Monday, November 26, 2012

cheesy "light" corn bread

serve warm with chili, soup or stew
Corn bread is one of Ryan's favourites.  I've made corn bread a few times in the past and it usually called for a lot of butter, oil, and sugar.  Recently I've discovered that plain yogurt is an awesome substitute for the "fat" part of baked I tried it out with this.  It turned out really well - it didn't lack moistness or texture despite reduced amounts of butter/oil - and the addition of cheese, jalapeno and scallions made it savoury.  It was great on its own or dipped into the vegetarian chili we had last night.  This recipe is best served hot right out of the oven (as soon as it's cooled enough to handle)!  If you have leftovers, just be sure to pop it in the microwave before enjoying.

what you need:
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (don't use nonfat!)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded old cheddar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Brush 1 tbsp butter all over a baking dish (~10X10") - if using silicon baking dish, place it on a cookie sheet to ensure easy transfer in and out of oven.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, sour cream, and sugar until smooth.  Add melted butter and whisk to incorporate.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Chop jalapeno and green onions finely.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until a smooth batter forms, avoid over mixing.  
  6. Fold in 1 cup cheddar, green onions and jalapeno.  Pour batter into greased baking dish, then top with remaining 1/3 cup cheddar.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Insert a toothpick at the centre of the bread to make sure it's cooked through.  
  8. Remove and after 1-2 minutes of cooling, slice and serve hot.  Enjoy!
ready to slice up & serve!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the vanilla cupcake

the perfect vanilla cupcake - fluffy, buttery, light, delicious

For the last two weeks I've been trying out different vanilla cupcake recipes because my friend Kim is doing a craft show and she needed cupcakes to show off her beautiful rose cupcake toppers (she sells them on  I had to convince her to let me bake her cupcakes - obviously the goal is to sell her crafty products but how I feel about store bought cupcakes is how she would feel about a store bought wreath!! As in - homemade is way better!!  I had narrowed it down to two recipes I found on other blogs that got awesome was from glorious treats with cake flour and vegetable oil, the other from brown eyed baker with all purpose flour and butter.  The first were light and fluffy but because there was no butter the flavour was super light...almost too light.  The second ones were dense and a little heavy but tasted I tried using cake flour with just butter but that didn't turn out - the cupcakes were funny looking and had a weird consistency. Then I tried half oil & half butter and it actually turned out really well.  You get a light fluffiness from the cake flour and oil but with some butter you maintain some rich flavour.

Made with love and lots of trial and error, these cupcakes, in my opinion, take the cake:)

what you need:
*makes 24
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk + 1 tsp white vinegar *(or 1 cup buttermilk)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
vanilla buttercream icing (from brown eyed baker)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat eggs for 1-2 minutes.  Add sugar and beat well, another minute or so.
  4. Add oil, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.
  5. Add one cup of flour, then a little bit of milk, the another cup of flour, alternating and beating to incorporate into a smooth batter.  You may need to scrape down the sides to make sure to mix in all the flour.
  6. The batter should be smooth and slightly runny - fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 way full (don't fill to the top or else cupcakes will spill over when they rise).
  7. Bake in the middle rack for 12 minutes.  The tops will be gently golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes then remove from muffin tray to further cool on a cooling rack.
  9. For the icing - beat butter until smooth and fluffy.  Add icing sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating on medium - high speed.  Add the vanilla and continue beating.  It should be fluffy and soft, easy to pipe onto the cupcakes.  Wait for the cupcakes to completely cook before icing them.  Enjoy!
at the craft show, finished with
paper rose toppers

Thursday, November 22, 2012

banana chocolate chip muffins

yogurt in this recipe makes them lighter
but still really flavourful
This muffin recipe is easy and a great way to use up overripe bananas.  Because there is 1/2 cup of yogurt in it, you can really cut down on the butter normally used in a banana bread or banana muffin recipe.

what you need:
*makes 12 muffins
  • 2 large ripe (or overripe) bananas
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (I used activia)
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line muffin tin with muffin cups.
  2. Beat bananas with mixer (whisk setting) with sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Add butter, egg, and yogurt to banana mixture and beat until mixed.
  5. Add flour mix to banana mixture and mix with a spatula until combined (do not over mix or the muffins will be dense).
  6. Add chocolate chips and stir (again, don't over mix).
  7. Divide batter evenly into lined muffin tin. 
  8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean. 
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes then remove to further cool on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

chunky ragu

warm and comforting
There's nothing like a bowl of pasta to warm your soul and fill your tummy up on a cold day.  It's such a comfort food - this recipe requires a bit of time to allow the ingredients to marry together but it's definitely worth the wait.  You can use any type of pasta on hand, but I find with the chunkiness of the sauce a pasta like farfalle or penne works best.  For this recipe, I didn't use garlic but feel free to add a clove or two when you are sauteing the vegetables.

what you need:
*serves 4-6
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • ~450 g lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 large can of diced san marzano tomatoes
  • 3 portabello mushrooms
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 large jalapeno
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
what to do:
  1. In a large skillet or cast iron pan, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove and save the fat rendered.
  2. Prepare vegetables by finely dicing them all to about the same size.  Use the jalapeno seeds if you like more heat.  Chop up the bacon as well.                                                                 
  3. Put a little canola oil in your pan (about 1 tsp) - and lightly brown the ground beef on medium heat.  Lightly season the meat with salt and pepper.  Break up the meat using a wooden spoon.  Remove cooked beef from pan.
  4. Using the same pan, return the bacon fat and then add onions, carrots, celery, and jalapeno.  Once the veggies soften a little (about 5 minutes), add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they shrink in size, about 5 more minutes.  
  5. Add the beef, canned tomatoes, bacon, bay leaf, oregano, water, and some salt and pepper.  Put a lid on the pan.  When the sauce begins to bubble, reduce heat to low to simmer for 1 hour.  Stir occasionally.
  6. Remove bay leaf before serving, and taste to adjust salt/pepper if required.  Serve with your favourite pasta and top with freshly shaved parmesan.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

sweet and spicy pork tenderloin

medallions of pork and sweet potato make an easy entree
I bought a cast iron pan on the weekend and I was so excited to use it - I've never had a pan that was both stove-top and oven safe.  It's so nice to brown something then directly transfer it into the oven!  You don't have to dirty two separate pans and it makes the sauce much easier to make.  Last night we had pork tenderloin with sweet potato medallions and it was delicious. Planning ahead and marinating the pork the day before will allow the flavours to intensify even more.

what you need:
*serves 4

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin (usually comes in two strips)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red thai chilies
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chinese five spice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup hot water
what to do:

  1. Trim fat off pork tenderloin.  Rinse with cold water and pat dry.  
  2. Smash garlic and then roughly chop.  Roughly chop the red thai chilies.
  3. In a large tupperware or large freezer bag, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, chilies, and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix well, then add the pork tenderloin and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  5. Thoroughly wash sweet potato (since you're not peeling off the skin) and then cut into medallions, ~ 1/2" thick.  Toss lightly with the olive oil, then season lightly with salt, pepper, and the chinese five spice.
  6. Place sweet potato on a baking dish, don't overlap them.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
  7. In a large cast iron pan, heat up canola oil on medium-high heat.  Remove pork from marinade and pat dry to avoid splashing when you sear the meat.  Gently place tenderloin onto pan.  Sear meat on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side, until browned.  Turn heat down to medium and then add the marinade back into the pan, deglazing it.
  8. Turn oven down to 375 F.  Remove the sweet potato from it's pan and nestle them beside the pork, into the marinade.  Bake uncovered together in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes (use a meat thermometer to be sure the meat is cooked to the done-ness you want).
  9. Check the pan in 15 minutes - if it seems dry add a little bit of hot water (1/4 cup at a time) to keep it moist and saucy.
  10. Remove pan from oven and lightly tent with aluminum foil to allow meat to rest, at least 10 - 15 minutes.
  11. Cut tenderloin into medallions, about the same size as your sweet potato.  Plate them up, drizzle pan sauce over top and enjoy!

all the brown bits and liquid at the bottom = delicious gravy
have fun with plating - you can stack the medallions,
layer them, whatever looks appetizing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

gingery carrot salad

light and fresh
This simple salad is perfect as a side dish.  The sweetness of the carrots and cranberries balance well with the tangy gingery vinaigrette.  Serve it alongside a sandwich, burger, or put it on top of pan seared fish or tofu - it's simple and flavourful.

what you need:
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 green onion
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp ponzu (optional)
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 tbsp rice or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger (frozen ginger easiest to grate)
  • pinch of salt and pepper
what to do:
  1. Wash and peel carrots.  Use a grater to shred carrots.
  2. Wash and slice onion on a sharp angle to get long "blades" of green.
  3. Combine ponzu, lemon, vinegar, oil, ginger, honey, salt and pepper.  
  4. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 15 minutes for flavours to marry.  Serve cold and enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

cookies (after halloween!)

leftover candy comes in handy
Anyone else feel that this halloween had less trick or treaters than usual?  We definitely overestimated and had way too much candy and chocolate left over!  Well if we are going to have to polish off all this chocolate might as well bake it into something fun.  The base recipe is simple (basically a chocolate chip cookie recipe) - but instead of chocolate chips I used peanut M&Ms and mini crispy crunch bars:)  The crispy crunch chunks melt into the cookies but after they cool become a crunchy toffee texture with a hint of peanut butter...yummy.  And who doesn't love peanut butter M&Ms in a cookie?

what you need:
*makes about 2 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ~1 cup peanut M&Ms
  • ~8 mini crispy crunch bars
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix all flour, baking powder and salt together.
  3. In another bowl, mix together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until incorporated.  Divide batter into two bowls.
  5. Break crispy crunch bars into big pieces (not too small or else it will just melt away into the cookies).  Add pieces to one bowl and mix.
  6. Add M&Ms into the other bowl and mix.
  7. Spoon batter onto baking sheet, about 6-8 cookies per sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove and cool, then enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

green egg salad sandwich

dr. seuss would approve!
I love adding avocado slices to sandwiches - gives it a creamy texture and it's good for you!  My friends Peter and Marina mentioned that they mash avocados into canned tuna to make tuna salad sandwiches...which eliminates the need for mayo.  Amazing!  It makes the middle of your sandwich look slightly green but you hardly taste the difference since the avocado is so mild. The creaminess of the avocado is a great mayo substitute, plus it has way more nutrients and good fats.   Ryan loves egg salad sandwiches, and loves this green version no less.

what you need:
*makes 2 sandwiches
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 green onion
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • sliced tomatoes
  • one small lemon wedge 
  • salt and pepper
  • your favourite bread or wrap
what to do:
  1. Place eggs in a pot with cold water, on high heat on stove top.  Set a timer for 15 min.  Once the water boils, reduce to medium.  
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice green onion, roughly chop parsley, slice tomatoes, and mash the avocado.  Squirt a small amount of lemon juice onto the mashed avocado to prevent it from browning.
  3. When 15 minutes is up, drain eggs and immediately cool them down with cold water.  
  4. Peel eggs and then mash them roughly with a fork, add avocados, green onions, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  Build your sandwich or wrap and enjoy!
green egg salad in a whole wheat wrap
green tuna salad sandwich