Saturday, December 31, 2011

Recipe: Turkey Sausage

Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother's tasted better the day before. – Rita Rudner

Photo: ancapron, Flickr ccl
First, I have to categorically deny that is the case with my mother’s turkey. Her secret? A lowly meat thermometer.

Has anyone noticed the price of turkeys at one of our local groceries? $0.99 per pound.

Isn’t it funny that turkeys were $2.49 per pound just before Christmas and all last week. You can get a bird (now) to easily feed six for about $12.

You can purchase ground turkey or do your own with either
a grinder or food processor.
I think it’s time to invest in one. Roasting is only the most popular method for dealing with a turkey. If you cut it while still uncooked into individual pieces (breast, thighs, legs, etc.) you could have enough for a few meals. 

Then you also have the option of using the meat as you deem fit, as opposed to having leftover roast sitting in your refrigerator forever (or a 5-6 days maximum for health safety).

Have you ever thought about grinding up a breast to make turkey sausage. Even if you don’t have a grinder a passable job can be done with a food processor, and you can always use the sausage loose so there’s no need to stuff casings.

The upside of using turkey is that there’s no fat (or nearly no fat). You may want to include a little just so the meatballs don’t dry out. As we all know, there’s nothing worse than dry turkey!

I may serve meatballs (browned in a little oil) with pasta, tomato sauce and vegetables (carrot, celery, onion and garlic). Another option would be to make a turkey meatball soup with onion, carrot and green pepper.

You’ll have to come back to see which one won out!

Turkey Sausage
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 cup turkey fat (or pork fat)
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
6 ground juniper berries
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Grind the sausage meat and fat together. If using a food processor, cube the meat and pulse it until well “ground.” Add the spices and mix well. Let sit for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator before using so the flavours develop.

Use for meatballs, turkey burgers or any other use you can think of.


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Happy New Year, and thanks for the present!

Photo: Amani Hasan, Flickr ccl
2011 is winding to a close. For some of my readers it has already turned to 2012.

Can I say I'll miss 2011? For the most part, no. It's been a year personally of some spectacular ups and downs. I've never experienced one like it and hope to never again.

One bright spot? You.

I am almost at the one year mark for my blog. I started January 4, 2011. On December 30 at about Noon AST you all gave me a wonderful gift. My individual page views reached 50,000. For a blog that started at zero one year ago that's pretty impressive, or at least it is to me.

And it's all because of you, my dear readers.

I want to thank you for visiting me over the last 12 months. It's truly been a pleasure writing, building, cooking, gardening and pontificating – and knowing that you are interested in what I have to say. It's been an outlet of creativity that I didn't know would be so rewarding.

So I wish you all the very best for 2012. May it bring us all happiness, peace and joy without bounds.

2012 for me? There's a few big personal projects coming up, but I'll keep doing what I'm doing, if you promise to keep coming back. Look for more original recipes, gardening tips and, yes, liqueurs in the year ahead.

By the way, I gave almost all of mine as gifts this last Christmas and received rave reviews.

So, once again, thank you for making what I do so rewarding. God bless.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean Tofu with Bitter Melon

Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends. – George Bernard Shaw

The finished dish. Quite spectacular looking in my opinion...
Yesterday I posted about bitter melon. This recipe uses bitter melon as one of the main ingredients. Good thing that I had one on hand...

The butter melon has decorative ridges when sliced.
You will be happy to know that although the name says “bitter” it’s not quite as bitter as one would surmise. The taste is somewhat like a cucumber except firmer like a green pepper. 

The bitterness isn’t really all that pronounced. I found it just somewhat more “bitter” than eating a piece of raw eggplant.

From what I have read others would disagree. I read someone referred to bitter melon drink as “tasting like evil.” (They must have a weak constitution.)

One thing I do know is that the flavour went extremely well with black beans. It didn’t hurt that there was garlic and ginger in the dish as well. 

Strong flavours complemented it. When using tofu as your protein source it's always good to have something strong in the rest of the meal. Tofu has little to no taste of its own so is wonderful to pair with stronger ingredients.

This dish also has a slight sweetness to it. That was a bonus that I wasn’t really expecting.

The following recipe is “sauced” but not swimming in it. I have a note at the bottom about increasing the liquids if you wish. I found it fine the way it was. Also, like most Asian dishes, all the work is in the preparation. When you get down to it the dish comes together very quickly.

If you’ve never tried bitter melon you should make this dish. It’s completely vegetarian and was quite filling. I went back for seconds and then thirds.

Spicy Black Bean Tofu
Fry the tofu until browned. Then repeat with the melon.
Prep: 15 min  |  Cook: 20 min  |  Serves 4
vegetable oil for frying
1 block extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/4 cup corn starch
1 bitter melon, about 12-14” long
2 tbsp red chilli paste paste
1 tbsp fermented black beans
3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed chilis (or more)
4 garlic cloves
4 green onions, sliced into 1” sections
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
4 tbsp water
Chinese wheat noodles for four, your choice

First, halve the bitter melon on the long dimension and scoop out the seeds. Salt liberally and let sit for 15 minutes. During this time you can prep the aromatics and liquid. 

Peel and chop the ginger, chop the black beans and the garlic. Place together in a small bowl with the chilli flakes.

After cooking the melon and tofu, this comes together in
about three minutes.
Combine the sugar, soy, rice wine and water in another small bowl.

Cut the tofu into cubes or strips and coat with the cornstarch.

Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a wok. Fry the tofu in batches until slightly browned. Remove and set aside. Rinse the salt from the melon, chop into 1/4” slices and brown the pieces in the hot wok. Add a little more oil if necessary. Remove and set aside with the tofu.

Cook your chosen noodles. The remainder of the dish comes together very quickly.

Fry the aromatics for 1 minute in the wok. Add the browned tofu and bitter melon. Toss together with the aromatics. Add the red chilli paste and the liquid. Toss quickly. The liquid will thicken almost instantly.

Chop the green onions and add to the wok.

Serve immediately over the noodles. (If you like more sauce, double the liquids. You may have to thicken it a bit more to your liking as well.)


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ingredient of the Day: Bitter Melon

I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. – Edith Cavell 

Bitter melon. Photo: Frankfarm, Flickr ccl
You've probably seen this in the grocery store and had no idea what it was or what to do with it. It doesn't win any beauty prizes, for sure. In North America we tend to gravitate to the familiar in our kitchens. That's a pity. The world doesn't just consist in foreign sights for us to see, but also their cultures and cuisines to appreciate.

I hate it when I hear someone went to another country "and didn't leave the resort. They had everything!". Right. What a waste of a trip.

Photo: goosmurf, Flickr ccl
Bitter melon is the edible fruit of the plant Momordica Charantia. Other English names for this vegetable are balsam pear and bitter gourd. It is grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The “bitter” in its name comes from the taste (duh), considered to be the most bitter among all edible vegetables.

Bitter melon grows as hanging fruit on a vine that can reach up to six feet in height. The fruit, commonly in excess of one foot long, is the part that is used both culinarily as well as medicinally, although the deeply lobed leaves are sometimes also used when young.

There are two main types: Chinese and India. The Chinese variety (pictured in this post) has wavy, deep ridges and are bright green. Indian bitter melons are darker and very "warty."

On The National Bitter Melon Council web site (yes, it has it’s own council) they state the following:
Bitter compounds evolved in plants as a mechanism to deter consumption by animals. Humans, unlike other mammals, are the only creatures to have developed a palate (or taste) for bitterness. Bitterness defines our humanity!

Indeed. That I tend to believe.

Bitter melon is an unusual looking vegetable to be sure. It resembles a cucumber with a rough, wrinkled or bumpy skin. There are several varieties that differ somewhat in appearance but it’s such an odd thing that even with the differences they all look similar.

The flavor is also unusual and one might even say…bitter. Blanching bitter melon before cooking will help reduce the bitter taste. 

Ready to be stuffed.Photo: laofood, Flickr ccl
If you’re not up to blanching it, you can also pair it with strong flavours that help mask the taste, like fermented black beans. You can also scoop out the seeds, as sometimes is done with eggplant, to reduce the bitterness. I haven't read, but salting may draw out some of the bitterness. That's what is usually done with eggplant.

You can find bitter melon in the Asian vegetable section of your grocery. Its taste pairs well with lime, garlic, cilantro and ginger.

Medical properties
Bitter melon has long been an ingredient in African, Caribbean and Asian cooking. It also has had a long folkloric history of medicinal use, some of which is now being borne out by study.

Some of the medicinal properties that have been studied, or are now, are its chemical properties to help combat malaria, many viruses such as herpes, cancer and as a potential cardioprotective. 

Bitter melon preparations are still used traditionally in parts of the world to treat malaria, chickenpox, measles, gastrointestinal issues, dysentery, fevers, painful menstruation and some skin problems.

One proven caution: bitter melon can possibly decrease sugar and insulin levels in the blood so should be consumed with caution by diabetics. I couldn't find out from my source what quantity would induce this effect, so better safe than sorry.

Growing bitter melon in Zone 6 (Nova Scotia)
Bitter melon require a long(ish) growing season if you want to harvest for months. Fortunately for us we have very long Autumns.

Purchase seed over the winter from a seed merchant. Here's a link to a Canadian company. Start the seeds indoors in early April. By the middle of May (after last frost) start "hardening the seedlings off" by exposing them to the cooler temperatures outdoors. This can take up to a week. leave them out a little longer each day, preferably where they will be planted.

Bitter melon requires a lot of sun and decent drainage to thrive so pick your spot carefully. You will also need support for the vines so take that into consideration. Unlike other vines (squash, watermelon, etc.) bitter melon doesn't do well fruiting on the ground.

Plant the seedlings in manure amended soil about 6" apart. Ensure you dig down into the soil at least one foot so the vines have plenty of nutrients available as they mature.

Maturation usually begins in about 60 days. Harvest when green and the ridges have become rounded. If allowed, the fruit will turn yellow and split. Even non-split yellow fruit is not suitable for eating.

If desired, let a few go to seed so you have material for next year's garden.

Bitter melon has no natural pests or diseases in our climate. Bonus!

Open yourself up to new experiences. It's never something you will regret. I bought one of these today for with a black bean tofu stir fry. Come back to see the recipe – probably tomorrow. I'll let you know just how bitter it is.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recipe: Steamed Chinese Style Pork Belly with Rice

I just love Chinese food. My favourite dish is number 27. – Clement Atlee, former British Prime Minister

2 ingredients. Can you get any simpler?
I’m always one to accept food advice from people of other cultures. If you remember my post for chinese sausage you know the story of how I was told that one by an elderly Chinese woman who ran an Asian grocery. You wouldn’t want to give a customer bad food advice, would you?

This is the stuff. It even looks "promising."
Well this one comes from the owner of my local grocery, the Ca Hoa. It is run by a couple of Vietnamese Chinese descent and has goodies – fresh, frozen and dried – from all corners of Asia and beyond. I have been going to this particular grocery for in excess of 20 years. It’s a great place. I’ve watched their children grow up.

One day recently as I was checking out at the cash my husband picked up a vacuum packed item and said “Look at this.” He had something in his hand that was dark and shrivelled looking. In an Asian grocery that’s visual code for “very interesting.”

It turned out to be Chinese Style Pork Belly. No sooner had he lifted it in the air than the owner started to offer a recipe on how to cook it. He’s seen us buy some pretty weird stuff (by Caucasian standards), so he knew it was a safe bet we’d go for it.

Just so you know, Chinese Style Pork Belly is heavy on sugar and soy. The flavour is kind of like Chinese style sausages. I’m assuming because they’re both pork and rely on many of the same ingredients for flavour.

The recipe he told us was simplicity itself. I had seen him eating it while working the cash on at least one occasion and wondered what it was. Just cut up the pork belly, place it in a pot with rice, add water and cook as you usually would. Piece of cake. 

So we bought it.

I have to say for a two ingredient meal it was very satisfying. The flavour of the pork belly permeates the rice and the meat steams and plumps as it all cooks.

Of course he didn’t volunteer any quantities so we had to wing it, but it all turned out well. The pork belly is sold by weight, so you’ll have to judge how much you’ll need to feed however many will be at your table, and cook the quantity of rice for that many as well. 

Here’s how I did it.

Steamed Chinese Style Pork Belly with Rice
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 20 min  |  Serves 2
1 lb pork belly (was enough for 2)
1-1/2 cups rice
3 cups water (2 water to 1 rice)
1/2 tsp salt

Chop the pork belly into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place the rice, water and salt in a saucepan with a well fitting lid.

Throw (that’s what I did) the pork belly on top, cover and bring to a boil.

Once the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. At the end of the 15 minutes remove from the heat and let sit for 5 more.

Serve. That's all you do.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipe: Soft Honey Pretzels

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. – Mahatma Gandhi

Soft pretzels, hot from the oven.
The quote above sort of makes my following entry rather puerile (childish and silly). We should ponder Gandhi’s words today and in the coming year. We are so fortunate and have been given so much.

Dough just mixed together.
But I will soldier on with my post none the less…

Have you ever made soft pretzels before? I hadn’t, but yesterday I had the time to experiment. I’m OK with making bread so I thought I would give it a go. How hard could it be?

Well, not really even as hard as it seemed so I discovered. The only thing about making them is they’re “involved.” By that I mean there’s quite a few steps. 

Making the dough is a breeze – and letting it rise – but then after that they require some attention.

After kneading it's nice and smooth.
After raising you have to shape them, twice, and then boil to pre-cook. Egg wash and toppings follow before baking.

Don’t confuse the word “involved” with the word “difficult.” Sometime things take a little extra work. That doesn’t make it difficult. These just have a couple more steps than making a loaf of bread.

The result? Eight dinner roll sized pretzels, golden brown and tasty. If you’re hanging around at home with time between other household tasks to do I would suggest giving them a try. It actually was fun.

Plus, everyone loves a salty, soft pretzel, right?

Soft Honey Pretzels
Prep: 2 hours  |  Cook: 15 min  |  8 pretzels
1-1/2 tsp yeast
1-1/2 tbsp honey
2-1/2 cups white flour
1 1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk (110°-115°F, any hotter will kill the yeast)
1 tsp salt 
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
coarse salt

Combine all of the ingredients down to the milk in a bowl and mix together with a spoon until it forms a ragged mass. Then take your hands and bring the dough together fully. It will be fairly sticky feeling.

Transfer the dough from the bowl and knead for 5 minutes. As you knead the dough will lose its stickiness and become smooth and soft. Oil the bowl and place the dough back in it, cover the top with plastic wrap and a towel. Set in a warm place and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

 Punch the dough down and knead twice with your palm. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and roll each piece into a log about 7” long. Let rest under a towel for 10 minutes.

After relaxing, stretch each piece with your hands to about 14-16” long. Take each piece and make a “U” shape. Then take the two ends and cross them. Pinch the crossed part together and then bring the ends back over the bowl part of the U. Press the ends down slightly to maintain the shape. Cover with a towel and let rest again for 10 minutes in a warm place.

Here's pictures of how to do it:

Step 1: roll into a log and let rest. (Step 2 is to stretch it to about 15" long.)
Step 3: shape into a "U".
Step 4: Cross the ends. (Pinch together...not shown in picture)
Step 5: Brings ends over the loop. Let rest again.
When the pretzels are resting, preheat the oven to 425°F. Heat a pot of water with the remaining salt and the baking soda. After it comes to a boil cook each pretzel for 6 minutes. Remove and place each one on a well greased baking sheet.

Whisk the egg and brush each pretzel. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Immediately bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Serve warm. These will only stay really fresh for about 8 hours. That's the problem with soft pretzels, if you can call delicious fresh bread a problem!

You can add other topping in addition to salt, such as sesame seeds, poppy sees or dried garlic and onion before baking. If you want cinnamon sugar toss the pretzels in the mixture after they’re baked.


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Coconut Chicken Curry

Human beings do not eat nutrients, they eat food. – Mary Catherine Bateson 

Spice, coconut and garlic flavours.
Is curry a traditional Boxing Day dinner? Probably not in North America, but this is what it was in our kitchen none the less.

This recipe does not use a prepared curry powder but a mix of traditional curry ingredients that, if desired, you can balance as you wish for your own custom curries. Don’t be afraid. All the ingredients are very easy to obtain and once you make your own curry mix you’ll be through with prepared curry powders.

You have to lightly fry the spices to activate their flavours.
The basic heat is delivered through cayenne. In the recipe I have listed 1.5 teaspoons. When I made the spice mix I added in 2 full teaspoons. It made for a fairly fiery curry. If that’s your thing, feel free. I backed off the amount for those with more delicate constitutions.

Frying the onions and garlic very slowly is important. Too high a heat will burn the onions and garlic. Burnt garlic tastes very bitter and will be very noticeable. Since garlic is in abundance in this you may as well slow down and do it right.

Coconut in curry is mostly associated with Thailand, but it is quite common in Southern Indian dishes. The coconut cream sweetens, thickens and rounds out this curry sauce with a full, rich taste. 

Note, this recipe uses coconut cream which is a thicker product than coconut milk. You can substitute coconut milk if you wish but your sauce will be thinner.

The taste of this curry was hot, and a little sweet due to the coconut cream. If you’re afraid of the heat perhaps serve a cooling side dish like a raita, or any other that has yogurt as a main ingredient.

Spicy Coconut Chicken Curry
The chicken finishes cooking in the sauce.
Prep: 10 min | Cook: 50 min | Serves 4
8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in 
1 medium onion 
3 tbsp garlic, chopped
3 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 tsp cayenne 
2 tsp cumin seed 
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 can (19 fl oz/560 lm) coconut cream
1/2 cup tomato purée (1 small can)
1 tsp salt
optional, 1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup basmati rice 
2 cups water 

Place the chicken thighs in a large low saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and fry both sides until golden but not completely cooked, about 10-15. This will depend on the size of your chicken thighs.

Remove the thighs to a plate and drain off all but 2 tbsps of the collected chicken fat.
Peel and halve the onions. Then take each half and cut from top to bottom to make long slices. Add the onions and chopped garlic to the pan and cook on medium low until the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. 

Mix together the dried spices. Add them to the onions and let cook for 2-3 minutes until very fragrant.

Stir in the coconut cream. Mix well. Then add in the tomato purée and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back into the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer and let cook while you make the rice. Stir the sauce occasionally.

The rice will take about 25 minutes in total.

Bring the salt and water to a boil. Add the basmati, stir and cover. Reduce heat to simmer and let cook for 15 minutes. After the water has been absorbed, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. If desired add a tablespoon of lemon juice for a little extra kick.

Serve the chicken and sauce beside the rice.


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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas To You All

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. – Roy L. Smith

Photo: Greg Nissen, Flickr ccl
I hope that today finds you healthy, happy and surrounded by those you love and who love you. Remember the reason for this day and keep it in your heart the whole year through. It's not about what we find under a tree, but what we emotionally give to others of ourselves – love, support, understanding and joy.

Luke 2: 1-14
1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Love those who love you and hold them close in your heart. Reach out to those who need your help if you’re able, and find the spirit of Christmas in your heart every day of the year.

Merry Christmas.


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dog Recipe: Banana Breath Buster Dog Biscuits – Wheat Free!

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. – Gilda Radner

Dog biscuits, certified "tasty" by our Bouvier!
It’s Christmas Eve. Have your made your canine best friend something special for tomorrow? Not only are these biscuits tasty, but they’re wheat free. They also have mint and parsley that help improve your dog’s breath so those kisses you receive are even sweeter.

This is the mixed dough.
I know it’s late and you probably won’t have the ingredients on hand, but these biscuits are a big hit. No greater judge than our Bouvier des Flandres, Henry, gave them two paws up. 

He’s quite fussy with his treats, too. He’ll pick certain ones over others consistently. He’s a dog that knows what he likes.

Dogs and wheat don’t really get along. It’s not something that is in a carnivore’s diet and many dogs can develop a sensitivity to it over time. It’s best to keep it to a minimum. 

Unfortunately many commercial dog biscuits have wheat as a main ingredient.

What can wheat do to your dog? Well…
Symptoms of a wheat allergy can include itchy skin, shaking of the head, ear inflammation, licking front paws, and flatulence all the way to behavioural changes and seizures. Not pretty.

Regardless of whether it’s biscuits or not, wheat should be minimized in your dog’s diet. Check the label on your dog food. Where does wheat appear? The first ingredients should be meat products. Vegetables and fruit are good too. 

If you want to know more google search about dog food. Meat by-products can be just as nasty too. Cost doesn’t indicate a good dog food either. Don’t be fooled. Do research.

It’s a hard thing to know that what you’re feeding your friend is actually benefitting them. 

These treats are one way to start in the right direction, with the benefit of improved breath. Quinoa, rice, banana, peanut butter… what’s not to love. Henry was drooling to get them. High praise, I would say.

Banana Breath Buster Dog Biscuits
This recipe yielded exactly 48 biscuits.
Makes about 4 dozen
Parsley and mint are two natural breath fresheners that dogs love. Add in peanut butter and bananas and you have a combination that even the most fussy canine will have a hard time resisting!

2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 cup brown rice flour
1-1/3 cup quinoa (regular or red)
1/3 cup hot water
1 cup dried parsley 
1/4 cup dried mint
2 eggs, beaten

In a bowl place the quinoa with 1/3 cup hot water and let sit for 5 minutes. I used red quinoa because it was more festive!

Mash the bananas into the quinoa. Then stir in the peanut butter until well blended. Add in the remaining ingredients and knead the dough with your hands until well combined. It will be somewhat wet and will stick to your fingers. If too wet add in a little more rice flour.

Harden them up overnight on a rack.
Let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Oil two baking trays.

Set a small dish of water next to the bowl to wet your hands. Roll a 1” round ball of dough in your moistened hands and then flatten between your palms to about 1/4” thick. Place the biscuits on the baking sheets without touching; they can be close – these biscuits do not spread as they bake.

Bake the biscuits at 300°F for 1 hour and 15 minutes. There shouldn’t be much moisture left in the biscuits. Let the cookies cool down in the oven to dry out even more. 

Leave the biscuits on the counter overnight (out of reach of your dog!) to dry and harden up before placing in a container.

Store in a sealed container to maintain freshness for 1-2 months or refrigerate.


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Friday, December 23, 2011

20 Minute Dinner: Shrimp Linguine with Vermouth Cream Sauce

A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. – Samuel Johnson 

Deliciously satisfying, and ready in 20 minutes. This really was amazing.
This is one of those recipes that you can have on the table in less than half an hour. This is a godsend for anyone (like most of us) that has both partners working. Although dining late is sometimes nice having to do so every day is a bit of a chore.

Photo: Wiki CC
This recipe combines succulent shrimp with the intense flavor of tomato and vermouth. It's a wonderful combination. Vermouth is a perfect complement to seafood, if you didn't know…

Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been infused with herbs and/or roots. Wine has been infused with herbs for millennia. The word for vermouth originates from 13th century German. What we consider present day vermouth was first produced around the late 18th century in Italy and France. 

Vermouth was marketed initially as a medicinal drink in the 19th century. With an alcohol content hovering at 18% one can see why its consumption would make someone feel “better.” It wasn’t until later in the 1800s that it was used in many classic cocktails like the martini.

Wine is used as the base for vermouth. Each manufacturer adds additional alcohol (sometimes in the form of aquavit) and their own special mixtures of herbs, roots, and barks. Yum...

Vermouth is sold in two main types: sweet (red) and dry (white). Vermouth is an excellent substitute for white wine in cooking and is particularly good with seafood, as well as chicken and pork. When the alcohol is cooked away the flavour of the herbs remain.

Shrimp Linguine with Vermouth Cream Sauce
Let the sauce reduce before adding the shrimp.
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 10 min  |  Serves 4
1 lb shrimp
454 g linguine
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomato halves
1/4 cup vermouth (white)
1/4 cup tomato purée
1-1/2 cups whipping cream (plus extra, see recipe)
The shrimp have just been added. Only let them cook until pink.
Salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan

Bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook according to package directions.

Heat butter in a sauté pan. Cook onion and garlic until beginning to brown. Add the vermouth, tomato purée and cream and let cook until thickened. It should be a little thicker than you think it should be. 

As the sun-dried tomatoes cook in the sauce it will take on a bright creamy orange colour.

Add the shrimp and cook until just through – no more than 5 minutes. They should just be pink. That may be even less than 5 minutes. Any more time and shrimp become tough.

Liquid will come out of the shrimp as they cook. If the sauce is still too thick you can thin it with a little more cream.

Serve the shrimp and sauce on the hot drained pasta with grated parmesan.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Booze of the day: Crème de Fraise Liqueur (Strawberry “cream”)

It is not well for a man to pray cream and live skim milk. – Henry Ward Beecher 

The end result is very "creamy." Regular strawberry liqueur is quite clear.
There is no cream in this recipe. This is my second foray into the world of “whey” infused liqueurs. It is certainly something I am going to continue.

After 4 weeks. The one on the right is foamy because
I had just shaken the jar.
My first attempt was for Peanut Cream liqueur (here). What I assumed was that the whey would add a creaminess to the finished product that normal sugar syrup wouldn’t impart. I was right.

Since I had lots of leftover whey from making goat cheese (see posts here and here) I had to figure out ways to use this valuable stuff.

Whey is the residue remaining from the first separation of curds from milk. Often it is re-separated to render ricotta, or used for many purposes in the kitchen and more. For example it can be used to start bread or to water plants, to name but two. It is full of vitamins, probiotics and minerals.

I have made strawberry liqueur successfully many times, so I thought that would be a good candidate to try as a “crème.” I knew what a proper result was supposed to be.

The result is not as clear as the original. One would expect that as whey is translucent. The whey adds a fantastic “mouth appeal” that isn’t in the original. I strongly suggest you add this one to your repertoire, as well as the original.

If you don’t want to make cheese per se, buy a 1 L container of plain yogurt and drain it through a cloth lined strainer overnight. The resulting liquid is whey, and you also get a tasty thick yogurt that can be used as a spread much like cream cheese.

Crème de Fraise Liqueur
Highly unappetizing looking but exactly correct.
Approx. 1.25 L   |  15% alc. vol.
454-500 g frozen sliced strawberries
2-1/2 cups vodka
1 cup whey (from making cheese)
1 cup sugar
2 1 L Mason jars

Thaw the strawberries and keep any collected juice with the berries. Divide the berries and juice and place in Mason jars. If it’s not exact that’s OK. You mix it all together after steeping.

Add 1-1/4 cup of vodka to each jar.

Bring the whey and sugar to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes to make a simple syrup.

Pour half of the syrup into each jar with the vodka, cover and shake well.

Let steep for 4 weeks. During that time the berries will leech almost all their colour and turn pale. Don’t worry. This is what is supposed to happen. Shake the jars fairly often during the four weeks infusion.

After steeping, strain out the berries. Squeeze the fruit slightly to extract some juice. Restrain through a double layer of fine cloth to remove residual sediment. Do NOT squeeze the liquid in this step.

Makes 3 x 305 ml bottles plus a good sized glass to enjoy.


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