Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade applesauce

Applesauce is so easy to make, and yet I always somehow buy it in jars at the store. Kinda dumb, since I use a lot of it in baked goods and I eat it often before or after working out, or simply as dessert. I figured it would be a good idea to start making my own, especially since apples are still cheap! I don't know why I haven't done that sooner. Laziness I guess...
Anyway, so I got a 5 lbs bag of Cortlands for very cheap, and as much as I love biting into an apple and just eat it raw, 5 lbs is a lot for a single person. Originally I wanted to make muffins but realized I was out of baking powder and didn't have time to get to the store. So I opted for this. I'm glad I did. AND...I still have a lot of apples so I'll make muffins on sunday.
Here's what you'll need for about 2 cups of applesauce:

5-6 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 TBSP water
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer on medium heat until the apples are soft.
Turn the heat off and let cool a bit.



Mash with a potato masher, or blend with a hand blender if you like it smooth.
(I chose to mash it so that it's still a little chunky)

So simple...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet Chili Chicken Fried Rice.

This is what I usually do with leftover cooked chicken. It's easy, fast, comforting and of course very tasty!
I think the first time I made this was when I lived in Whistler, one of my roomates had a bottle of sweet thai chili sauce in the fridge and I tried it in a stir fry, to make a change (because when I lived out west I used to eat A LOT of stir fry...), and I became hooked. That sauce makes this dish! Without it it's just another chicken fried rice. So next time you're in the asian food aisle at the grocery store, pick up a bottle you wont regret it! It's really good on shrimp too, or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.
So here's one of my favorite chicken stir fry E-V-E-R:

Start by cooking a pot of rice. Then sautee some onions, garlic and celeri in a little bit of olive oil until they get soft. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Add the cooked shredded chicken and a good squeeze of sweet thai chili sauce. Then add the rice and a bit of soy sauce and mix it and sautee until all the ingredients are well aquainted. Then at the end, if you wish, throw in some fresh basil or oregano, or even tarragon would be nice. This time it was basil.

As it happens, this is the last dish I made with my fresh basil....the plant is dead...the sun is not strong enough anymore to help it stay alive, so no more fresh basil...'til next spring...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rice and Zucchini "Lasagna"

This is what happens when I have NO idea what to make for diner because of too many options...
It's totally freestyle cooking at its best, it kinda came together I don't know how, I just got inspired as I cooked. Love that! It also used up a lot of letfovers...the spaghetti sauce was about a week old and needed to be used for something, the zucchinis were getting a little soft and the rice...well ok, I cooked that fresh but it was the bottom of the bag. Not too shabby, still, huh?

First I started by cooking some basmati rice, I think it was 1/2 cup DRY.
Meanwhile, I sauteed 2 medium sliced zucchinis in olive oil with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano.

Then I started with the layering, in a 8x4 loaf pan, or if you have a big family use your favorite casserole dish. (This one here feeds 2-3 people)
At the bottom of the pan a bit of spaghetti sauce, then a layer of zucchinis, some parmesan cheese, rice, spaghetti sauce, zucchinis, parmesan, rice, etc...up to the top, then finish with a layer of shredded cheese (here it's cheddar).

Then in a 400F oven until it starts to bubble (LOVE the glass pan!!) and under the broil for 2 minutes or so.

Pretty darn good for a week night...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chocolate-Walnut Pumpkin Bread

Yes, this is another pumpkin recipe...I told you that one can was pretty big, so I gotta use it!
So. Today after a little shopping and chores around the house I decided to bake a "pumpkin something". I remembered seeing this recipe in the Holiday edition of the magazine "Taste of Home". It comes from a woman in Florida...I actually changed the recipe a bit, "tweaked" it so to speak. I thought it would be nice to have something different with pumpkin, something other than the traditional cloves/nutmeg/ginger flavors. So I thought of chocolate, and looked though my spice cabinet (that needs to be sorted out, seriously. It's a mess in there...), and Ta-da! Inspired! Cardamom! Beautiful spice. So fragrant and powerful! Try it you'll see. I know I will definetly use it more often from now on!
Anyway, about this cake...It's not a "healthy oven" recipe, so it has quite a bit of sugar and oil. But moderate indulgence is okay, right?

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coco powder, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cardamom

Wet ingredients:

1 1/3 cup sugar
7.5 ounces pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extrac

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Turn the oven on at 350F and set the rack in the middle.
Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with vegetable oil.
In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
In another medium bowl, beat the wet ingredients until well blended.
Transfer the dry in the wet and gradually mix it until well blended.
Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
Pour in the pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 60-70 minutes(mine took more like 70 minutes, but check after 60 just in case...overbaking=dry cake...). When it's done a knife will come out clean when inserted in the middle.

Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Slice and enjoy!

You can barely taste the pumpkin in this. It's all chocolate! And that cardamom,'s CRAZY good.

I have a feeling this will disapeer in no time...

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Pate Chinois

Out of all the comfort foods in the world this is probably my favorite. Like most people in Quebec. "Pate chinois" is part of growing up, it's a taste of home. Every family has its own recipe, and ask anyone here they'll tell ya' "MY Mom makes the best pate chinois!". That's always debatable. Like spaghetti sauce. Mom's the best.
Now, the name of this dish translates into "chinese pate", but there's absoluetly nothing chinese about it. The origins are still debatable, but we're pretty sure it dates back to when they were building the railroads, there was a lot of chinese people working and they would eat what was available: ground meat, corn and potatoes. Quebequers also working along them ended up calling it "le pate des chinois"(the chinese' pate).
That's one theory. There are a few others but this is not a history lesson, if you wanna learn more go to wikipedia, there's a page about that.
Now on to the food.

I make this the way my mom makes it (of course,'cause it's the best...), and it's pretty much traditionnal. Some people put bell peppers in the meat, or peas, or I don't know no no...Meat, corn and potatoes. That's it.
First peel and cook some potatoes and mashed them with butter, milk, salt and pepper.

Sautee some ground beef with onions, garlic, salt, pepper and cinnamon.(yes, cinnamon. that's the "secret" ingredient!!)

Then, in a big loaf pan or casserole dish, depending on how many people you're cooking for, lay down the meat. Then pour one or 2 cans of cream corn, along with corn kernels(canned or frozen, doesn't matter...). The amount here again depends on how much you're making. This one here would feed about 3-4 people, I used 1 can cream corn and 1 medium can of kernels. Peaches 'n cream corn kernls. Yum, already...

On top go the potatoes, nicely done with the fork, and paprika on top for color.
In the oven at 375F for 30-40 minutes, until you start to see some bubbling action happening.

Oh My. THAT'S what I'm talking about!

Now. As MUCH as I LOVE ketchup, I DO NOT put that stuff on here. A lot of people do but I'm a purist when it comes to pate chinois. As it is is how it is.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin-Ginger Spicy Muffins

It's pumpkin season so here's a first pumpkin recipe! I say "first" because there will be a few more in the weeks to come...That one big can of pumpkin puree was BIG.
These muffins are really nice and spicy, with the ginger and the cloves. That's one thing I love about pumpkin. The spices that go with it are some of my favorites. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Good stuff.

Okay here it is:

Dry stuff:

2 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

wet stuff:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 egg
1 TBSP canola oil

2 tsp crystalized ginger, finely choppede
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Turn the oven on at 350, set the rack in the middle of the oven and oil-spray some muffin tins.
Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, set aside.
In another bowl beat all the wet ingredients and the ginger until frothy.
Make a well in the center of the dry stuff, pour in the wet stuff and the pecans and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until just combined. Do not overmix...(this would mean tough muffins, and we don't want that.)
Bake for 20-22 minutes(check after 20 and see...). Cool on a rack in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding.

I found them really good with margarine on it, but also applesauce rocks with these, since the spices go well with apple too!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Roasted Squash Soup

Here's one of the reasons why I love fall so much: SOUPS!! I can eat soup for lunch AND diner no problem. I love the warmth of it, the versatility, and because it's hot you eat it slowly, which is good for the digestive system, so I've heard...
And I love fall for this star vegetable: SQUASH!! There are so many varieties, and yes you can do a lot more than soups with them, but they are the AMAZING for soups. They make everything turn into velvet. Also they can stay on the counter for a long time without going bad. This one here I've had for at least a month, chillin on my kitchen table, taunting me... So today on my day off, on a rather gray gloomy/rainy friday I thought it was time. Plus, I still had some home-made chicken broth I'd brought from work last week and it was now or never the time to use it.
Today because I had nothing else to do I decided to take the long route; I roasted the squash nicely with some spices and cooked the base really slowly...All together I think it took about 2 hours to make this soup. But when pressed for time it's possible to make it quicker, by skipping the roasting and just cubing the squash and cooking everything together. But I assure you, if you have time to do it like this, do it, it makes a big difference!

For the flavors I got the inspiration from Jamie Oliver, in his first ever cook book, "The Naked Chef". The fennel seeds is a great flavor for squash! I would've never thought of it myself, so Thanx Jamie!
I should also mention that adding lentils to a soup is a great way to get a dose of protein, and by no means does it change the taste of the soup, at all. So go for lentils they're sooooooo good for us!

Here are the ingredients list:

1 big butternut squash
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp chili flakes
1 1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp corsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp brown sugar
Canola oil (1-2 TBSP???...)

1 big or 2 medium onions, chopped.
2 big celeri stalks, peeled and chopped.
1 big carrot, peeled and chopped.
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1-2 white potatoes, peeled and cut.
2/3 cup red lentils.
4-6 cups chicken broth.
1 bay leaf.

To roast the squash:

Cut the thing in half, clean out the seeds, and cut into reasonable sized pieces...the bigger they are the longer it will take to cook, but if they're too smalll it'll be a pain to peel. You be the judge...
Smash all the spices in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, brush the squash with oil and sprinkle the spices over it.
Bake in the oven at 400F until fork-tender, for about 40 minutes.

Let it cool before peeling.
Meanwhile, sautee the onion, celeri and carrots in some canola oil on medium heat until the onions are soft and transluscent.
Add the garlic and potatoes, season with salt and pepper and sautee for 1-2 minutes.
Add the lentils and the stock, throw in a bay leaf.
Bring to a light boil and simmer on low-medium for about 30 minutes, until everything is soft.
While this is simmering peel the squash and cut into chunks. Set aside until it's time to add to the rest of the soup.
(If you need more liquid add a little more broth, or water)
When the vegetables are cooked and the squash been added and warmed up and everybody seems to be well aquainted, TAKE OUT THE BAY LEAF and start the pureeing process! Either with a hand blender or a traditional blender, it's up to you, but make sure it's all smooth!
If it seems too thick add a bit of milk, check the seasonnings and adjust to your liking.

Don't forget the bread on the side for dunking!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Apple-Berry Maple Crunch

I love fall. I love the fruits and vegetables of fall, like apples. I grew up in a very "orchard rich" area, and I remember going apple picking every year as a kid. Now I live in the city but still, in autumn, when apples are in season, I eat so many of them. They just taste so much better! And I always have tiny flashbacks of when I'd pick apples with my parents or with school trips...Now I don't go pick them myself, though...that's what farmer's markets are for..!!
Today I got a big bag of MacIntosh, one of my favorites. I love Lobos best but they are very juicy so not the best for baking...Macs are good for pretty much everything!

So with all those nice apples I had to bake something. I thought of a pie, or a cake...but I love crumbles and cobblers and things like that, so I looked through Ms. Philips' healthy baking book(which I'm slowly baking my way through, for's awesome.), and found this amazing maple crunch. Apples, berries AND maple??? Yes please!!

You'll need:

5 big or 6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/3 inch thick.
1 cup frozen or fresh berries (I used raspberries and blueberries).
1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 + 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/3 + 1 TBSP pure maple syrup
3 TBSP lemon juice
1 1/2 TBSP canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 TBSP sugar

-Turn on the oven at 350 and set the rack in the middle.
-Spray a 13x9 (or a 11x7 for thicker pieces) ovenproof glass dish with oil.
-Put the apples and berries in the dish, and spread the applesauce on top.

-In a medium bowl, mix all the other ingredients except for the sugar until well combined.
-Crumble the mixture over the apples, and sprinkle the sugar on top, along with a bit more cinnamon if you're like me and LOVE cinnamon...

-Bake until the apples are cooked and the top is golden brown,about 40-45 minutes

-Eat warm with some vanilla frozen yogurt!!

Oh, yummy apples how I love thee...