Tuesday, March 27, 2012

granola bars

homemade goodness
Today I spent a good amount of money after work at bulk barn...it's amazing how long I can linger up and down those aisles! At work we've been talking about making our own granola bars and I suddenly had a craving to do so - and it is definitely well worth it!  Make it your own by substituting your favourite dried fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.  The base is rolled oats, something sticky and sweet to bind it all, and some canola oil.

what you need:
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a large baking dish (9" x 13") with parchment paper.
  2. Roughly chop almonds.  
  3. On a large cookie sheet, spread out pumpkin seeds, almonds, and rolled oats.  Toast lightly for 10 minutes in centre rack.
  4. In a food processor (or chop by hand) - pulse prunes and dates with a little bit of the canola oil.  It should become a very rough, chunky paste.
  5. Combine the rest of the canola oil, brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup in a small saucepan on medium low heat.  Stir and remove from heat when sugar dissolves.
  6. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats and nuts, pulsed date/prune mixture, warmed wet ingredients, and the rest of the ingredients (except for cinnamon).  Mix thoroughly.
  7. Spread the granola mixture into lined baking dish.  Wet your fingers with some cold water and press mixture, leveling evenly.  Sprinkle cinnamon all over.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool (2 hours at least) before cutting into desired sizes.  Enjoy!
*can be kept in airtight container in fridge for several days, or freeze to keep fresh longer. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

sushi rolls

spicy salmon roll

assorted: salmon, vegetarian, avocado
vegetarian roll
Sushi rolls are fun to make - and much easier than you think!  You can get creative and put pretty much anything you're craving into the rolls (long thin veggies are easiest to roll up of course).  My mom taught me how to make the rice and vegetables more authentically Japanese (vinegar and sugar are the secret) - and it does make a difference in taste.  There are also a few tricks (which might seem weird! but they work) to make the rice sticky but not gluey/gummy. 

When I go out for sushi I absolutely love getting special spicy rolls.  Since I can't have raw fish for the next few months, I made my own spicy salmon using baked salmon mixed with mayo and sriracha.

 I know it looks like a long process but I promise it gets easier after the first time.  I recommend doing the filling preps while the rice is cooking to save time.

the basics 
what you need:
*makes 3 rolls

  • 3/4 cup sushi rice (you can mix in 1/2 brown rice, white rice is stickier though)
  • 1/4 cup white or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 3 sheets of nori seaweed
  • a mini fan or hairdryer (this is the weird part!)
  • bamboo sushi mat (for easy rolling)
  • plastic wrap
  1. Cook the rice as you would normally (rice cooker or in a pot) - while this is happening, complete veggie and protein prep.
veggie prep
quick pickling: my mom always gives the veggies she uses (usually carrots and cucumbers) a quick pickling - if you use softer veggies (e.g. asparagus, avocado) - don't pickle them - but crunchy ones like daikon, radish, celery, etc. would benefit from the picking.  
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 avocado
  • lemon
     what to do:
  1. Peel and cut carrot into long thin strips (about 0.5 cm X 0.5 cm).  
  2. Sprinkle salt over carrots and let it sit for 5 minutes (this softens the carrot).
  3. Cut cucumber in half, remove seeds, then cut into long thin strips, about the same size as the carrot.
  4. Combine vinegar and sugar, stir until sugar dissolves.
  5. Rinse carrots with water to remove salt.  In a shallow dish, combine cucumbers, carrots, and vinegar mixture.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes (pickle process).
  6. When you are ready to assemble sushi, drain off excess vinegar and pat veggies dry with paper towel.
  7. Slice avocado into strips as well and squeeze some lemon juice on top to prevent browning.
protein prep: my mom will usually saute some shrimp and eggs (beat in a bowl, cook in a pan like a pancake then cut into long strips) to put in the rolls - you can use whatever protein you'd like (e.g. smoked salmon, any cooked meat/fish/tofu) - or just stick to veggies.  I used salmon, shrimp and firm tofu.
  • one 4 ounce piece of salmon
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp sriracha
  • 3 tbsp mayo
  • 6 tiger shrimp
  • 100 g firm tofu
      what to do:
  1. Bake salmon (seasoned with salt and pepper) enclosed in parchment paper at 425 F for 12 minutes (or until desired done-ness).
  2. Mix mayo and sriracha (adjust spice level to your liking).
  3. Reserve some mayo mix for plating.  
  4. Flake the cooked salmon and mix with mayo until well coated.
  5. Saute shrimp with small amount of cooking oil, season lightly with salt and pepper.
  6. Cut tofu into strips (~0.5cm x 0.5 cm) and saute with a small amount of cooking oil until golden.
rice prep: this part is important, to ensure your rice is sticky but still fluffy and not gluey.
  1. Once your rice is cooked, keep it covered but remove from heat.  Place it on top of a damp tea towel to prevent sliding (you will be mixing the rice).
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat up vinegar and sugar, just until sugar dissolves.
  3. Plug in fan or hairdryer and set it on the coolest setting.
  4. As coordinated as you can, use a big spoon to gently stir/fold the rice (do not mush down), while adding warmed vinegar slowly and allowing fan to cool down the rice at the same time.  Continue gently folding rice for a few minutes, at least until steam from the cooked rice is gone.
finally! time to make the roll...
  1. Gather all your ingredients around your board so it's easily accessible.
  2. Put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the bamboo mat.
  3. Spoon and spread evenly some of the rice onto the plastic wrap (should be about the size of your nori sheet).  It shouldn't be a dense amount of rice.
  4. Place the nori sheet on top and press very lightly to stick to the rice.
  5. Put whatever you'd like in that roll, from left to right width wise, near the bottom 1/3 of nori.
  6. Lift the edge of the plastic wrap closest to you and tuck it tightly under, the rice beneath will contact the nori and stick - continue rolling gently until you form a log (do not press hard or you'll get smushed  gluey rice).  Use the bamboo mat to help you.
  7. Cut roll into about 6-8 pieces (I always snack on the ends:) - and place on serving plate.
  8. If you're making a spicy roll - take a piece of plastic wrap and poke a small hole with a toothpick - put some of your spicy mayo over the hole and lift plastic around the mayo - squeeze mayo onto plated sushi for a pretty presentation.
  9. ENJOY!!! Serve with wasabi, soy sauce, and chopsticks:)

carrots, cucumber, avocado, spicy salmon, tofu
roll up gently
drizzle sliced pieces with spicy mayo
Note: to make a roll with the nori on the outside is even easier.  Place nori directly on bamboo mat, evenly spread rice on nori, then put filling on the rice and roll up.a

Sunday, March 4, 2012

veggie lasagna

you wouldn't even know ... tofu hides in here.
Lately we've been trying to eat vegetarian during the week, for both health and environmental reasons.  I had a sudden craving for lasagna - preggo cravings maybe? :) - and I thought tofu would be perfect as a meat substitute... it doesn't have much flavour so it soaks up whatever seasonings you put on it.  And it mixes well with cheese so for those who don't like the texture of tofu wouldn't even know it.  Ryan and I had it for two lunches and two dinners...was very satisfying and tasty.

what you need:
  • 1 package oven ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 small eggplant
  • spinach (a few large handfuls)
  • 1 large can san marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup old white cheddar, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 pint cremini mushrooms
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning (mix of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme...)
  • 300 g firm tofu
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and pepper
  • *freshly grated Parmesan for plating
what to do:
  1. Prepare all vegetables:  thinly slice eggplant into discs, rinse spinach, finely dice mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, and garlic.  Set everything separately aside.
  2. Rinse tofu and crumble into small bits.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. In a large skillet, heat up 1 tbsp olive oil on medium.  Saute onions and jalapeno until softened and onions are golden brown (but not burnt), then add garlic.  Add seasoning, salt and pepper, and stir, adding a little bit more olive oil if it appears too dry. 
  5. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste to skillet.  Stir and gently break up tomatoes (if they are packed whole).  Add about 1/2 cup water and crumbled tofu, then cover and allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. In a large baking dish, spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce mixture to cover the bottom.  Add one layer of lasagna noodles, then layer with eggplant discs, more tomato sauce, then top with a mix of the cheeses, making sure to save some for the top.  Place another lasagna noodle layer, then add the diced mushrooms, spinach, then more tomato sauce.  Place the last layer of lasagna noodles and top with remaining sauce (since these are oven-ready noodles you have to make sure there is liquid on them to cook) - sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  7. Cover with foil (tent it a bit to avoid cheese sticking to foil) - and bake for about 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool slightly then slice and enjoy!  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.