Friday, 31 December 2010

Poached Fish In A Mustard-Chile Sauce with Steamed Spinach

Not to sound un-Christmassy, but I am not even sure I like turkey anymore. I make the big bird for the kids every year, but now I am only too happy to pack up all the leftovers and send them home with said grown kids. Truth be known, I'm sort of looking forward to when they start families of their own and I can be the crazy grandma who brings pies and does dishes or something to that effect.

As soon as the turkey is out of the way, I crave highly seasoned savoury food. Like Indian food. This is adapted from one of my absolute favourite Indian cookery books, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. If you are going to have only one Indian cookbook... okay, who is going to have only one Indian cookbook? Make sure you have room on your shelf for the other Indian love of my life, Madhur Jaffrey. Now, what was I saying? Oh yes. This is the perfect antidote for the Christmas carb fest - savoury spicy filets of tender fish with baby spinach delicately wilted over them and fluffy basmati rice to capture all the glorious pan juices.

Not for the faint of heart - there is some real heat with the chilies, mustard seeds, and especially the mustard oil. If you do not have mustard oil - go get some. There is nothing like it and no substitution. So go ahead and trundle off to your local Indian grocers. I'll wait.

Poached Fish In A Mustard Chile Sauce (Sorshe Maach)
With Steamed Spinach
adapted from 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking - Raghavan Iyer
online recipe sourced from Big Flavors

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound skinless firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as cod, halibut, swordfish, sea bass, or pollock
1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seeds
4 fresh Thai chilies
3 tablespoons mustard oil - do not substitute!
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves

1. Sprinkle the turmeric over the fish, rubbing both sides of the fillets. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight, to allow the spice to flavor the fillets.

2. Combine the mustard seeds and chiles in a mortar, and grind and pound them with the pestle to release the mustard's nose-tingling aroma and to create a yellowish-green, slightly gritty paste. (Alternatively, you can grind the mustard seeds in a spice grinder until the texture resembles that of finely cracked black peppercorns. Finely chop the chiles, seeds and all, and add them to the ground mustard seeds.)

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pungent paste and stir-fry until it is sunny brown, about 1 minute. Quickly pour in 1/2 cup water, scraping the skillet to deglaze it, releasing the browned bits of spice. Stir in the salt and sugar.

4. Lay the fish fillets in a single layer in the skillet, let sear on one side and then flip over and spoon the sauce over them. Lower the heat to medium, throw the spinach in over the fish, cover the skillet, and poach the fillets until they are barely starting to flake, 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Trouble with Gluten

What the heck is a bread baker doing talking about gluten-free living?

I am so glad you asked.

If you are a regular reader you may remember that my daughter, now grown and living on her own, suffers from multiple food sensitivities. She is not alone in this, of course, food sensitivities are pandemic in this era and gluten issues are multiplying rapidly. It is thought that about one percent of the population can't tolerate gluten and that is a huge number. Especially if you consider how insidious gluten (the protein in wheat and other grains) is. It's in everything, right down to your prescription medications.

People who are sensitive to gluten generally fall into two camps - gluten intolerant and people with celiac disease. There is screening available now, but gluten sensitivity often goes undiagnosed. And when it does get diagnosed, people are often left in a "what now?" state of mind. An overwhelming depression over the fact that every food now seems to pose a threat.

The Complete Gluten-Free Diet & Nutrition Guide is a great book for those just starting on their path of either being diagnosed as gluten intolerant or suffering from celiac disease, or for people starting an elimination diet to find if gluten is the culprit behind their digestive woes.

It shows you how to shop, where gluten may be hiding in everyday foods, how to gluten-proof your kitchen, a breakdown on celiac disease and how gluten affects the body of the gluten-intolerant, gluten-free meal plans and over 100 gluten-free recipes for any time of day. It emphasizes maintaining good nutrition and even has a health chart and diet diary for those undergoing an elimination diet.

I think it is the perfect start to investigating or initializing a gluten-free life.

Complete Gluten-Free Diet and Nutrition Guide
With a 30-Day Meal Plan and Over 100 Recipes

Alexandra Anca MHSc RD, Theresa Santandrea-Cull
Paperback, 272 pages

In the KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we whipped up this nutritional powerhouse of a salad. It was absolutely delicious. The book also has recipes for gluten-free baking, if you are so inclined.

Cranberry Mandarin Coleslaw with Walnuts and Raisins
Makes 8 to 10 servings

3 cups shredded red and/or green cabbage
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green onions
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup raisins
½ cup raw green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
½ cup fresh cranberries
½ cup walnut halves
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup brown or natrual rice vinegar
1 can (10 oz/284 mL) mandarin oranges, drained
  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, celery and green onions. Drizzle with lemon juice and toss to coat. Toss in raisins, pumpkin seeds, cranberries and walnuts. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Top with mandarin oranges. Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Raisin Walnut Bread

"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts."
James Beard (1903-1985)

And if that good bread has dried fruits and walnuts, all the better!
This is a simple loaf to make, rich with milk and studded with fruit and nuts. It is as happy at your breakfast table as it would be encompassing your lunchtime fare.
Hopefully, for your sake, you are better at braiding than me. No worries though, this loaf is very forgiving of us incompetent braiders, it tastes wonderful no matter how you shape it. ☺

Raisin Walnut Bread
adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads
for bbd #35 - Breads with Dry Fruits hosted by Taste of Pearl City
Deadline: January 1st, 2011 

3 - 3½ cups AP flour
2 tsp instant dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
1¼ cups hot water (120°-130°F)
¼ cup shortening, room temp
½ cup each raisins and walnuts
(my raisins were a mix of light, dark, and dried cranberries)

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
  • In stand mixer bowl, mix 1½ cups of the flour with all the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour in hot water and add the shortening. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, in ¼ cup intervals, until a nice dough is formed. You may not need all the flour. Make sure the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed. 
  • Form into a ball and let rise for 1½ hours. (Covered)
  • Divide dough into 3 portions. Let rest 10 minutes. 
  • Roll each portion into a snake about 20 inches long. 
  • Braid, from the center. 
  • Lay out on lined baking sheet, making sure ends are well tucked, and let rise 1 hour. (Covered)
  • 20 mins before baking, preheat oven to 375°F
  • Brush with egg wash and bake for about 25 minutes or until nicely golden. 
  • Let cool on wire rack.
This bread has been Yeastspotted!
Bread Baking Day #35 - Bread with dry fruits (last day of submission January 1st 2011)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Armchair Novel Review - Indefensible

Pamela Callow
Paperback, 512 pages

This is the second book in Pamela Callow's Kate Lange series. A gripping, can't-put-it-down can't-get-anything-done-until-I-finish-it murder mystery with expertly crafted plot lines and characters.

Kate Lange, still reeling from her brush with death and the loss of her relationship, finds herself defending her larger than life employer whom everyone, including members of his own firm, would love to see put away for life for the cold-blooded murder of his wife. Even his own son is convinced he did it, and is poised to seek his own justice. 

Part legal mystery but more fast-paced thriller, this intricately woven book will keep you on edge until you finish it. Which is just what I like. Now I can't wait to read the other one! (Damaged, published June 2010)

Also, stay tuned for her third book, Tattooed, coming out August of 2011.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Semolina Bread with Fennel

This is a hearty and nicely textured loaf, enriched with cornmeal, wheat flakes and millet. The added fennel seeds make it a great accompaniment to cheeses and cured meats, grilled veggies and strong mustards. You likely won't be wanting to make PB&J with it, but those jars can wait for the next loaf.

There is the option of retarding the dough in the fridge overnight and, after doing a side-by-side experiment, I suggest you try that option. The dough has a bit more maturity, a nice little tang. 

Hamelman has you shape into rounds and ovals, but many of us who baked through Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice - couldn't help making an S shape.

Semolina Bread with a Soaker and Fennel Seed
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread
for the Mellow Bakers

Early Morning: Soaker

Millet- 2.6 oz
Wheat flakes- 2.6 oz
Coarse cornmeal- 1.3 oz
Hot water- 8 0z

Stir all together in a medium heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at least 4 hours.

Final Dough

Durum flour- 1lb, 3.2 oz
Bread flour- 12.8 oz
Fennel seeds, toasted- 2T
Water- 1 lb, 2.2 oz
Salt- 3½ tsp
Instant dry yeast- 1¾ tsp
Soaker- all

  • Place everything in the stand mixer bowl. With dough hook, mix on first speed for 3 minutes to incorporate all the ingredients thoroughly. Then mix at second speed for 3 minutes. 
  • Ferment 2 hours or overnight. (I did one at the two hours and two at the overnight - I preferred the taste of the overnight loaves.)
  • Fold the dough once during the 2 hour fermentation. 
  • Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Preshape lightly into rounds and place on floured surface, seams up. Let rest 10-20 mins. 
  • Shape into rounds or ovals or even an S shape as I have done (thank you Peter!).
  • Cover and let rise one hour. If you have bannetons or brotforms, you may want to let your dough rise in them. 
  • Preheat oven to 460°F.
  • Bake at 460° for about 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and baked through. 
  • Let cool on wire racks
This bread has been Yeastspotted!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies

Ready for your normal life back? Yeah, me too. Amazing how hyped up the whole holiday can get. It's the next day, the pressure is off. Time to take it a bit easy. Have a second cup of coffee and one or two apricot-oatmeal cookies.

Delicious and chewy, they are half way to being a granola bar and are perfect for packing in your lunch or your purse for some good on-the-go snacking. Not that I am going anywhere. Except possibly back to bed. 

If you are one of those crazy boxing day shoppers - Take a good supply of water and a few of these oatmeal cookies for sustenance. And pick me up something nice. ☺

Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from BHG New Baking Book

¾ cup snipped dried apricots
¾ cup butter, room temp
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In stand mixer bowl, beat butter with flat paddle for 30 seconds on high speed. Add sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Beat until combined. Add egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Then beat in as much flour as it will take, before going by hand and using a large wooden spoon. Mix in oats, apricots and walnuts, stirring the stiff dough until combined.
Drop by tablespoons onto a prepared baking sheet (parchment or silpat) and bake at 375°F for about 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Weekend Novel Review: Carving the Light

Carving the Light
Sue A. Maynard
Paperback, 164 pages

Carving the Light is an emotional and uplifting book about three sisters bonded by tragedy and plagued by personal secrets and shame. It spans love, illness and death, and the power of forgiveness.
Maynard weaves the stories of each sister well, intertwining the past and the present to create a compelling novel. I found that once I picked it up, I had to keep reading until I had finished it.You may want to have a few tissues nearby. ☺

Carving the Light is a Createspace production, available on Amazon.

Author Bio
Sue Maynard was born and raised in the rural Canadian village of Creemore, ON (yes, like the beer), but currently hangs her hat in the much bigger metropolis of She is a proud Browncoat, a horror geek girl, and an overall sci fi nerd. In addition to writing, Sue is a total freak for movies, books, video games, comicons, llamas, paperdolls, shiny things, Coke Zero, and her cat.

She is also a featured Goodreads author.
Check out her blog Writing from The Inside Out.

Happy holidays from my family to yours!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is halfway into biscuit territory. It is a great bread for last minute baking and is wonderful dunked in a hearty Irish stew. The bread is leavened with baking soda and, in this case, baking powder. Buttermilk acts as a catalyst for the rise in the oven and no pre-risings are needed.

By nature Irish soda bread lacks the complexity and sophistication of a delayed-fermentation yeast bread, but it is a good little loaf to have in your repertoire for baking up quickly.  And this one has the added enjoyment of looking like a four leaf clover. And who doesn't love a four leaf clover?

Irish Soda Bread
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread
for the Mellow Bakers

Ingredients (by weight)

Whole wheat pastry flour  5.3 oz
Wheat flakes, lightly ground  2.6 oz
White pastry flour  2.6 oz
Milk powder  4 tsp
Sugar  ½ tsp
Salt  ¾ tsp
Baking soda  1½ tsp
Baking powder  ½ tsp
Buttermilk  9.25 oz

(What the heck's a wheat flake? A wheat flake is like a rolled oat, only made of wheat. Try your local bulk store, or sub in some lightly ground oats.)

Preheat oven to 475°F with a baking stone on the center rack.
Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet in another. Gently combine with a large spatula or wooden spoon. Add more white flour if necessary. (I added about another ½ cup)
Pour out onto floured surface and gently knead together. Make into a ball and, using your bench scraper, create indents almost all the way through - north-south, then east-west. Leave  About a half inch on the bottom.
Place loaf on a parchment paper and load into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 475°F, then lower the temp to 450°F and bake for about another 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Best first day, and also toasted.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Better Food for Kids

Better Food for Kids
Your Essential Guide to Nutrition for All Children from Age 2 to 10 
Second Edition
Joanne Saab RD, Daina Kalnins MSc RD
The Hospital for Sick Children
Softcover, 352 pages

Let me tell you a story...
Once, when we were visiting a couple on the man's side, people I didn't know well.. I was firmly told by the young wife that her kids would never.. fill in the blanks here. Never eat this or that and will be perfect little Stepford children forever. This was not a fun night. Of course, her children were two and under, having had zero outside influence - yet.

We all start out with great plans to feed our own children the best of the best and never let them see a fast food joint or food from a box.. but that gets compromised when they actually meet other children! Food is social, they are going to start wanting what they see on t.v. and what their friends are eating. This doesn't mean the death knell for all your plans for healthy children though - it just means that you have to get creative.

Joanne Saab and Daina Kalnins, both registered dietitians who work in pediatric nutrition at The Hospital for Sick Children and mothers of small kids themselves, have put together this updated, revised and expanded edition of Better Food for Kids.

The book is filled with nutritional advice, goes through all the age groups from 2-10 with delicious and nutritious recipes that kids will enjoy eating. They include all the nutritional information for each dish, as well as chapters on Essential Foods and Nutrients, Important Vitamins and Minerals, Vegetarian Diets, Avoiding Food Contamination, Food Allergy and Intolerance, Disturbances in Bowel Function, and Childhood Obesity.

I myself have three children. And three children means three different eating styles. Seriously, you wonder how three siblings can end up so different. While my children are older and my daughter is very adventurous with Eastern, often vegetarian cuisine, my boys still prefer simple foods - especially when I make homemade versions of take-out classics.

This is an opportunity to make what seems like a treat into a nutritional powerhouse. When we tested a couple of the recipes, we went for the slightly older ones. Twists on classic tacos and pizza - all totally healthy and totally delicious. These are recipes that you can have fun with, and serve to your children with pride.

Mushroom and Broccoli Stromboli 
Makes 4 - 6 servings

Stromboli is an enclosed sandwich made of pizza dough filled with a variety of fillings. It is similar to a calzone or a panzerotto. Serve with tomato pasta sauce for dipping. 

Kitchen Tip
Bake the stromboli in the bottom third of the oven.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
  • Baking sheet, lined with parchment or greased
1 cup broccoli florets
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
½ red or yellow bell pepper, chopped (I subbed zucchini)
½ tsp dried basil
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough
2/3 cup tomato pasta sauce
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
½ cup chopped pepperoni (optional) 

  1. In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook broccoli for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. 
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat half the oil over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms, garlic, red pepper, basil, salt and pepper for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add broccoli and set aside. 
  3. Divide dough into 4 pieces. On a floured work surface, roll or stretch each piece of dough into an 8- by 6- inch (20 by 15 cm) oval. 
  4. Spread pasta sauce over each oval, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with mushroom mixture, cheese and pepperoni (if using). Fold short ends over filling, overlapping to enclose it, leaving the sides open. Pinch seam to seal. 
  5. Place on prepared baking sheet and brush dough with remaining oil. Bake in  preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until dough is puffed and golden. 

Fish Tacos
Makes 8 tacos

These are a nutritious change from beef tacos. Set out all of the toppings in bowls so everyone can help themselves.
  • Preheat broiler
  • Baking sheet, lined with foil and greased
1 lb skinless white fish fillets, such as sole or cod
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp dried oregano
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 lime wedges
8 6-inch (15 cm) flour or corn tortillas, warmed
1 plum (Roma) tomato, chopped
½ avocado, diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
½ cup salsa
¼ cup light sour cream or plain yogurt

  1. Arrange fish fillets on prepared baking sheet. Brush with oil. Sprinkle with chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Broil for about 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Squeeze lime wedges over fish.
  2. Break fish into chunks and divide among tortillas. Top with tomato, avocado, cilantro (if using), salsa and sour cream. Fold in sides of tortillas and roll up from the bottom. 
Since we are talking about healthy children, why not consider a donation to The Hospital for Sick Children or your own local children's hospital this holiday?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sweet and Sour Shrimp, hold the cherries

This is an excellent take-out dish that you can make in your own kitchen for a fraction of what it would cost to purchase. I love the mix of heat and sweet... except for those cherries. As pretty as they look, I picked them out. Maraschino cherries belong in the bottom of a cocktail. Possibly garnishing a banana split. But not in sweet and sour shrimp.

But the rest is fantastic! I recommend fresh pineapple, it really does make a difference. I also recommend increasing the garlic and hot pepper flakes. But then I always recommend increasing them. I'm fun like that.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, Food Network 2003

    4 servings


    * 6 tablespoons chicken stock or water
    * 3 tablespoons ketchup
    * 3 tablespoons sugar
    * 3 tablespoons pineapple or orange juice
    * 2 tablespoons vinegar
    * 2 teaspoons soy sauce
    * 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use more!)
    * 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    * 1 pound shrimp
    * 2 teaspoons minced ginger
    * 2 teaspoons minced garlic (use more!)
    * 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
    * 1 cup thinly sliced onions
    * 1 cup 1-inch chunks green bell peppers
    * 1 cup pineapple chunks
    * 12 maraschino cherries
    * 6 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
    * Hot white rice, accompaniment


To make the sauce, in a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of stock, the ketchup, sugar, juice, vinegar, soy, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper flakes. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stock and stir to dissolve. Set aside.

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the ginger, garlic, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes. Set aside for 10 to 20 minutes.

Heat a large wok over high heat. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the shrimp, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan. Add the onions and peppers and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the sauce and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Return the shrimp to the pan and add the pineapples, cherries, and green onions. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and serve over rice.

Monday, 20 December 2010

English Muffin Bread

I know, sounds crazy doesn't it? English muffins are, by definition.. well, not in loaf form anyway. But this loaf is decidedly English muffiny and lovely toasted up with your favourite big breakfast affair. Which, of course, should never be limited to the morning. There is something decidedly decadent about eggs and bacon and potatoes and English muffin bread.. for dinner.

Also, who has the energy in the morning to cook all that? Not me. My kids realize that if I promise a fancy breakfast.. they won't see it before noon. It's just the way I roll, back to bed. Not a morning person.

This month we will be baking English muffin bread. As the name implies, this bread toasts up just like an English muffin and is made to be enjoyed with butter and jam.
The basic recipe was inspired by King Arthur Flour.

English Muffin Bread
December's Bread of the Month at the Artisan Bread Bakers group. 


• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 tablespoon instant yeast
• 1 cup milk
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan


1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast in a large mixing bowl.
2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. The liquid should be hotter than lukewarm, but not so hot that it would scald you.
3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute, or mix thoroughly with a dough whisk or sturdy spoon. The dough will be very soft.
5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
6) Scrape the dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.
7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the dough is almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
8) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 20 to 22 minutes, until it is golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf

This bread has been Yeastspotted!