour.

The first I made was the summer garden pasta. Angel hair pasta topped with a simple mixture of cherry tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil and garlic. You had to marinade the sauce for a few hours before so all the flavours infused together and it smelled like nothing else. I couldn't wait to eat this one!

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home
  • fresh angel hair pasta (make your own using this recipe)
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves freshly minced garlic
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • 1 cup grated fresh parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • In a bowl, combine cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil and salt and pepper. Toss and let sit for about four hours.
  • Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta. Drain.
  • Put tomato mixure in a large pan and warm. Add in pasta and toss, fully coating pasta. Add parmesan and stir, letting it melt throughout.
  • Serve warm with more parmesan and basil for presentation.


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