An Evening in the Maritimes

Another Ridiculously Easy but Very Impressive recipe, one that is so easy your friends won’t believe it when you tell them how you made it.

In years past, I’ve appeared on  “A-Channel Morning” here in Ottawa to help publicize “An Evening in the Maritimes”, a fundraiser hosted by Citizen Advocacy.  I have been a volunteer with CA for 7 years, and it is a wonderful organization with a very “hands-on” approach to service.  Each volunteer is matched with a member of the community who is at risk of social isolation due to a disability or illness, and the pair just hang out and do whatever they want to do.  My match and I go to movies, out to eat and shop, and check out gardens and craft shows.

Details of the May 31 fundraising dinner can be found here… There’s a delicious meal (including meat and vegetarian options as well as the traditional lobster dinner), Maritime entertainment, and an auction with amazing items.

Here is the super-easy recipe I made on the morning show in 2008… Serve it with a side of steamed local asparagus for a lovely little lunch.  If you don’t relish the idea of cracking up your own lobsters, use canned lump crabmeat for an easier preparation.

Lobster and Avocado Salad with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as an appetizer

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 – 1 pound lobsters, cooked

1 ripe avocado

Chop the tips off the head of garlic and place onto a sheet of aluminum foil.  Pour oil over the top, and wrap the foil around the garlic.  Roast in 400°F oven for 40-60 minutes. To save energy, do this while you’re cooking something else in the oven.

Let the garlic cool for at least 30 minutes, then squeeze the garlic out of the skin, mash it and stir it into the mayonnaise.

Remove lobster meat from the shells and chop into large pieces.  Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and chop into large pieces.

Toss the lobster and avocado with the garlic mayonnaise.

Lemon cream pie or squares

Fresh lemon sweets make me think of spring…. so I thought I would share this ridiculously easy but very impressive (REVI) recipe with you today. I’ve noticed that the more exotic Meyer lemons are available in grocery stores here in Ottawa lately, and this recipe would be an excellent way to try them. Meyer lemons are a bit less sour than regular lemons, and the skins have a deeper yellow colour.

Lemon Cream Pie

One small graham cracker or other crumb crust – make your own (a recipe is usually on the side of the graham crumb box, or use the one below) or buy one already made.

One can of sweetened condensed milk

½ cup lemon juice

1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (optional, but adds immensely to the “impressive” part)

Prepare crust if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Whisk together milk, juice and zest – it will thicken as you mix it.

Scrape mixture into crust with a rubber spatula and smooth it flat.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm.

Cool completely before cutting.

Crumb crust – use for cheesecakes or any other kind of goodie that needs a crumb base.  I like chocolate wafer, vanilla wafer or bran cookie crumbs… just whiz up the cookies in a food processor or place them in a big Ziploc and crush with a rolling pin.

1 ¼ cups crumbs

¼ cup sugar (white or brown)

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Mix crumbs and sugar.  Stir in butter, then mix by hand to combine well.  Press into pan.

Freezer Recipe – Healthy Home-made Pizza Dough

I adapted this recipe from “Eat, Shrink and Be Merry” by Janet and Greta Podleski, and tested it for the freezer

2/3 cup very warm water (from the tap is fine)

2 tsp sugar

2 ½ tsp. quick-rising yeast

2 tsp olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour plus ½ cup whole wheat flour (or 1 ½ cups AP flour)

2 tbsp ground flax seed (also called flax meal) or bran

½ tsp salt

Extra flour for kneading

Oil to grease rising bowl

Place water in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor or mixer fitted with a dough attachment.  Dissolve sugar in water and sprinkle yeast over the top.  When the yeast starts foaming, add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.  Stir with a fork or mixer until the dough comes together.  Knead by hand if necessary, adding flour until dough is no longer sticky and it comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.  Knead as long as you can stand it (more is better, but it doesn’t take much).  Form dough into a ball and pour a little bit of oil over the top.  Turn the dough in the bowl so the ball is coated.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.  Divide into two for thin crusts, or use a whole recipe for thick crust.  Place in freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use:  thaw dough in fridge 24-48 hours; let sit on counter 1 hour or more to warm up a bit before using.  Preheat oven to bake at 475°For as high as your oven will go – if you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now.  Place dough on baking tray or pizza peel and stretch or roll it out carefully into the desired shape.  Allow to sit 5-10 minutes in between a couple of sessions of stretching to allow dough to relax.  Top with desired topping and bake in a pre-heated 475°F oven (wait for oven to reach temperature – very important) for 8-10 minutes or until bottom crust is browned and crispy.

A Chicken in Every Crockpot

Do you ever buy a deli chicken from the grocery store? I used to…. then I discovered I had food sensitivities to corn and soy, both of which appear in many deli chicken seasoning mixtures. And since it is a prepared food, often the ingredients aren’t listed on the package, so I can’t always be sure which ones are safe for me.

If you just want the meat and you’re not going to eat the skin, I highly recommend cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot.  I tried it for the first time years ago, and it was ridiculously easy to remove the skin and bones and end up with a large pile of tender, juicy, delicately flavoured chicken.

The one mistake I made was using some of the leftover meat in a recipe the next day.  It was so tender that the meat just shredded when I stirred it into the sauce.  It tasted good, but looked less than appetizing.  Next time I’m going to just eat it plain with some veggie and grain side dishes…. It doesn’t even need a sauce!

So here’s what I did…

I put a couple of stalks of celery in the bottom of the crock, to add flavor and to keep the chicken from sticking.

I added a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few cloves of garlic and a sliced onion.  I put about an inch of water in the bottom, just to cover the veggies.

I sliced a lemon and stuck it inside the chicken

Then I put the chicken into the crock.  That’s it.

I cooked it on high for about 4 hours, but I started it late in the day.  You could do the same thing on low for 8 or more hours. Then you can head straight home and not stop at the grocery or deli at all!

The Vegetarian Crockpot

I am always amazed at how well my crockpot cooks vegetables.  A roast is so tender it is falling apart, yet the potatoes and carrots keep their shape and aren’t mushy in the least.

So I decided to look for some vegetarian crockpot recipes, to better appreciate this function of the crockpot that I had recently only relegated to accompaniments to the meat.  Here are a couple of interesting ones I found online… of course I tweaked them a bit, as is my tendency.  Hope you like them!

Asian Winter Vegetable Stew for the Crockpot – serves 4-6

4 large potatoes, or a two pound bag of mini-potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 small bag of baby carrots, about 2 cups

1 small onion, chopped

1 package of dried Asian mushrooms – available in the produce or Asian section at most grocery stores.

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tsp. chopped ginger

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup natural-style peanut butter – natural (100% peanuts) kinds are better for cooking salty dishes since they have no added sugar….

2 T soy sauce

1 cup water or broth

If you have time, sauté the onion in a skillet with a little olive oil, but it’s fine if you just throw it in, too.  Otherwise, add all vegetables, including mushrooms, into the crockpot.

Whisk together remaining ingredients to make the sauce, and pour over the veggies.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  If you want to add a little more protein, stir in a can of chickpeas or black beans, or get adventurous with some firm tofu cubes.

Slow Cooker Wild Rice and Vegetable Bake – serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

1 1/2 cup wild rice rinsed

2 lb butternut squash – peel your own and cube, or use frozen or pre-chopped cubes

1 onion, chopped

1 lb fresh button mushrooms, halved

1 cup carrots

6 cup vegetable stock or broth prepared with vegetable bouillon cubes

3T fresh lemon juice

2 T butter or light olive oil

1 T fresh marjoram leaves chopped or 1 tsp dried marjoram

Salt (optional), to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup dried cherries, apricots, cranberries or golden raisins,

Put rice in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker (if using a 3 1/2- to 4-quart cooker, cut recipe in half).

Add squash, onion, mushrooms and carrots. Pour in stock and lemon juice. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on marjoram, salt and pepper. Do not stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Stir in dried fruit a half hour before serving. Cook covered until rice is done.

Creamy Pineapple Chicken Curry

If you’re looking to get more vegetables into your family, here is the recipe for you – cream of mushroom soup is a magic ingredient; it makes children eat vegetables.  You can use just about any combination of vegetables, so use this recipe to clean out your veggie crisper the day before you go shopping, or unearth some frozen veggies when you tidy up your freezer and throw them in.  If you want to go vegetarian, skip the chicken and throw in some chickpeas…

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes

1 tsp. oil (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp. each chopped garlic and chopped ginger

2-3 tsp. curry powder or curry paste – adjust this to your liking.  If you don’t like really spicy food, use mild curry, but use at least 2 teaspoons.

1 can pineapple tidbits in juice

2-4 cups of chopped vegetables

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Cut chicken into cubes.

In a large pan or pot, heat oil, if using, over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are softened and translucent.  Add chicken, garlic and ginger, and stir to coat.  Add curry powder and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Open the can of pineapple and save the lid.  Use the lid to keep the pineapple pieces in the can while you pour the juice into the chicken mixture.  Stir to coat, and add in any hard uncooked vegetables like raw carrots or celery.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until chicken and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the can of soup and any softer or pre-cooked vegetables.  Stir in the pineapple.  Taste and add salt if necessary – but the soup is probably salty enough.

Serve with brown or basmati rice

Substitution – to make this recipe lactose-free and gluten-free, use half a can of coconut milk in place of the cream of mushroom soup.

Protein Pancakes

It seems like everyone’s trying to eat more protein lately…. especially at breakfast, where eggs can get boring after a while. This recipe is adapted from The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, but I used higher-protein, higher-fibre flours and more eggs to make it less refined-carb-y and more protein-y… this recipe makes six big just-one-for-breakfast sized pancakes.

1/2 cup white (all purpose) flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup buckwheat, oat, or spelt flour, or a combination

1/2 cup soy flour or other bean flour, or a combination

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup ground flax seed or oat bran, or a combination

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 to 2 1/2 cups buttermilk (or skim milk with some sour cream or yogurt stirred in)

1/4 cup melted butter

4 large eggs

Stir all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat 2 cups of milk (and other dairy if using) with butter and eggs in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until just combined. If the batter is very stiff, add some more milk until the batter can pour off a spoon. It will still be quite thick, though. It depends on the kinds of flours you use.

You can make the pancakes any size you want. Heat pan over medium heat. Grease your pan if it is not non-stick.

Pour batter into hot pan and spread with back of spoon if it is too thick to flow on its own. Cook until bubbles stay holes when they burst – they don’t cover themselves back up with uncooked batter. Edges of cake will be dry, too. Flip and cook for another minute or two.

Pancakes keep well in the fridge for about a week, or the freezer for a month or two. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds, top with jam or syrup or both.

Apple Pork Roast

Here’s a way to get some vitamins and fibre into the vegetable-challenged people in your life, whoever they may be…

3-4 lb pork loin roast

Salt & pepper

4 apples, peeled and quartered

2 cups baby carrots

1 cup sliced parsnips (optional)

1/4 cup apple juice

3 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

Place apple quarters on the bottom of the crock, and then place roast on top. Place carrots and parsnips around the roast.  Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Combine apple juice, sugar & ginger. Spoon the glaze over the roast, covering entire top. Cover & cook on LOW 10-12 hrs. Remove the roast – the apples will be more like applesauce, but when you stir the glaze into it, it will thicken into a nice sauce for the vegetables.  Serve with rice.  You can use the leftover pork roast by shredding and mixing with BBQ sauce.

Ridiculously easy Christmas pudding

Three years ago I went to my parents’ place for Christmas, and immediately posted this recipe on FB with comments below…. it’s a great recipe!

“My mom made this for Christmas this year, and I’ve been eating it incessantly since I got here 24 hours ago. The recipe came from Bonnie Quick, my mother’s friend Holly’s mother.

A nice simple steamed pudding, delicious and Christmassy, and best of all, allergen free for me! Served with a sauce that can be festively “hardened” with a splash of rum… ”

Pudding/cake:

1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup water
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups cranberries, cut in quarters

Combine all ingredients, folding in the cranberries last.
Pour into a 2 quart greased tube pan, and set the cake pan in a roasting pan.
Add water to the roaster to come at least halfway up the side of the pan, and cover, either with the roaster lid, or tightly wrapped with foil.

Bake 45 minutes at 350°F.

Sauce:

1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup cream

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla well, then add cream. Bring to a boil.

Serve wedges of cake with sauce poured over.

Cherry Blossom Fudge

After baking some shortbread cookies last week, I ended up with waaayy more chopped cherries than I needed to decorate them – my son got carried away with the knife and cutting board – so I decided to come up with a new recipe. I remembered Cherry Blossom chocolates from when I was a kid, and came up with this easy fudge recipe to recreate that flavour.

This really is an easy recipe – no candy thermometers, and I did everything in the microwave. It does take some time from start to finish, though, because three different layers have to chill separately. I’ve posted step-by-step photos on our Magic Fridge Facebook page!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/3 cans of condensed milk

2 cups chocolate chips – semisweet or dark, depending on your taste

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, drained, or glace cherries

1 cup chopped nuts (I used salted cashews)

Directions:

Place chocolate and white chocolate in separate glass microwave safe bowls. Open one can of condensed milk and scoop 2/3 of it into the chocolate bowl and 1/3 of it into the white chocolate bowl.

Microwave the chocolate bowl for 30 seconds on high, then remove and stir with a microwave-safe utensil (I use a rubber scraper/spatula). If chocolate is not fully melted, microwave for another 10 seconds and repeat. Scrape *two-thirds* of this mixture into a well-greased 8×8 pan and cover with a piece of cling film. Press the chocolate into the pan with your hands, using the cling film as a barrier. Leave the film on and chill for an hour in the fridge. Save the remaining third of the chocolate mixture for the topping later.

Once the base is chilled, microwave the white chocolate bowl for 20-30 seconds and stir until melted, then add the coconut. Sprinkle cherries over the base, and pour the white chocolate-coconut mixture over top. Use the cling film trick again to flatten the white chocolate mixture and make sure it is well adhered to the base. Chill, with cling film on top, for at least 2 hours – this layer is softer, so it will take longer to set up.

To make the third layer, add 1/3 of a can of condensed milk to the reserved chocolate mixture and microwave 20-30 seconds; stir until melted. This layer will have a thinner consistency than the base layer. Take out your chilled fudge and evenly sprinkle the nuts over the white chocolate mixture. Pour the thin chocolate mixture over the top, and once again use some cling film to press the last layer evenly over the top of the nuts. Chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, since this last layer is even softer than the other two.

When it is thoroughly chilled, remove the fudge from the pan and cut it into pieces, making sure the nut layer is on top for easier cutting. It will keep well in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.