Sunday, October 28, 2012

homemade bbq sauce

an easy versatile bbq sauce
Homemade BBQ sauce definitely beats the store bought stuff.  The recipe is a rough guideline, you can tweak it to your taste buds...maybe you want more of a kick so add more spiciness, or you like it sweeter so add more sugar, or you want it really tangy add more get the idea.  This sauce is great on ribs, as a marinade for chicken, on top of pulled pork, brush it on vegetables before roasting or on the BBQ.

what you need:
*makes ~ 1 cup 
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ponzu *optional*
what to do:
  1. Finely chop garlic and shallots.  
  2. In a small sauce pan on medium heat, soften shallots with the oil.  After 2 minutes, add garlic and stir, turning down the heat to avoid burning the garlic.  Stir for another minute or so.
  3. Add all other ingredients and turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer gently until sauce is slightly thickened (coats the back of a wooden spoon).  
  4. If you want a smooth sauce, strain to remove bits of shallot/garlic.  I didn't bother straining it because we don't mind the textural bits.  Enjoy!


a flavourful spicy korean condiment
I love kimchi.  Even when I was a kid and didn't like spicy food that much, there was something addictive about kimchi.  I don't know what took me so long to get the recipe from my mom and actually try making it myself.  I make it this weekend to go along with the pulled pork sandwiches - usually pulled pork is topped with coleslaw - something tangy and crunchy to contrast the sweet soft meat.  I think the spicy kick of kimchi is perfect, works well instead of coleslaw!

what you need:
  • 1 large nappa cabbage
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 large carrot
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp ground red peppers (korean style - found in asian food stores - the one I bought is labelled "tower red pepper powder")
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 litre boiled water, cooled to room temp
  • 2 cups water (optional)
  • 1 tbsp bonito flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp dried anchovies (optional)
what to do:
  1. Thoroughly wash nappa, tear roughly with your hands, then using the side of a wide knife (like you would smash garlic), smash the ribs (centre white part) of the nappa.
  2. Mix torn/smashed nappa in a large bowl with 2 tbsp salt.  Allow to rest for 2 hours.
  3. Peel carrot and cut into match sticks, ~2" long and 0.5 cm wide.  Cut the green onions similarly.
  4. *optional* - In a small pot, boil 2 cups of water and add bonito flakes and anchovies.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, then cool to room temp.
  5. After 2 hours, rinse nappa with cooled boiled water to remove salt, then squeeze nappa to remove as much water as possible.
  6. Mix the rest of the ingredients with the reduced 1/2 cup water (from step 4, if you didn't use bonito flakes and anchovies, then simply mix ingredients with 1/2 cup plain water).  Pour over nappa and mix well with your hands.
  7. Pack nappa into mason jars (sterilized will keep your kimchi longer) - and refrigerate.  It is ready to enjoy after 24 hours!   
jar it...
24 hours later...enjoy!

pulled pork

korean-inspired pulled pork sandwich
This weekend our friends Peter and Marina were supposed to visit but on their travels they ran into car troubles and had to turn around, leaving us with a 2.5 kg pork shoulder for two (Madi's not eating solids yet!).  It was my first attempt at pulled pork so I was a little nervous anyways, but it turned out quite juicy, tender, and exactly how you see it on TV - pulls apart easily.  The marinade sides with Asian flavours so I paired it with homemade kimchi & bbq sauce.  Since kimchi is spicy, I didn't use any chilies in the actual pulled pork but you can add any chilies or red pepper flakes to the marinade if you'd like.  

Sweet and spicy, this sandwich is definitely worth trying.  If you don't like kimchi, top it with coleslaw instead.

what you need:
*will make at least 8 huge sandwiches
  • 2.5 kg pork shoulder
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 5 slices fresh ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can of beer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kimchi
  • bbq sauce
  • buns
what to do:
  1. Roughly chop onion into quarters.  Smash garlic.  Rub black pepper all over the meat.  Combine all ingredients together (except the beer and water) in a large bowl and place pork shoulder in the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, turning the pork shoulder every so often.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Sear the pork over medium heat in a dutch oven (or just a pan if you have a flat top stove) until all sides of the pork are lightly browned. Deglaze with the marinade, beer and water, and put entire dutch oven in the oven (or an oven safe pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil), then place the lid on.  Bake for 2.5 hours, turning the pork at least twice.
  3. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.  Then turn off the oven and allow the pork to rest in the marinade for another 30 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove from oven and transfer the pork into a large bowl.  Using two forks or tongs, pull the pork apart.  It should be very tender and easily falls apart.
  5. Skim off excess fat from the liquid (this is most easily done once it cools to room temp and the top layer is white, just spoon it off) - then add a few spoonfuls of the juice back into the pork.  You can save this to use later as gravy, a sauce, or serve in a ramekin alongside the sandwich for dipping.
  6. Place a generous amount of pulled pork on the bun, top with homemade kimchi and bbq sauce.  Enjoy!
pork shoulder in the dutch oven after resting
topped with homemade bbq sauce...
then finished with homemade kimchi!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

jalapeno mac & cheese

cheesy goodness
My friend Kara was just by for a visit and this is what we had for lunch!  I was worried I wouldn't have time to make it before she got here but Madi was quite the good lil' baby this am.  I decided to make this because I know Kara has tried my broccoli mac and cheese recipe (and liked it!) but I wanted to throw in a little twist.  This recipe is inspired by the flavours you'd get in a jalapeno popper and a beer.

what you need:
*fills a 9 x 9" baking dish
  • 3 cups freshly grated old cheddar 
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan 
  • 2 slices multigrain toast
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small jalapeno 
  • 1/2 beer
  • 1 cup of milk (1 or 2%...don't use skim!)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups dried macaroni 
what to do:

  1. Get a big pot of water going to cook your pasta. Cook it just under al dante because it will finish cooking in the cheese sauce later.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. While you're waiting for the water to boil, finely dice shallots, garlic, and jalapeno (remove seeds if you don't want it too spicy).  
  4. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, melt butter with canola oil and then add the flour (you are making a rue) - keep stirring until it makes a smooth paste and the flour becomes a slight golden colour.
  5. Add the shallots and garlic.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and try to incorporate it into the rue.  It may seem lumpy but that's OK.  Keep stirring and then after 1 minute add the jalapeno and continue to stir.
  6. After another minute or so (once the veggies have softened), slowing add the milk, whisking or stirring continuously.  Add the shredded cheddar and pecorino romano, stir and as the cheese melts the mixture should smooth out.  Add the beer then reduce heat to simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes.  Add desired amount of salt and pepper.
7.  While the sauce is simmering (remember to stir occasionally), toast the bread and then blend it roughly to make bread crumbs.  Mix well with the grated Parmesan.
8.  Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce - stir well and turn off the heat.  It will seem liquidy but not to worry - the pasta will absorb all that cheesiness and will dry a little more after baking.

 9.  Pour into baking dish and top with breadcrumb mixture.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, then broil for 30 seconds to brown the top.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

double chocolate oatmeal cookies

crispy edges and soft chewy middles...yum
The first thing I did after our stove got installed last week was bake chocolate chip cookies for our neighbour and of course a batch for ourselves.  They didn't last long and I couldn't resist trying another type of cookie today.  Madi is going to have to get used to the fact that her mommy lives in the kitchen!  If you love chocolate these are for you.  We can consider them healthy because of the oats and whole wheat flour...right?;)

what you need:
*makes ~ 2 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups quick rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix sugars, eggs, and butter until creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla and mix well.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sift in cocoa.  Add this to the butter mixture and mix until smooth, but don't over mix.
  4. Add oats, stir to incorporate.
  5. Add chocolate chips and stir to mix.  Spoon onto non-stick cookie sheets (~6-8 per sheet) and bake for 8-10 minutes.  (Depends on your oven...check at 8 minutes, you want to underbake them slightly so that the middle stays slightly soft).
  6. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack, then store in airtight container.  Enjoy!

simple caesar dressing

a light
I used to make caesar dressing the "right" know, egg yolk to emulsify, anchovy paste for saltiness...etc.  But a few months ago when I was still pregnant I couldn't eat raw eggs so I played around with this recipe and found that this version is just as good, requires less ingredients and easy to make (I'm not a fan of heavy creamy caesar dressing, as I think it weighs down the this recipe may seem more like a vinaigrette).  It's vegetarian friendly as well:)

what you need:
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
  • Parmesan (a wedge best), 3 tbsp finely grated and some shavings for garnish
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
what to do:
  1. In a mason jar, combine all ingredients and then shake well.  Taste - adjust pepper, salt, and either oil or vinegar if required (I tend to make my dressings more tangy, so if you find it too sour/acidic, add a little more oil).  Toss with romaine lettuce, bacon, and croutons for a classic caesar salad, then top with shaved Parmesan and a slice of lemon.  Enjoy!  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

cream of mushroom soup

a light version of this comforting classic
With the weather cooling down lately I've been craving soups, and one of my favourites has always been cream of mushroom.  I must admit when we were stove-less for the last month I actually bought the canned version, added milk and used the microwave to warm it up.  This version is light but still warms you right up.

what you need:
*serves 4-6

  • 4 portabello mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms really, these were just what I had on hand)
  • 6-8 large white button mushrooms
  • 500 ml chicken stock (vegetarian? use veggie stock)
  • 1 cup milk (1% or 2%)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley for garnish
what to do:
  1. Brush off any dirt from mushrooms and then chop finely.  
  2. Finely chop garlic and shallots.
  3. In a pot on medium heat, saute shallots in butter and oil.  Once they are slightly softened/becoming translucent, add the mushrooms.  Stir until mushrooms are softened and lightly browned.  Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  4. Add the stock, then milk, stir to combine and put the lid on.  After the soup boils, bring down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Mix cornstarch with cold water (about 1/2 cup), then stir this slowly into the soup to thicken it.
  6. Serve warm garnished with a few parsley leaves.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

steamed salmon

simple salmon dinner
We have been living without a stove for more than a month now and it's been quite challenging to make meals outside of BBQ and salads!  I have been deprived of baking and cooking but somehow we managed to eat well.  Fortunately I have a steamer (which I'll admit, I rarely used until recently) - and it has proven to be quite handy and actually produces some tasty and healthy food.  This is probably the easiest salmon dinner but surprisingly good.

what you need:

  • 2 salmon fillets (skin off, steamed skin doesn't taste that great)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 handful of fresh dill
  • salt and pepper
  • tzatziki 
what to do:

  1. Thinly slice half of the lemon into discs, then squeeze the juice of the other half into the steamer dish.  Wash the dill and pat dry.
  2. Place one layer of lemon slices intermixed with the dill in the dish.
  3. Pat dry salmon fillets and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Nestle on top of the lemon/dill, then place the rest of the lemon slices and dill on top.    
  4. Set the steamer for 25 minutes (you may need longer if your salmon is quite thick).
  5. Serve with a side of tzatziki, pita bread and salad.  Enjoy!


Homemade tzatziki is easy to make and very healthy!  It can be used as a dip, in a pita/sandwich, on top of grilled veggies, meats, fish, whatever!

what you need:

  • 250 g greek yogurt (I use 0% PC brand)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated finely
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • salt and pepper
what to do:
  1. Grate cucumber, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and allow to sit in a sieve for 15 minutes to remove excess liquid.
  2. Mix other ingredients together, add pepper as desired (you probably don't need salt since the cucumber is salted).
  3. Squeeze shredded cucumber to get rid of most of the liquid, then add to the tzatziki.  You can serve immediately, but allowing the tzatziki to sit in the fridge for a few hours will make it more flavourful.  Enjoy!