May 30, 2011

5 Pepper Chicken Chilli

Capsicums. Of all the words here in Australia that are different from those we use back home in Canada, this has to be the most different. Though the rough definition of capsicum is any variety of the plant bearing fruits called peppers – including both chillies and sweet peppers, I just can’t seem to get used to it. I feel weird ordering “green capsicums” on my sandwich or “roasted capsicums” at the deli counter.

Some other food-related differences: Beet becomes beetroot. To-may-to becomes to-mah-to. Cantaloupe becomes rockmelon. Arugula becomes rocket. Rib eye becomes scotch filet. Ketchup becomes tomato sauce (or should I say to-“mah”-to sauce!). Yellow cheddar does not exist. Hot dogs buns have gone missing. Vegemite in the place of peanut butter, and so on and so fourth.

Anyway, regardless of where in the world we go, who doesn't appreciate a hardy, spicy chilli? 

Recipe credit to my mother-in-law, Jeanne. This can be made, cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for up to a month. Serve with bread or corn bread.

Serves 8-10

2 packages ground chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced medium
2 green peppers, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cups mushrooms, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 can  mixed beans, rinsed
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup dill pickle juice
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown chicken in skillet, drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, green and red peppers, and mushrooms, cook until starting to soften, about 8 minutes. Add jalapeno pepper, garlic, chilli powder, cumin and coriander and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

3. Add in the rest of the ingredients, in order, and mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 more minutes until thickened.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

May 27, 2011

Mediterranean Pizza with Homemade Crust

I used to be a full serve gas attendant.  No, really. That little get-to-know-Sarah fact has nothing to do with pizza or this recipe but I thought it just might get your attention. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the last person on earth to whom you would expect to say, “Fill with regular.” I would run out, rain or shine, smile on my face, and I would even ask, “Can I check your oil for you?” I am so happy to report that those days are over.

Those of you who know me might also know that I used to work at a little joint in downtown Kelowna called Goochie’s Sushi, Pizza and Ice Cream Parlour. That’s right, all three. Yes sushi and pizza. No, not like Gucci. Goochie.

The point being, I have been making (and eating) pizza like a pro since I was in high school.

Ahhh, za. Who doesn’t love it? I have all sorts of favourite spots to go get a slice, and certain kinds I like too. It’s Spicy Perogy at Boston Pizza, Ham and Pineapple at Pizza Hut, Veggie Lite at Pizza 73, and so on. But… nothing, and I mean nothing, beat fresh baked, at-home pizza.

The following recipe is for a Mediterranean-style pizza, which is my favourite. However, you can use this awesome, no frills pizza dough recipe for any kind of pizza – just tailor your toppings!

Makes 2 pizzas

Pizza Dough
4 cups of flour
1 envelope of instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups of warm (not hot) water

Pizza Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Pizza toppings (for 2 Mediterranean pizzas)
½ cup pizza sauce
¼ cup of parmesan, shredded
8 slices prosciutto, torn
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
½ cup Marinated artichoke hearts
½ cup cocktail size bocconcini cheese
2 tomatoes, sliced and cut in half
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

1. With a food processor: Using the dough blade, pulse flour, yeast and salt to mix. While the processor is running, add oil and then water until a rough ball forms, about 30 seconds. Let rest for 2 minutes. Run the processor again for 30 seconds. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, until a nice smooth ball forms (using flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and counter.) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap and: a) put in fridge for up to 16 hours OR b) let rest at room temp for 1.5 hours.

Without a food processor: Follow the above method but use a whisk to mix dry ingredients. Use a spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients. When kneading, increase time to 10-15 minutes.

2. Make the sauce, which can be kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days in advance. Heat the garlic and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just sizzling. Careful not to burn the garlic. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened. Set aside or refrigerate.

Shaping crust on parchment paper allows you to just drag
the assembled pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.
3. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. After the dough has risen as per above, transfer dough to lightly floured surface and separate into two equal parts. Knead into a nice smooth ball, put it back into a lightly oiled bowl and cover again with saran wrap. Let dough balls sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

4. While your dough is sitting, put a pizza stone in the oven on the lower-middle rack and preheat the oven to 500F. It should preheat for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have a stone, you can use a large baking pan, but it is better with a stone.

4. When ready to assemble pizza, put one dough ball on a piece of parchment paper and use your knuckles to press it into a round, flat pizza crust. Here’s a good way to do this: knuckles to make a flat circle. Then, with one hand flat on the centre of the circle, lightly stretch the edges out, rotating the pizza and stretching all four quarters. Then, flatten the big edges with your knuckles.

5. Add about ¼ cup of pizza sauce, then the parmesan and the rest of the toppings, except for the basil. Here you can add whatever toppings you like to the pizza.

6. Carefully transfer pizza to oven by sliding it and the parchment paper onto the preheated stone. Bake until the edges are golden brown and cheese starts to bubble, about 10-13 minutes (but watch it because all ovens are different.) While one is baking you can start the other pizza and repeat the process from step 4.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

May 25, 2011

Overnight Artisan Crusty Bread

What are YOU making for dinner tomorrow night?

Carbohydrate Kid. That was my childhood nickname given to me by my loving parents. Carbo Kid. It was cute for the longest time. What does Sarah want for breakfast? Croissant. What does Sarah want for lunch? Bread. What does Sarah want for dinner? Pasta. I am not kidding.

Then, Atkins showed up. Suddenly my cute carbo cravings were not so cute but rather a bad habit that needed curbing. 

For the days when you are feeling to-hell-with-atkins, try this mouthwatering, bakery quality, artisan crusty bread that no one will believe you made.

Read the recipe before you decide this one is too complex. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, the best part about this bread is how easy it is. One special piece of equipment is required – a cast iron Dutch oven. If you don’t have one of these you could use any ovenproof Dutch oven, but it is definitely best in cast iron.

Other special tools for this recipe: 10-inch skillet, parchment paper

Let’s bake!

15 ounces all purpose flour (3 cups – but it is more accurate to weigh it out)
¼ tsp instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
7 ounces of water, about room temperature (¾ cup plus 2 tbsp, again better to weigh)
3 ounces of light lager such as a pilsner (¼ cup plus 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp white vinegar

The "shaggy ball"
1. Whisk the dry ingredients in a large glass, ceramic or plastic bowl (metal might react with the vinegar and changes results). Add wet ingredients and mix using a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough ball forms. Make sure to get all the flour incorporated off the bottom of the bowl. Cover with saran wrap and let sit at room temperature (free from drafts) overnight, for 8-18 hours.

The skillet and parchment set up.
2.  Lay 12x18 inch sheet of parchment paper in a 10 inch skillet, spray lightly with non-stick spray. Put dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead it about 10 times before shaping it into a ball by pulling the edges into the middle. Transfer dough to skillet, seam side down. Spray the top of the dough lightly with cooking spray and cover loosely with saran wrap. Let the dough rise for about 2 hours, it should approximately double in size.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, heat oven to 450F and place ovenproof Dutch oven on the lowest rack.  Lightly flour the top of the dough and cut a 6 inch, ½ inch deep slit in the top using a sharp knife. Carefully transfer dough into pre-heated Dutch oven by lifting it by the parchment paper and lowering it into the pot – with the parchment paper, which will hang over the edges of the pot. Cover the pot, place it in the oven and lower the temperature to 425F. Bake for 30 minutes.

4. Remove cover and continue to bake for 20-30 minutes, until loaf is golden brown. If you have an instant thermometer, it should read about 210 degrees in the centre. Mine took about 25 minutes to reach this temperature. Carefully remove loaf from pot and cool on a wire rack. Do not cut bread too soon, let rest for at least an hour or two.

Serve and prepare to take your praise! (Because it will definitely be coming!)

It takes time but it is EASY! No one will believe YOU made it!
Serve with soups and stews, or just eat it plain! Try it with Slow Cooker Chicken Chasseur. 

Slow Cooker Chicken Chasseur

I hate leftovers. I get that from my Dad who also hates them. Though some people would eat leftovers for breakfast (sister) and even cold (husband), I avoid them like the plague. I prefer to send all leftovers to work with my husband, or to the trash can. Having said that, I made this recipe last night and...drum roll...I can't wait to eat the leftovers tonight.

Here's a little tidbit of information I pulled from my Food Lover's Companion, a book that I use every once and awhile to look up foods, techniques, etc. It is basically a food encyclopedia, very cool for all foodies. "Chasseur" means hunter in French. Therefore, this recipe is for Hunter's Chicken, French style. The most popular type of Hunter's Chicken is the Italian version - Chicken Cacciatore [kah-chuh-toh-ray]. I am going to go out on a bold limb here and say that I like this better than its Italian counterpart, and you just might too.

I know that sometimes "slow cooker" means "kinda dull." I have started to realise, however, that there are plenty of gourmet and even company-worthy recipes that you make using your slow cooker, and this is one of them. I repeat - I would serve this for any lucky crowd.

Prep: under an hour
Slow cooker time: 3 hours on high
Thickening time: 15-20 minutes after slow cooked
Serve with crusty bread
Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

8 oz of bacon, chopped fine (about 8 normal slices)
4-6 large skin on, bone in chicken thighs
1.25 lbs cremini (swiss brown) mushrooms, quartered
1 red onion, chopped medium
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups dry white wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 (400 gr) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and chopped fine
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

I added a whole carrot, chopped for colour.

1. Turn slow cooker on to preheat. Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until it is crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Add bacon to slow cooker, reserving the fat in a small dish.

2. Dry the chicken with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add half the bacon fat back into the skillet and heat on medium high until just smoking. Brown chicken, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the browned skin from chicken and add to the slow cooker.

3. Add the rest of the bacon fat to the skillet over medium heat. Add cremini mushrooms, red onion, 1/4 tsp salt and carrots (if using) and cook until mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic until fragrant (about 15 seconds). Add wine and tomato paste and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Pour veggie mixture into slow cooker.

4. Add the tomatoes, 1.5 cups of the broth (saving .5 cup for step 5), porcini mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves and red pepper flakes to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours.

Simmer the sauce and flour mixture over medium heat to thicken
5. Remove chicken from slow cooker and put on plate, tenting loosely with foil. Pour the mixture into large skillet over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the remaining .5 cup of broth and stir into the sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes until sauce is thickened and doesn't taste like flour. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour sauce over chicken in a shallow bowl, garnish with parsley and serve with warm crusty bread on the side.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

Serving suggestion: Overnight Artisan Crusty Bread

May 23, 2011

Kofta and Salad in Whole Wheat Pita Pockets

Kofta shown here without the pita, for a low-carb option :)

Don’t be embarrassed. I didn’t know what "kofta" was either. In fact, Word even outlines it in red. Apparently the broad definition is ground meat, usually lamb or beef, mixed with spices, herbs or onions. Alright so a fancy hamburger patty. Either way, I have made plenty a hamburger and I have never seen a recipe that incorporated such a gourmet array of flavours and spices – whatsoever. So, when I found this gold-nugget of a recipe in my Weber’s Way to Grill cookbook, I had to try it. On one of my many low-carb endeavours, which I hope I don’t talk about too much, I was able to have this without the pita and still found it absolutely mouthwatering. This is a keeper for those days when you want to please and you want to do it fast – this recipe is a snap.

Prep time: under 20
Total time: under 30 (including 10 minutes bbq time)
Makes: 6
Serve with salad or grilled veggies

Tahini (far left) is the "peanut butter" of sesame seeds
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sesame tahini 
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice 
2 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 red onion, chopped fine 
salt to taste

Kofta (the fancy patty):
1.5 lbs extra lean ground beef
1/2 parsley, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

3 whole wheat pitas

1. Combine dressing ingredients and place in refrigerator 
2. Combine salad ingredients and set aside
3. Combine kofta ingredients and shape into 6 oval patties about 3/4 inch thick
4. Press a a shallow circle indentation in the middle of each patty (this trick helps to cook the patty evenly and won't puff in the center to make a football out of your patty!) 
5. Grill patties over high heat until cooked to medium, about 8-10 minutes. 
6. Prepare kofta with salad and dressing in a pita, or without one ;)

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

May 21, 2011

The ultimate red meat marinade

This marinade is enhanced by wonderful flavours like curry, coriander and cumin.

I believe this one comes from my Aunt Chris’ kitchen. But my Mom has 4 sisters and to tell you the truth, I think they all just remove each other’s name and replace them with their own. Honestly, Norma’s spring salad is Marsha’s is Gayle’s you never know. If I have angry women after me for this one, at least I know they are reading! Anyway, regardless of whose name takes the credit, all of my aunts are amazing cooks. I am so lucky to come from a family of amazing women who can all cook up a storm.

This marinade gained its rave-worthy status at my house on a butterflied lamb leg. A butterflied leg of anything is simply describing the fact that the butcher has removed the bone from the meat. Trust me, you want to buy it butterflied. The husband and I learned this the hard way. I was smooth talked from some lazy butcher that it would be “so easy” to do with a sharp knife. A couple hours later, I had made the biggest mess out of my meat and the bone was still stuck right in there. The uneven mess I made of the meat absolutely ruined the chance of having evenly cooked lamb, and it turned out to be one of those underdone/overdone situations. There just wasn’t a good piece. Anyway, I digress. That’s how the recipe came into my life, but boy has it ever grown legs of its own now. No pun intended.

I mainly use this marinade on beef and lamb. Any cut will work. Steaks, roasts, butterflied legs, kebabs, etc. It even tastes good on vegetables. It takes teriyaki to a whole new level and I haven’t met its defeat, yet. So, the recipe below is a personal favourite and I think you will like it too.
Whisk ingredients together, then add meat.

Prep time: under 5
Total marinating time: at least 1 hour
Use on lamb or beef

3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup soya sauce
2 green onions, white and light green parts chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder

Shown here with ribeye steaks
Whisk ingredients together. Marinate meat for 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in fridge. If refrigerated, let sit in room temperature for at least half hour before grilling/cooking. Cook meat as per usual depending on the type/cut. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

You need a go-to biscuit recipe. Now, is it worth a little extra effort to ensure they melt in your lucky family and friend’s mouths? I would say yes. And, trust me, these babies are well worth the little extra. And I mean little. It’s not like they are a complex beef wellington or anything, but in the world of biscuits, I guess they are little more complex. I’ve tried many recipes and these are just the best.

Credit goes to Fine Cooking.

Flaky buttermilk biscuits

1¾ cups flour
¼ tsp baking soda
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, very cold
¾ cup buttermilk, very cold

It is OK to have small chunks of butter in the dough
Heat oven to a whopping 500F. Prepare a large baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients. With minimal skin/butter contact, cut butter into tiny cubes (about ¼ inch). Add butter to dry ingredients, using your fingers to gently break apart the butter pieces.

Add buttermilk and use a spatula to stir it in, dampening all the dry ingredients, about one minute. Dump all of the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly press the dough to ensure it is all together.

Dust the dough and your hands with flour. Press dough into a rectangle, about ¾ inches thick. Fold the dough into three sections on top of itself, like you would fold a letter. Re-dust with flour and press again to create a rectangle, ¾ inches think. Repeat procedure one more time, three times in total.

Fold dough into 3 like you would a letter, then press out.
After the third time, press the dough into a ½ inch oval. Using a lightly floured 2 (or so) inch round cookie cutter, press directly down, careful not to twist and turn, and cut biscuits out.  Place them about ½ inch apart on the baking sheet. You can roll up the scrap dough and cut more biscuits a total of two times before it really affects the results.

Turn the oven down to 450F and put the biscuits in. After 8 minutes, turn the pan 180 degrees. Bake for another 4-6 minutes until biscuits are golden brown and about doubled in height. Cool on pan for at least 3 minutes before serving them. They stay warm for about 20 minutes.

Serve and prepare to take your praise.

Spicy corn chowder with prosciutto and thyme

It’s autumn in Australia right now. They don’t call it fall…maybe because leaves falling from trees are not a given like they are at home. As spring hits home with 18 and sunny days in Saskatoon, we too are having 18 and sunny days in Adelaide. Only it’s a very different 18 and sunny than that in Saskatoon. After a brutally long winter every year, beautiful spring days are the absolute best and you definitely have an unrivalled sense of appreciation for them. You start breaking out the sunny, fresh spring foods and drinks and light up the bbq again. How exciting.

In Adelaide, on the other hand, a sunny 18 degree day in May is different. Though our bbq’s are still going (and likely will year round), and though all we need is a light cardigan and a scarf, it is cooling down and winter, however hot or cold, is around the corner.

So, while my parents and friends back home are getting their hamburger on, I am looking for a little something different. Enter soup. The markets are full of fresh, super sweet corn that is as good as the amazing corn I am used to in Kelowna.

What better idea than a corn chowder and flaky buttermilk biscuit? Nothing.

Spicy corn chowder with prosciutto and thyme

6-8 slices of prosciutto, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp EVOO
1 jalapeno, cored, seeded and chopped fine
6 green onions, diced
1 medium brown onion
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3.5 cups chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, diced
4-5 whole ears of corn, kernels cut off discard all but two cobs
1.5 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Fry prosciutto in a non-stick frying pan until crisp, about 8 minutes; set aside.

While prosciutto crisps, prepare all of the other ingredients as per above. In a large pot on medium high heat, melt butter and add oil. Add jalapeno, green onions, onion, salt and pepper. Stir until onions soften, 3-5 minutes.

Add broth, potatoes, corn kernels and the two cobs, and thyme. Cover and simmer until potatoes are fully softened, about 10 minutes.

Remove the two cobs. Puree 4-5 cups of the soup in a blender (1-2 cups at a time, carefully) and add back to the pot. 

Add almost all of the prosciutto into the soup, saving just enough for garnishing. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and prepare to take your praise.

Serving suggestion: Flaky buttermilk biscuits 

May 12, 2011

my first time

This is something I have been thinking about doing for awhile. Well, blogging is – not necessarily blogging about food. I couldn’t decide what to blog about but I knew I wanted to have a focus. I started a blog with which I planned on documenting my relocation to Australia from Canada, but after a month of living in Australia my husband, Nathan, decided I was taking too long to do so and he started one. That plan went belly up. So what to blog about remained unknown.

I want to blog because I want to have a creative outlet. I thoroughly enjoy writing, with my professional background being in communications. I also love photography, but in that I am far from professional. What I don’t understand is why I haven’t thought of this sooner. I absolutely adore cooking. Blog or no blog, I would pretty much rather be in my kitchen with a recipe and some fresh ingredients than do anything else. So, they say it is better late than never and I guess this falls under that advice. I am starting to blog about one of the things I love to do most, cook. Now this is a hobby I am going to enjoy.

I hope you, whoever you might be, enjoy reading about all of my triumphs and even my failures, as I promise not to hold back. With my main focus being on sharing recipes that are tried and true, I will talk about all things food in this blog. Because I love it. And if you are reading this blog, you love it too…or, maybe you just love me (hi Mom!).