Monday, September 10, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Apple-Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa

Taking inspiration from last week's quinoa cookie, a leisurely hot breakfast quinoa was made on an uncommonly chilly summer morning: apples, cinnamon, star anise, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries were all tossed in, and set to simmer. The result: honey-sweetened and milky-creamy, only a bit of maple syrup was added in the end to balance out a very tasty and wholesome breakkie.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Linguine with Chickpeas and Calamari

A lot of the new dishes that are tried out in kitchens are the result of a lack of imagination by the cook. Not a lack of culinary imagination, no, not that. Rather, the inability to imagine a flavour combination that is described in a new recipe. This is the case for me, and some friends as well.

When I hear a new recipe, and simply cannot imagine how the various flavors work together, but I know I adore all the dish's components (although, there are few tastes that I don't adore), it must be made.

Late one night, watching an Italian cooking show (my preferred method of learning the language) there was a segment on Linguine con ceci e calamaretti. The title seemed reasonable, but then I saw rosemary on the chef's counter. Really? Rosemary and calamari? Hmmmm...intrigue was set. A friend made it for me later that week, and I was amazed. The chickpeas are blended together with lemon juice to create a creamy base in which to coat the linguine, and no cream! And the rosemary danced between brightening up the chickpeas, and bringing out the calamari's bold side.

This week, I made the dish as part of an Italian dinner evening for some Czech friends. We started by sipping a Czech interpretation of the Italian spritz  (read: bigger and stronger), the classic caprese starter, the trendy ribboned zucchini salad, and the stage was then set for this simple, easy, yet slightly exotic pasta to wow. And it did. And it was eaten with much gusto.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chocolatey Banana Bites - Times Three

Bananas may not be the summeriest of all fruit, but dipped in chocolate, rolled in crunchy bits, and frozen, they beat any icy treat on a hot summer afternoon.

A brief 40 minutes of slicing, melting, and rolling, a bit of freeze time, and a sweet kid-friendly treat awaits. I like it thawed out a bit, so the banana is soft, but others seem to prefer that cool banana center straight from the freezer.

 In the past, I've whipped these up even faster by leaving the banana whole, dunking it in the chocolate, a quick roll through nuts, and to the freezy bin. Yet when sharing, the bites are soooo much easier to pass around.

A great summer sweet-n-salty treat, and a very tasty way to reap some of those seed benefits: Vitimin E is abundant in sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are little green packets of minerals - and great for men's health. It's no wonder banana bites have been dominating the blogosphere this year!

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Chocolate-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies

Quinoa, oats, nuts, and dried cranberries in a cookie makes them breakfast appropriate, post-workout ready, and diet friendly. And they are sweet enough that kids like them too! Whatever type of people are in your family, this is a cookie that works for all.
Sneaking protein-rich quinoa into baked treats boarders on genius, in my book anyways. I like a little bit of 'healthy' wherever I can get it.

Dark chocolate chunks and plump dried cranberries give them a definite sweetness. Almonds are toasted before used, to intensify their crunch and flavor.

They bake up nice and chewy, and make about two dozen very substantially sized cookies. I had two after a long run, which satisfied both a sweet tooth, and a need for a bit of carbs with staying power. They should keep well for a few days, but I doubt they will last that long.

Quinoa, what else can we sneak you in?

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Simple Salmon Laksa

A storm was making it's way through the southern villages of Czech Republic last Tuesday night. Luckily, we had soup. Not just any soup, but Laksa: a softly spicy, fragrant, Malaysian noodle soup. I hadn't thought of this soup since I was last in New Zealand, where it's made with some frequency, and most kiwis will tell you it's Indonesia's most appreciated contribution to their islands. Sources cite Malaysia as the country of origin, but also Indonesia and Singapore. Whatever the case, the influences are clear on the palate - a bit South-East Asian, a bit Chinese, and appreciated by all.

It reminds me of an incredibly tasty soup made last year, with shrimp and zucchini, but was much more involved due to the long infusion the spices had in the broth. This version, adapted from an 'express' cookbook makes a very tasty broth with less time by NOT chopping the lemongrass and straining it out, but simply giving it a few good whacks to bruise the stalks, and letting them steep whole. The flavour still gets into the broth, but with less time and effort. 
Baby bok choy is used, mainly because it just looks so cute while waiting on the counter-top, but the full sized variety would do just fine. We took heed from the Italians here as well, as the garlic is left whole, and scooped out at the end, as to not overpower.

This is a soup of soft, well-blended flavours, and only spicy if you want to add in the chili peppers at the end. It's a work-night favourite of my good friend who made it, as I saw the note 'Awesome!' scribbled in the corner of the recipe. And so it was.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dried Plum and Oat Muffins

Who can resist a perfectly crumbly, gently sweet, wholesome breakfast muffin? And when that very same muffin promotes a certain, um, regularity..well, that is the added benefit of including both prunes and oats in the same muffiny package.

Prunes get a bad rap in the states. Abroad they don't seem to have attained the same stigma of being just a bowl of something old and wrinkly next to grandma's bedside. Rather they can be a welcome addition to baked goods. 

Anywhere raisins are present, chopped prunes can be used for a bit more tangy sweetness and moisture.

In these muffins, toasted almonds give a bit of texture. Oats and a mix of white and wheat flour make them ideal for brekkie. Orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg give it a bit of zing. And it's all quite healthy with honey and Greek yogurt added into the mix. 

Careful when they are warm, their addictiveness hides how filling they are. Perfect for a post-run / workout bite too!

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