Happy Father’s Day

I was fortunate to grow up in a house of two cooks. My dad cooked on the ships for the Coastguard, my mom on all the days that dad was away, or wasn’t cooking. In our house, cooking was neither a woman’s nor a man’s job. It was the job of the person that got home first, preferred to do the grilling, or was better at Christmas baking. Both my parents were wonderful cooks, each with their own signature style and specialty, and every day in our house was filled with home cooked meals. Growing up in this environment shaped my love of food, and today cooking certain dishes keeps me connected to my childhood and loved ones.

mel with hornsToday will be the eighth Father’s Day since my dad’s passing. In recent years I’ve started a tradition of cooking a meal that reminds me of him, while CCR blasts in the background. One of the dishes my dad was famous for, both at work and home, was a recipe from an old Betty Crocker book: Lemon Chicken, Hunan Style. There was one change to the recipe that my dad made, and it was strictly followed – lemon horns worn by the chef.

Lemon Chicken, Hunan Style
Makes 6 Servings

Recipe from Betty Crocker’s International Cooking, September 1980

Ingredients
3 whole chicken breasts, about 3 lbs
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Honey Lemon Sauce (see recipe below)
Lemon slices for garnish

Preparation

  1. Remove bones and skin from chicken; cut chicken into halves. Heat vegetable oil (1-1 1/2 inches) to 360 degrees. Beat remaining ingredients except Honey Lemon Sauce and lemon slices with hand beater until smooth. Dip chicken pieces one at a time into batter. Fry 2 pieces at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 7 minutes; drain. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  2. Cut chicken crosswise into 1/2 inch slices; arrange in single layer on heated platter. Keep warm. Prepare Honey Lemon Sauce; pour over chicken. Garnish with lemon slices.

lemon chicken

Honey Lemon Sauce

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon catsup
1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Preparation
Heat 1/2 cup water, the lemon peel, lemon juice, honey, catsup, bouillon (dry), salt and garlic to boiling. Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; stir into sauce. Cook and stir until thickened, about 30 seconds

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I hope wherever you are, the coffee is strong, the tunes are loud, and the road is smooth and winding.  xoxo, Mel.

Mexican Chocolate Smoothie

mexican chocolate shakeI love smoothies for breakfast.  They are quick, easy, and can be a good way to sneak some extra greens into your day.  They are, however, not as much fun in the winter.  A cold breakfast on a cold morning just doesn’t do it for me.  Especially when the sun doesn’t show its face until 8am (if at all).  This smoothie is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet.  It has just enough heat to make a cold breakfast on a dark morning a good thing.  Besides, who doesn’t love chocolate for breakfast?

 

Mexican Chocolate Smoothie
Makes 1 Smoothie

Ingredients
1 cup milk of choice
1 medium banana
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon raw cacao or best-quality cocoa (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne

Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Do you prefer a hot or cold breakfast this time of year?

Happy New Year and a Make-Ahead Breakfast

Hello and Happy New Year!  It feels kind of funny to say that now, considering it’s already the 16th of January.  Nonetheless, I hope that you had a festive yet restful holiday season.

It’s been quite a while since my last post.  Unfortunately, I had to go radio-silent during exams, and when all was said and done, I just needed to take a break.  This year I will try to have a few yummy recipes in the queue and ready to go for such times.  Speaking of yummy recipes, here is an easy, make ahead breakfast recipe that will help get you out the door on time.  If you are like me, you know that getting up before the sun rises to hit the gym, sneak in a run, or make it to class on time is no fun at all.  I hope this helps.

yogurt parfait

Make Ahead Breakfast Parfaits
Serves 4

Ingredients
500 g (2 cups) plain or vanilla yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 1/3 cup granola

Preparation
  1. Add 125g (1/2 cup) yogurt to each small mason jar* or reusable container.
  2. Add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries in each jar or container.
  3. Top each parfait with 1/3 cup granola, attach lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*Note: Please don’t feel the need to run out and buy Mason jars just for this recipe.  Any to-go container that fits all the ingredients will work.   

What do you do to get yourself organized and out the door on time in the mornings?

Fresh Pick Friday – Chard

The sun may be shining here in Vancouver, but the air sure is cold!  Comfort foods have become a mainstay as of late, so I thought I would highlight a hearty green that will make a nutritious addition to your soups and stews.  This week’s Fresh Pick is chard.

Chard

Chard, (also called Swiss chard) is actually a member of the beet family which explains the similarity in the look between beet tops and chard.  It comes in a variety of colours: yellow, pink, red, and purple, and is loaded with nutrients.  One cup of chopped raw chard is a good source of Vitamin C and beta-carotene.

When and Where to Find Chard
Chard is a cool weather green that can be grown in the Lower Mainland year-round.  I had a small batch going in my garden last year, although it performs better in the fall and spring compared to the winter months.  You will definitely be able to find it at the Vancouver Winter Market this time of year, and likely in your local grocery store too.  Look for brightly coloured stems and dark green leaves, avoiding chard that appears wilted or brown.

What to do With Chard
There is so much you can do with chard.  Add it to smoothies, soups, or stews.  Chard tastes delicious sautéed with garlic and chili flakes, and goes wonderfully with brunch dishes like frittatas and hash.  I also like to cut it into thin strips and add it to coleslaws and other salads.  The stems can be quite thick, but don’t throw them away.  They can get added to smoothies with the greens, or diced up fine for soups.

Do you have any favorite chard recipes that you would like to share?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Fresh Pick Friday – Challenge Accepted

A couple of Fridays ago, I challenged you to try a new fruit or vegetable in lieu of my usual Fresh Pick Friday post.  The idea was to get you thinking about different foods and encourage you to try something new.  Food should be fun, and I think trying new things is one way to do just that.

A few of you let me know what you tried, and I appreciate you taking the time to reach out. Some of the new-to-you foods included bok choy, jicama, sunchokes, lychee, and dragonfruit.  I had the chance to try a couple new vegetables as well.  The first was purple sprouting broccoli.  I know, it doesn’t sound that exotic, but it was new to me.  I was on a trip to Galiano Island as part of a school project that involved a visit to one of the local farms.  We ate the broccoli florets right off the plant, and they tasted sweeter than the broccoli that I am used to.  I enjoyed being reminded of the variety of foods that we have available to us right here in BC.

I knew that the purple variety of a pretty standard vegetable wouldn’t fly with some of you, so I went out this week and got a cassava root, also known as yuca or manioc.  It is a staple food in the developing world.  Cassava, when dried and processed into powder is called tapioca.  I had no idea!  It has a woody exterior, and when I cut into it the white flesh on the inside reminded me of both parsnip and coconut meat at the same time.

Manihot_esculenta_dsc07325

Unprocessed Cassava Roots.  Photo Credit: David Monniaux. Source: Wikipedia.

I made cassava fries and served them with baked jerk chicken thighs.  The fries tasted very similar to plantain, which are slightly sweet.  A mango or papaya salad would have been a nice addition, but I didn’t think of it at the time.  It was fun to try something new and I now have a new dinner to put into rotaion every now and again.  Here’s some info on how to prepare cassava and a recipe for the fries if you ever want to give it a try:

I’d still love to hear what you tried and how you liked it (or didn’t).  You can share your findings below in the comments, or email me at info@melsfoodblog.com.

Spicy Miso Soup

I’ve had spicy miso soup at least once a week for almost two months now. It comes together quickly and is warming on these cold and rainy days. I promised you all a recipe a while back, but I can’t seem to make this soup the same way twice. So, I’m giving you a recipe with lots of options. You can customize this soup to suit your tastes or match your refrigerator inventory.

miso soup with website

Spicy Miso Soup
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1lb mushrooms (button, crimini, or shitake), sliced
2-3 teaspoons red chili flakes
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can beans (navy, garbanzo, or cannellini), drained and well rinsed
4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
3-4 tablespoons miso paste (white or red)
2 cups hearty greens (kale, chard, collards or spinach), sliced into thin ribbons

Preparation

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and mushrooms to the pot, and cook until both are soft and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the red chili flakes, ginger, garlic and beans. Stir well to combine and let cook for 1 minute.
  3. In a small bowl, add the miso paste and a little bit of water. Mix with a fork until a slurry has formed; this will prevent the miso paste from clumping together when you add it to the soup.
  4. Add the broth and miso paste mixture, then turn up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, to medium-high, and let cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until they turn bright green. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before serving.

Optional Add-In
This soup is really good with egg added to it, if you like that kind of thing. I usually crack the eggs into a dish, whisk them together, then pour into the soup just before adding the greens. You could also poach them separately and add just before serving.

What’s your go-to comfort food this time of year?

Wendy’s Peanut Butter Cookies

pb cookie 9One of my favorite treats growing up was my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies. They were perfect for dunking into a glass of cold milk. I remember watching my mother sitting in the living room, wooden spoon and mixing bowl on her lap, watching the news while she creamed together the butter and sugar. My brother and I knew it meant peanut butter cookies would be in our lunches the next day.

When I got a bit older, I started making the cookies myself – of course they were never as good as when Mom made them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the smarts to take a copy of the recipe with me when I moved out, so I haven’t had them in a long, long time. That is until a couple of weeks ago when the recipe was sent to me. I had been thinking about how good of a baker my mother is, and that I don’t really have a lot of dessert recipes of my own.  And it’s about time I gave you guys a recipe that is sweet, rather than savoury.

pb cookies 2

If you are lucky enough to possess a stand-up mixer in your kitchen, I ask that you do not use it for this recipe. They turn out best when you use a little elbow grease, the same way mom used to make them.

pb cookies 3

Use the wooden spoon to cream together the butter and sugar.  You’ll want to take your time and make sure that all the sugar is evenly incorporated into the butter.  This means there should be no streaks of butter without any sugar in the mixture.

pb cookies 6

Add your eggs to the mixture, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the vanilla and peanut butter.  I used crunchy for this batch, but if you prefer smooth go for it.  Fold in the flour mixture until well combined.

pb cookies 8

Use a floured fork to flatted the cookies before baking.

Wendy’s Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 3 Dozen Cookies

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or shortening, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰C.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to mix ingredients together and then set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl and wooden spoon, cream together the butter and both sugars.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well combined, and then add the vanilla and peanut butter, and mix again until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and fold in until well combined.
  6. Use a teaspoon to place small sized drops (about 1″ sphere) of dough on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Dip a fork in a small bowl of flour and use it to flatten the dough with a fork.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

What is your favorite family recipe?

Happy Halloween!

IMG_3285.JPG

Fresh Pick Friday will return next week. Have a safe and fun Halloween.

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Fresh Pick Friday – A Challenge for You

Normally on Friday, I talk about a fruit or vegetable that is in season and local to British Columbia in hopes that you might be inspired to try something new.  I thought that I would mix things up a bit this week.  Instead of sharing this week’s Fresh Pick,
I challenge you to try a new fruit or vegetable this weekend.

garlic scapes

It can be anything, from anywhere, as long as it is new to you.  You can ask the produce manager or farmer (if purchasing from the farmers market) for recommendations on how to prepare it, or you could research it online.

I’d love to hear what you tried and how you liked it (or didn’t).  You can share your findings below in the comments, or email me at info@melsfoodblog.com.

Mel’s Box – Week 16 & 17

Well, we have come to the end of our CSA box for the year. I’ve been really happy with the products that we received this season. Some old favorites returned and some new produce was introduced. This year was the first time that I ever cooked with fennel or tried locally grown melon. The various shoots (peas, radish, and sunflower) were also a welcome addition to our meals. I’m going to have to start going to the grocery store a bit more, although I will make an effort to get out to the Vancouver Winter Market on the weekend.

CSA box

Here’s what we received for the last two weeks of our CSA box.

Week 16

Carrots, Broccoli + Pepper: We had the pleasure of enjoying three dinners over the Thanksgiving weekend. On the Monday, my husband and I hosted a small group for a vegetarian meal. I made carrot ginger soup that looked more like tomato because we received purple skinned carrots (they are orange on the inside). Our main course was stuffed acorn squash, served with roasted red pepper and broccoli, both from our CSA box.

Celery: The celery and onion was used as part of the stuffing for the roasted squash. I sautéed it with shallots and herbs, then mixed with wild rice, hazelnuts and dried cranberries before roasting with the squash.

Chard: All the chard made it’s way into my miso, chili and ginger soup. I’ve been making this several times a week for a while now. Don’t worry – the recipe is coming.

Melon: I have never had melon from BC before! I’m not sure of the name, but it was small with bright yellow skin. On the inside it looked like cantaloupe, which is exactly what it tasted like.

Potatoes: I stored these in the pantry for now. I’m thinking soup later.

Shoots: Lovely garnish for our Thanksgiving soup and other meals throughout the week.

Winter Squash: This was a large one that I have saved for a rainy day. Like the potatoes, I think this will become a soup.

Week 17

Beets: I have these saved for now. The beets in my garden are almost ready, so I might make a big batch of borscht.

Carrots: These carrots were smaller than usual, but made for some good snacking throughout the week.

Delicata Squash: I roasted these and then made them into a soup. It went really well with gouda and apple grilled cheese and some great company. Thanks for the pop-in Kirst!

Fennel: I have this saved in the fridge still. I’m going to make the usual with it – braised sausage with fennel and potatoes. I guess last week’s potatoes won’t turn into soup after all.

Potatoes + Leeks: This week’s potatoes, however, will be soup. Classic leek and potato

Melons: Such a nice treat! These were the same as last week and made a lovely evening snack.

Apples: These apples went into gouda grilled cheese and were served with the soup mentioned above.

Peppers: I’ve just been snacking on these raw. Delish.

Spinach + Kale: Miso soup. Spinach, kale, chard – they all make great additions to this soup. And yes, the recipe is still coming.

Thanks so much for following along! I hope that you learned about some new foods and gained a bit of an appreciation for the seasonality of our local food. Perhaps next year you can sign up for your own CSA box. Don’t worry – I’ll be reminding you in the spring.