Monday, January 31, 2011

onion flatbread

not just a flatbread...
My mom taught me how to make this delicious onion flatbread.  I'm calling it flatbread because I don't know how else to describe it!  My family loves it; it never makes it to the dinner table when my mom makes it because my brothers, my dad, my husband and I can't stop snacking on it as soon as it comes out of the pan hot and fresh!  It is really popular in Taiwan, found in food stalls on the street, night markets, cafes and casual restaurants.  It can be eaten on its own or used as a wrapping/carrying vessel for other flavours. I will post examples of that later!  For now let's make some flatbread...

What you need:
  • 1 cup APF
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use only APF)
  • 2 cups boiled water (still hot but not scalding!)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp or so of salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
What to do:
  1. In a bowl, combine oil, green onions and salt.  Set aside.
  2. Put flour in a large bowl - while you pour hot water slowly into the flour, stir with chopsticks or the end of a wooden spoon - (don't add the water too fast because you might not need it all) - once the dough starts to come together, stop adding water.  If it seems like the dough is too wet, add a little more flour.
  3. Turn dough onto a floured board or counter top - knead until smooth.
  4. Divide dough in half and roll out into a long tube shape, cut into segments, then smush it flat with your palm.  Use a rolling pin to flatten the discs and spread some onion mixture evenly on dough.

5.  Roll dough with onion mixture into a tube and then curl it into itself.  Smush again gently with your palm and roll out gently to make a disc about 1/4" thick.  Don't worry if a little bit of onion or oil spills out.

6. In a frying pan on medium heat, add a tsp of canola oil.  Pan fry both sides, about 2 min each.  It should be golden brown and puff up slightly. 
7. Remove from heat and cut into slices.  Serve with a dipping sauce of light soy and sriracha hot sauce.

this one tore a little bit when rolled,
but doesn't matter it still tasted great!

cranberry fudge oatmeal cookies

crunchy outside, chewy inside, full of flavour and texture
These cookies were a perfect snack yesterday after a few hours of snow shoeing!  
I adapted this recipe from Canadian Foodnetwork host Anna Olson's oatmeal raisin cookies.

What you need:
  • 1 1/2 cup dry oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup APF, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/5 cup unsalted butter, room temp (I know 3/5 sounds funny...see how to measure easily in random tips below)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 pinches cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fudge bits (I used PC mini fudge melts) or chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
What to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Spread oatmeal onto a cookie sheet and toast lightly in the oven - this should only take a few minutes so keep a close eye on it to avoid burning.
  3. Cream together butter and brown sugar until smooth, then add the egg, vanilla and molasses.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt together.
  5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
  6. Add toasted oatmeal and mix. Do not over stir, it will make the cookies tough.
  7. Add cranberries and fudge bits.  You can add more of either if desired.
  8. Spoon cookie dough onto buttered baking sheet - you may have to gently pack them a little if they seem crumbly. 
  9. Bake for about 8-12 minutes, depending on oven and how big you made the cookies.  The cookies will be slightly soft to touch at the centre but golden brown on the outsides when they are done.  
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack! Enjoy!
Random Tips
  • To get 3/5 cup butter easily: grab a stick of butter with the package still on (the package will indicate 1 cup measurement) - eyeball and score with a knife to divide it into 5, open the package and cut away 3/5 of your 1 cup.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

bubble tea

milk tea with a chewy surprise
Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan and is very popular there.  Bubble tea can be found in specialty drink shops in some Canadian cities.  The bubbles are made of tapioca and the drink is traditionally a blend of black tea and milk sweetened with simple syrup.  There are many variations and now you can get any kind of drink (e.g. green tea infused juices, smoothies, iced coffees, etc.) with bubbles in it.  The bubbles come as a surprise as you sip your drink - a chewy texture that carries the drink's flavour.  It might sound funny but once you try it you'll crave some more!
Here's how to make your own bubble tea...
What you need:
  • tapioca balls (dried, they look like a bag of little marbles)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • tea* (any kind) that has been steeped and cooled 
  • milk (optional)
  • *if you don't like tea...try a different cold drink
What to do:
  • In a pot, bring water and brown sugar to a boil and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes
  • Add tapioca to pot and turn down heat to medium and allow to simmer, stirring occassionally, for about 40 minutes
  • Meanwhile, steep some of your favourite tea (I used vanilla earl grey & green tea) and allow it to cool
  • Taste tapioca after 30-40 minutes, it should be chewy and cooked through - remove from heat
  • Put a few spoonfuls of tapioca and the brown sugar liquid into a large glass, then fill the rest of the glass with steeped tea and milk and ice cubes.
  • Enjoy with a large straw (diameter must be large enough for tapioca to go through) or with a spoon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

fresh rolls with peanut sauce

so fresh and so clean
I learned how to make fresh rolls a few years ago when I served at Thai Paradise, a cute little restaurant downtown Toronto.  They are perfect as an appetizer, snack, or a light meal.  Tonight we made lots and that was dinner!  I've made them a few different ways, with various fillings and trying to perfect a peanut sauce.  You can pretty much use any veggies and/or protein you like (cooked tofu, shrimp, strips of fish, chicken, pork, beef).  Most restaurant fresh rolls have vermicelli noodles in them too - I don't make it that way at home because I don't want to wrap a carb in a carb.  The sauce really does complete this dish, so if you're allergic to peanuts, you can try almond or cashew butter instead.

Portion your ingredients according to how many fresh rolls you want to make.  Each roll will need at least 1 shrimp and 1-2 of each veggie slice.

What you need:

Fresh Rolls
  • rice paper
  • raw black tiger shrimp
  • red pepper
  • carrot
  • green onion
  • avocado
  • asparagus
  • green beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • fresh basil leaves
Peanut Sauce
*if you make the sauce a few hours beforehand, the flavours will intensify
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 or 2 tsp soy sauce 
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 dashes of thai fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger (optional)
  • 2 thai chillies chopped finely
  • 1 green onion chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp cilantro chopped finely
  • 1-2 tsp honey 
  • boiled water (amount will depend on consistency of the sauce and how it tastes, i.e. dilute if too salty)
*these are rough estimates, make sure you taste the sauce and adjust to your taste

What to do:
  1. Put peanut butter in a bowl, then slowly add the wet ingredients (except water).  Stir gently until smooth (this is why natural peanut butter works best...hydrogenated peanut butter will be chunky and separated) - add the rest of the ingredients and taste.  Add water as required.  
  2. Cut red pepper, carrot, green onion and avocado into long strips, about 2/3 the diameter of your rice paper.  Cut the asparagus in half.  Blanch the asparagus and green beans in boiling water for about 1 min, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.  Save the boiled water for step 4.  Spread veggies out on a plate and set aside.
  3. Peel and de-vein shrimp.  In a skillet on medium heat, add a bit of cooking oil and garlic.  Sauté shrimp just until cooked, season lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and add to your spread.
  4. Transfer the boiled water to a shallow pan and place it on the lowest heat possible.  
  5. Take a rice paper and slide on side of it into the hot water, but keep holding the edge.  Keep turning it in your hand (clockwise) until it feels soft and pliable.  
  6. Lay the rice paper on the board.  Put the shrimp and veggies in the centre, fold up one edge, fold up the edges on either side, then roll tightly to finish.  
  7. Serve with peanut sauce and enjoy!
Random Tips:
  • If you are making these in advance, store them in an airtight container lined and covered with a damp paper towel.
  • Set up a small work station so you have an area to make the fresh rolls (cutting board, clean counter space) and the filling lined up within reach.  
  • The rice paper is tricky and it usually takes one or two to get the hang of it, so don't worry if your first few rice papers envelope on themselves and becomes a gluey mess.
my fresh roll favourites

garlic sauteed shrimp

fresh roll assembly!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

saucy shrimp

this quick dish will satisfy your taste buds
*My mom has been making this dish for as long as I can remember, its a family favourite*

You will need:
  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp (frozen or fresh) 
  • 2 medium potatoes (any will do, I used Yukon gold)
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas (not in the above photo because I didn't have any last night!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 thai chilli, or red chilli (or anything else you like for a bit of heat)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • a handful of cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tbsp or so of vegetable oil (canola best)
  • 1/2 cup or so of water (or stock)
  • salt and pepper
What to do:
  1. Boil the carrots and potatoes until almost fully cooked, about 15 minutes.  Remove from boiling water.  You should be able to stick a fork into them but not super easily - maintain texture so that they don't turn to mush in the next steps.
  2. Finely chop garlic, chilli, ginger, green onions and cilantro.  Cut cooked potato and carrots into cubes, about the same size.  
  3. Peel and clean the shrimp; set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium.  Add the garlic, chilli and ginger; allow the oil to aromatize for a minute or two (smells yummy), then add the carrots and potato.  Stir in 1/4 cup water.
  5. Mix cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of cold water.  
  6. When the water in the pan has absorbed, taste the potato to be sure it is cooked and tender.  Add frozen peas, stir occasionally for about 1 min.
  7. Add the shrimp to the pan, try to nestle them down so they touch the bottom of the pan.  Each side of the shrimp needs to cook for about 45 seconds (depending on how big they are...the best way to tell they are done is when they are pink loose "c" careful not to overcook them, they will become tough/dry)
  8. Turn the heat down to medium-low, stir and slowly add the cornstarch water mixture.  Cook this for another minute or two - if you want it very saucy you can add a little bit more water/stock.
  9. Turn off the heat.  Toss in the cilantro and green onions, then transfer to serving dish.
  10. Serve with rice and enjoy! Serves about 3-4 people.  
green beans, mix of brown and white rice, saucy shrimp

a happy hubby

Saturday, January 15, 2011

thin crust pizza

a homemade pizza,
try it with your own favourite toppings
I learned how to make pizza dough from my friend Jillian, who learned from her mom, Laureen.  I'm not sure where Laureen got it from but its amazing!  I have altered it a little bit by using part whole wheat flour.  Jillian and I made this a lot during our two years at Queen's for Physiotherapy - it was a nice break from studying and so much fun to eat and share with our friends.

You will need:

Pizza Dough
  • 2 tbsp dry active yeast (2 packs)
  • 2 tbsp honey or 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (APF)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (may substitute this for APF)
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can use flavoured, e.g. garlic, basil, rosemary)
Pizza Toppings
*for the above photo*
  • pizza sauce or pesto
  • mozzarella cheese, best freshly grated
  • portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • chorizo sliced and pan fried to lightly browned
  • thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • caramelized onions (thinly sliced and sauteed down to golden brown)
What to do:
  1. Dissolve honey with 1/2 cup warm water and then stir in yeast gently.  Let it stand for 15 min.
  2. Combine all flour and salt in a large bowl or mixer with dough hook.  Pour in oil and stir gently; when oil has absorbed, add the dissolved yeast, then 1 1/2 cup warm water slowly with mixer on low speed (or kneading with your hands).  Knead/mix until the dough comes together and away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Remove dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 2-3 min, it will become firm and smooth.  Put it back into the bowl and cover with a damp warm dish towel for 45 minutes to rise.
  4. The dough should  be about doubled (if not wait 10-15 more min).  It should also be stretchy and soft.  Divide the dough into 6-8 balls, depending on how big you want each crust.  Knead each ball a little bit on the floured surface and return them to the bowl - cover again with damp towel for 15-20 min.
  5. You may wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze for future use - simply remove from freezer and use once defrosted.
  6. Preheat oven to 450° F with a pizza stone in the centre rack.  If you don't have a stone use a cookie sheet or aluminum pizza pan (do not preheat these).  Roll out dough ball on floured surface - this crust is quite stretchy and is meant to be thin.  Transfer to a cutting board or pizza board (for those without the stone, you should transfer directly to cookie sheet) sprinkled lightly with cornmeal (prevents dough sticking). 
  7. Spread the dough with a thin layer of pizza sauce.  Spread the caramelized onions evenly across the dough, then sprinkle generously with cheese.  Top with red pepper, mushrooms, and chorizo.  Slide it carefully onto the pizza stone (be careful the stone is very hot).
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  It may need a little longer depending on your oven, but keep an eye on it after 12 min to prevent burning the edges of the crust. 
  9. Remove from oven.  Let stand for 1 min, slice and enjoy!
Random tips:
  • I've tried using 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour - it worked but the dough wasn't as soft and stretchy
  • it is easier to transfer a dough that is cooler than room temperature - placing the oven ready pizza in the fridge for a few minutes makes it easier to slide onto the pizza stone
  • if the middle of the pizza doesn't look ready but the sides are, turn the oven to broil for 1 min - this will quickly brown the top of the pizza
  • pizza stone gets really hot so make sure you remove the pizza with a wooden or silicone spatula
  • this dough can be used to make other tasty treats (e.g. samosas, open faced apple pie, appetizers) - a healthier alternative to puff pastry 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

butternut squash & carrot soup

Tasty, easy to make and healthy.  Serves 6-8.
You will need:
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 900 ml chicken or veggie stock (reduced sodium best)
  • olive oil ~ 3 tbsp
  • butter ~ 2 tbsp
  • salt ~ 1 pinch
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Parmesan cheese freshly grated
What to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.  Wash the butternut squash and carrots.  (You have the option of peeling them but I don't - its more work and besides, the skin has fibre and nutrients). Cut it into cubes (you want the veggies to be the same size so they cook evenly) and toss in a large bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place it onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut off the tip of the garlic head.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the top and add a pinch of salt and pepper, then wrap it with aluminum foil.  Put it in a corner of the baking sheet.
  3. Place baking sheet in the middle rack.  Bake for about 45 min - 1 hour, check before taking out as the squash and carrots should be fork tender and light golden brown, not burnt.  Once cooled enough to touch, you can spoon out the butternut squash from its peel if desired.
  4. Dice the onion.  In a large pot, heat butter and 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onions and stir occasionally. Once the onions are translucent and golden, add the roasted carrots and butternut squash.  Turn the roasted garlic head upside down and squeeze the cloves into the pot.  Stir a few times, then add the stock.  There should be enough liquid to just cover the veggies.
  5. Turn the burner to medium high.  Once it boils, you can turn it down to medium and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  
  6. You can use a blender, food processor, or immersion hand blender to make the soup smooth.  It is best to do this when the soup is cooled to almost room temperature.  I have done it hot in a blender but you must be very careful and hold the blender's lid down with a kitchen cloth!  
  7. Once smooth, taste.  Add pepper or salt to your liking. Reheat in the pot until desired temperature.  You can add a little bit of cream or butter to make it more rich and silky. Garnish with Parmesan cheese shavings and enjoy!