Yogurt Biscuits

DSCF4224

OMG these biscuits are the shit.

Seriously.  I’m raving.  I’m a huge biscuit fan and I subscribe wholeheartedly to the “it’s always better with butter” party, but these biscuits are just beyond words.  Crisp exterior, soft interior – you get everything out of this without going all the way with the butter.  And can I just say… Red Lobster?  Because if you add two cloves of crushed garlic and 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar, you’ve got the holiest of the holy as far as biscuits go.  Minus all the drippy buttery goodness.  But seriously.  The flavour doesn’t suffer.

But these are just your plain old biscuits which you can dress however you like.  I’m feeling very British today so I’m going to go for butter and jam (no cream, unfortunately).  That ought to make up for all the extra butter lacking in the biscuits themselves…

Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose flour

5 tbsp of butter, sliced and chilled (full fat, the real stuff…)

1/2 tsp of salt

2 tsp of baking powder

3 tbsp of sugar (optional… I’m making sweet biscuits today)

2/3 cup of plain unsweetened yogurt (doesn’t have to be Greek… I use the plain jane regular stuff)

1 tbsp of water

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.

Stir flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.  Work the butter into the dry mix with your fingers, until you have a “sandy” texture.  You shouldn’t have any butter bits floating around that are bigger than a pea.  Also, make sure the butter’s cold otherwise you won’t get as flaky a biscuit.

Mix the yogurt and water together until smooth.  Pour it into your “sandy” biscuit mix and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together (don’t overstir).  Fold the dough a few times to give it a little bit of shape then divide into equal sized pieces to your liking.  I usually like medium-large sized biscuits.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Advertisements

One Pot Chicken (aka Poulet Cocotte)

Image

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

That basically seems to sum up the driving force behind most of my recipes… including this one pot chicken (aka “poulet cocotte”) that I invented out of sheer desperation while we were staying with boyfriend’s grandmother last summer in France, whose oven was broken at the time.

I used ingredients we had on hand, as usual… and crossing my fingers, I hoped for the best.  Seriously… for a girl raised on roast chickens, the idea of sticking a whole bird into a pot of water had my stomach churning at first.  I envisioned an awful nightmare of floating, washed-out grey chicken skin and other elementary school cafeteria-like horrors.

BUT as it turned out, the chicken turned out to be the best chicken I’d ever had… as the bf’s gran put it, “C’est un délice!”

Seriously… no other words needed.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for my chicken.  Normally there’s supposed to be celery in it, but as I didn’t have any on hand today… well, make lemonade right?

Image

Ingredients

Extra-virgin olive oil

One whole chicken

2-3 medium sized carrots, chopped

2-3 celery sticks, chopped

1 large onion, diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of unsalted peas, drained (1 cup of frozen peas works just as well)

4-6 mushrooms, chopped (I use white or cremini)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp of herbes de provence (you can sub with thyme, rosemary and oregano)

Smoked paprika (I’m sure any will do)

2 cups of water

1 chicken bouillon cube

2 dashes each of black pepper and white pepper

salt to taste (normally I skip this… the bouillon cube gives enough salt as it is!)

Image

Directions

Wash and pat your chicken dry with paper towel.  Trim the fat from it, or don’t…

Sprinkle paprika all over your chicken and rub it into the skin with your hands.  On med-high temp, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large pot that can comfortably hold your chicken.  Sear the chicken on both sides until the skin is golden-brown (about 3 minutes).  Shaking the pot around while your sear helps to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick or burn.  If it does, immediately scrape the burned bits from the pot with a wooden spoon.

When the chicken is seared, remove it from the pot and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil if necessary to cook your onions, garlic, carrots and celery so they don’t stick and burn.  Fry for 3 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant.

Place your chicken back into the pot on top of the veggies and add the herbes de provence, black pepper, white pepper, a couple more dashes of paprika, the bay leaves and the bouillon cube with two cups of water.  Bring to a boil, stirring gently around the chicken, then lower the heat to med-low.  Simmer your chicken with the lid on, checking up on it every so often to make sure things aren’t sticking and burning.  Turn the chicken over once every 15 minutes.

After 45 minutes, add your mushrooms, peas and remove the lid so some of the liquid can evaporate.  You can jack up the heat at this point to med-high to help the evaporation process, but if you do so, you MUST keep an eye out on your chicken and veggies, stirring often to make sure that nothing burns.

After 15 minutes, check your chicken to make sure it’s cooked… you should be able to pierce a knife into the breast quite easily.  If all is good, remove the chicken from the pot and let it sit a few minutes while you let the liquid to continue evaporating… keep stirring to make sure nothing burns.

I always remove the skin before serving, but you can serve it as is.  I also serve the veggies with the juice together, but you could just as easily make a gravy be separating the two and thickening the juice with some flour or cornstarch and salt to taste, especially if you’re serving up mashed potatoes on the side.

*You can make an awesome chicken stock, soup, stew or pot pie out of leftovers.  If you’re going to the stock, keep all your bones and skin.  For the soup, stew or pie, be sure to remove all the skin and bones first.


Cheesy Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash Boats

Image

I go grocery shopping once a week at Toronto’s famous St. Lawrence Market when the farmers set up shop in the mornings across the street at the North Market.  While this means skillfully weaving through crowds of shoppers and tourists, it also means picking up the freshest produce and amazing cuts of meat and seafood, so it’s totally worth it.  Though the price may be a bit steep depending on what you buy, usually I find it’s worth spending the extra few bucks for a better meal, especially since we’ve cut down on buying supplementary processed crap like we used to with every trip to the supermarket.

Anyway, the only thing about grocery shopping once a week is that you have to make your purchases last the whole week.  Usually this is doable by purchasing things that can make more than one meal.  Spaghetti squash is an awesome example of this and it’s a great alternative for pasta.  Today I’m making cheesy, saucy, twice-baked spaghetti squash boats which I will basically devour throughout the day for lunch and dinner… and it’s surprisingly filling and so easy to make.

Ingredients

1 Spaghetti squash (they’re usually sold by weight… I usually pick a medium-sized one for two people)

1-2 cups of Spaghetti sauce according to how saucy you like your squash (tomato sauce, pesto, alfredo – it’s all good)

1 egg

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp oregano

2 cloves minced garlic

1-2 tbsp fresh, chopped basil and/or parsley

1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella and/or cheddar cheese (I’m thinking a half ricotta-mozza mix might be good, but I don’t have any on me at the moment so I’ll report back next time on that)

salt and pepper

Directions

Bake the squash whole at 400 for about 45-60 minutes in a baking pan, at which point you should be able to pierce a knife in quite easily.  When you can do this, take the squash out of the oven and split it vertically down the middle and de-seed it.

Scrape out the squash with a fork (leave just enough on the shell so that itstands strong, otherwise it’ll collapse on itself).  It should flake and fall apart quite easily at this point but if the flesh resists against your fork, pop it back into your oven at 400 until it’s tender.

In a large bowl, mix the rest of your ingredients together until well combined (reserving 1/2 cup of cheese for the topping) and add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in the cooled squash (you don’t want to mix it in while it’s super hot otherwise the egg will scramble).

Fill your empty squash shells and top with cheese.  Put it back in the oven for 10-20 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

*You can add some meat to this if you want to fry up a half pound of ground beef/turkey/whatever and mixing it in with everything else.

**Adding chopped chorizo or pepperoni with ground italian sausage and diced green peppers would make a good “pizza” style spaghetti squash

***Don’t forget to serve this with a side of crusty cheesy garlic bread!!!


Moroccan Spiced Lentil Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Soup

Let’s not exaggerate and simply call this a Moroccan-inspired dish because not being Moroccan myself, and not having any Moroccan friends, cooking an authentic Harira is far from a reality.  The best I can do is look around on the net and check out what common ingredients seem to pop up most often, and hope to create some delicious dish without disappointing myself with pipe dreams of authenticity.

Anyway, this is what I’ve come up with so far.  If anybody has suggestions or improvements to make, feel free to let me know in the comments section.  The beautiful thing about the internet is that recipes can only get better and better as more people try them out and make their opinions known.

This recipe is inspired by what ingredients I happened to have on hand and all those recipes I looked up to see how I could make the best combination of flavours possible like this Food Network recipe or this blogger’s recipe.

Ingredients

Olive oil (extra virgin, preferably… try not to skimp out ’cause the weaker stuff leaves a greasy taste…)

6-8 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, diced

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/4 ginger (you can substitute with fresh grated ginger if you prefer)

1 tsp smoked paprika (most recipes call for sweet; I only had smoked)

2-3 pinches of Ras el hanout (optional), which you can buy or make

2 cans of chickpeas (398ml size)

1/2 cup of green lentils (I’m sure any kind will do)

1 cup of spicy roasted garlic tomato sauce (it’s what I had on me… most recipes call for canned tomatoes)

1 1/2 cups of water

1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable)

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp flour or cornstarch (optional if you like a thicker soup)

wedge of lemon for garnish (optional)

plain yogurt (optional)

Directions

Heat a medium sized pot over medium heat and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom.  Add onions and garlic and let soften a few minutes until translucent (try not to let it brown). If you’re using fresh ginger instead of dry, now’s the time to add it.

Add all your spices and stir for two minutes.  Add a bit more oil if your ingredients are sticking to the pot.

Add your chickpeas with the liquid, and lentils.  Throw in the bouillon cube with water and tomato sauce.  When the soup is heated, give it a taste before adding salt and pepper – sometimes the bouillon cube and the tomato sauce give it enough flavour as is.

Simmer over med-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring periodically until lentils are cooked through.

If you want a thicker soup, in a small bowl mix the flour or cornstarch with some water until smooth and perfectly blended and add it to the soup.  Stir well.  The soup should thicken up as you cook it, and will come out even thicker once it’s removed from heat.

Serve with lemon wedges for garnish and/or a dollop of plain yogurt.

* You can add meat if you want… cubed chicken breast is always a good option.  Just toss it in while you’re frying up your onions.


Lemon-Lime Cream Swiss Roll

Lemon Roll

Tomorrow is Asian New Year and as an official grown-up, I have started being invited to bring along goodies with me to family dinners like all the other adults.

Swiss roll, jelly roll, roly-poly, bûche or what have you, this cake is definitely one of my favourites because it’s so light and yummy.  I’ve just never made one before.  As a kid, I pretty much gobbled up those Little Debbie snack cakes without realizing that there was a real, homemade version out there in the world.

This here is the recipe for a typical Swiss Roll cake, however instead of the usual jam filling, I used a lemon-lime cream.  The cake recipe come Paula Deen, but I found it on my favourite food blog, Baking Bites.

When making this cake, it’s really important not to overcook it because it dries it out and makes it impossible to roll without cracking.  Also, make sure the batter is spread out evenly across your pan, otherwise you’ll find yourself with crispy edges and/or a thinner cake on one end and a thicker cake on the other.  This also makes it very difficult to roll.  Since there’s no added fat to this cake besides the eggs, you’ll find that the cake will dry out really quickly as well if you leave it to cool before you get a chance to do the initial roll.  Basically, just be prepared to take the cake out of the oven and to start rolling ASAP.

I made the lemon-lime curd first so that it could be nice and cool and thick before I even started on the cake batter.  Then, I added some freshly whipped cream into it in order to make the lemon-lime cream filling.  You can skip out on the cream if you want and just fill the cake with the curd.

If you choose to fill you cake with a premade filling, prepping,  baking and assembly time should amount to about 40 minutes.  It’ll take a bit more time if you’re using the homemade lemon-lime cream because you need to let it cool.

Prepping time (by hand): 12 minutes

Baking time: 8 minutes

Assembly time: 20 minutes (10 minutes to cool, 10 minutes of rolling and fillng)

Low Fat Lemon-Lime Curd

(inspired by bakingbites)

This is enough curd to use on your roll without adding the cream, and you might even have some leftover.  If you want to make the cream filling, then simply halve this recipe. 

Ingredients

2 lemons and 2 limes (or 4 of either)

Zest of 1 lemon

10 tbsp of sugar

2 large eggs (room temperature)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

“In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, combine sugar and citrus juice. Add zest and stir until sugar is dissolved completely.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg. Whisking constantly (or with an electric mixer on low), very slowly stream the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the egg. Beat for 2 minutes (only 1 if you’re using a mixer), then transfer back into the saucepan by pouring the mixture through a sieve.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the curd just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.”  The curd should coat the back of your wooden spoon or spatula.  It won’t be super thick like pudding just yet, but it’ll set in the fridge.
Transfer to a bowl with plastic wrap (airtight) so that the curd doesn’t form a skin and cool in the fridge.

Lemon-Lime Cream

Lemon Cream

Ingredients

Low fat lemon-lime curd (see above)

125 ml (half cup) full-fat whipping cream (35% milk fat)

Directions

It’s best to start with cold utensils, so pop your bowl and whisk into the freezer for a couple minutes.  Then, when they’re cold, pour your cream into the bowl and whisk.  If beating by hand, don’t beat in circles around the bowl, but rather in an up-and-down motion to get air into the bowl.  Then, when your cream is thick enough (approx. 5 min of whipping by hand), gently fold in your lemon curd.  Put it in the fridge while you prep your cake.

Here’s a great video tutorial on how to fold ingredients.

Here’s another great tutorial on how to whisk egg whites BY HAND, and it’s also applicable for whipped cream.

Lemon Swiss Roll
(Re-posted from Baking Bites)

Lemon Roll sponge

Ingredients

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature                                                                                                                                        Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
3/4 cup plain sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

powdered sugar
filling: about 1 cup of jam/curd/cream

Directions

“Preheat oven to 400F.
Line a 15 by 10 by 1-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until light. This will take a few minutes. Gradually add in the sugar, followed by the vanilla, and mix until fully combined.  Add the lemon zest if you wish.  Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt into the yolk mixture and beat in until just combined.
Quickly clean and dry beaters well, then beat the egg whites to soft peaks in a medium bowl.  Here’s a step-by-step guide with pictures on how to beat egg whites.
Gently stir 1/2 of the egg whites into the flour mixture, then fold in the rest of the whites until the batter is even. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake at 400F for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cake is golden and springs back when lightly touched.

Dust a large dishtowel with powdered sugar.
When cake comes out of the oven, loosen edges of cake, then place the sugared towel on top of the cake (yes, some will come off), then invert the pan so the cake comes out onto the towel (which should be lying on a table or counter). Trim off the firm edges.
Beginning with the short side, roll cake and towel up together.  Here’s another video tutorial on how to do this.  Place towel wrapped cake on a wire rack and let cool.

When cake is cool, gently unroll and spread with jam (or jelly) and re-roll. Place on a serving plate.
Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 8.”