Friday, 30 September 2011

Cutie Pies! Recipe for Pear-Cranberry-Ginger Cutie Pies

Cutie Pies
40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes

by Dani Cone
Hardcover, 7x7 in., 160 pages

Dear cupcakes: you've had a good run, but now it's time for the cutest little pies ever!

And I am totally a pie person. Especially fruit pies. And Cutie Pies has the most deliciously adorable recipes and presentation ideas. 

The pies, both savoury and sweet, are arranged by size: Cutie Pies (muffin sized), Petit-5s (mini-muffin sized), PieJars (see cover shot), FlipSides (hand pies), PiePops (pie on a stick!), and Full-Sized Pies. And each come instructions on how to convert to a different presentation style, if you wish.

There are alternate crusts, including vegan and gluten-free, and a wide variety of pies guaranteed to make you a hit at the next party!

Dani Cone is owner of High 5 Pie, the inspiration for the book, as well as three Fuel Coffee locations in Seattle. Now you can create her adorable pies in the comfort of your own home.

Cutie Pies also makes for a great hostess gift. 

Pear-Cranberry-Ginger Cutie Pies
makes 16 Cutie Pies (or 1 Double-Crust 9-inch Pie, 1 Double-Crust 7-inch Deep-Dish Pie, 36 Petit-5s, 10 Flipsides, 50 Piepops, 8 Piejars)

This recipe will be your new holiday favorite. Bring these Cutie Pies to your next holiday party and wow ’em! Festive cranberries and the freshness of fall- harvested pears make a tasty combination, and a little kick of ginger makes the flavor unique.

¾ cup water
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 (16-ounce) bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
4 medium-sized Bosc pears
½ teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
All-Butter Crust (page 2)
Crumb Top (page 16), optional
Whipped cream lightly flavored with vanilla and a hint of ginger, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Spray the cups of a muffin pan with nonstick pan spray.

2. To make the pie filling, in a large saucepan, stir the water and sugar to combine. Bring the water-sugar mixture to a boil over medium-high, and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.

3. Add the cranberries to the sugar mixture, and lower the heat. Simmer the cranberries for about 10 minutes or until the cranberries start to pop. Drain the cranberries and set them aside.

4. Peel, core, and cut the pears into 1/2-inch cubes. 5. In a large bowl, mix together the pears, ginger, and cornstarch. Add the cranberries and stir to combine.

6. To make the crust, follow the All-Butter Crust recipe and roll out the dough per the instructions.

7. Cut 16 (51/2-inch-diameter) circles from the dough. Reroll the dough scraps to make all the circles, and avoid overhandling the dough.

8. Gently but firmly press each dough circle into a muffin cup. For the crust edges, use the fold-tuck-crimp method (see page 13) for each Cutie Pie.

9. Spoon the filling evenly into the Cutie Pie shells, and set aside.

10. If choosing the Crumb Top option, follow the Crumb Top recipe and sprinkle it over the filling.

11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. To see if the crust
bottom is golden, too, use a butter knife to pop a Cutie Pie out of a muffin cup. If the bottom is not brown, bake a few minutes longer. If the pie top is browning too quickly, cover with foil for the final few minutes.

Crust options: all-butter (or vegan, gluten-Free) Shape options: Cutie Pie (or 9-inch Pie, 7-inch Deep-Dish Pie, Petit-5, Flipside, Piepop, Piejar) 24 Cutie Pies

Even the layout is adorable!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Pastine di Ricotta e Marmellata

It's a new season and our online cooking club has a new featured cook - Tessa Kiros! If you haven't heard of her yet, you are in for a treat. Her books are gorgeous, as much travelogues and coffee-table works of art as they are delicious recipe books.

We'll be cooking with Tessa for the next six months, you are more than welcome to join us!

This week's cooking club theme is a Welcome one. Party foods are perfect, as are cute little nibblies like these jam-filled turnovers. The pastry is interesting in that you use soft butter, rather than the usual cold to frozen that I am used to with pastry, ricotta is mixed right into the dough, and the dough itself is unsweetened. For the filling, you can use your favourite jam or jams. I used the plum and cardamom conserve that I made a little while back - absolutely perfect in these cute little turnovers.

I hope you join us in getting to know Tessa Kiros better this term, we are already off to a delicious start!

Pastine di Ricotta e Marmellata
adapted from Twelve, by Tessa Kiros
for IHCC *Welcome Tessa!*

200 gr unsalted butter, softened by leaving out at room temp for a few hours
300 gr fresh ricotta cheese, drained if quite wet
300 gr all purpose flour
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) baking powder
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract

about 300 gr of your favourite jam or jams

icing sugar for dusting

Mix pastry ingredients together with a wooden spoon: first the cheese and butter and then add the flour, baking powder and vanilla. Knead together into a ball and place in a freezer bag in the fridge for an hour or two or even overnight if you wish.

Preheat oven to 180°C, with a rack in the middle.
On a floured board: roll out pastry. I found this easier to do in two batches. 
Roll to about 3 mm thickness and cut into 8-10 cm squares. I used my pizza roller. 
Pick up each square and place a heaping teaspoon of jam in the middle. Fold over and use a fork to seal the edges.
Place on a silpat or parchment line large baking sheet.
Bake 20 minutes, turn pan around and bake approximately another 10 minutes- until they are lightly golden.
Cool on racks and sprinkle with icing sugar.

IHCC IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tre Stelle: Fun with Bocconcini!

Bocconcini are fun little morsels of fresh mozzarella cheese, just perfect for making appetizers for your next get-together. I love making mini skewers with them, paring them with other similar-sized morsels of tomatoes, olives, grapes.. and fresh herbs of course! But you can also get a little fancier. Try these Southwest Bocconcini Salad Cups, or Jalapeno Bocconcini Grills (below) for your next party!
‘Small mouthfuls’ is the literal translation of the Italian word Bocconcini. These little balls of fresh mozzarella are made with 100% milk and have a firm but yielding texture and subtle milky flavour.

Bocconcini is made by a process known as pasta filata – curds are dipped into hot whey and then kneaded, pulled and shaped before being packed in water to preserve freshness.
Tre Stelle® Bocconcini Cheese stands ready to play an important supporting role in salads, soups, appetizers, sandwiches, pizzas and more.

Tre Stelle® takes the ‘little mouthfuls’ concept even further, with ‘mini mini’ and ‘Pearls’ variations that add versatility to this delicious cheese. Light versions of Tre Stelle® Regular and mini mini Bocconcini are also available.

Click here for more bocconcini recipe from Tre Stelle!

Southwest Bocconcini Salad Cups
recipe and image courtesy of Tre Stelle

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (60 mL) cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cumin
pinch chili powder
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
2 fresh limes, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tub (200 g) Tre Stelle® Bocconcini Cheese Pearls, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) canned chick peas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
3 sheets filo pastry
melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 & 730° F (180 & 730° C).
Layer and butter three sheets of filo pastry. Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
Cut filo into squares one half-inch wider that the muffin cups. Press carefully into tins so that the pastry fits snugly into the cups.
Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly golden.

In a medium bowl combine garlic, cilantro, onion, cumin, chili powder, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add Bocconcini Cheese, jalapeno and chick peas, toss gently. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes before assembling. Bring mixture to room temperature before serving. Fill filo cups and serve immediately.

Makes 18 mini cups

Jalapeno Bocconcini Grills
recipe and image courtesy of Tre Stelle

1 tub (200 g) Tre Stelle® Mini Mini Bocconcini Cheese, drained

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika
1 tbsp (15 mL) parsley, fined minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) balsamic vinegar

9 fresh jalapeno peppers
9 rashers thinly sliced bacon, cut into halves
toothpicks for assembly

In a medium bowl combine Bocconcini Cheese with marinade ingredients; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the jalapeno peppers lengthwise, keeping the stems intact – remove seeds (we recommend wearing gloves).

Place 2-3 Bocconcini into the halves of each pepper, wrap with bacon and secure with toothpicks.

Preheat barbeque or indoor grill. Place peppers on grill and barbeque, cut halves up, until bacon begins to crisp and peppers soften. Carefully turn peppers open side down and quickly grill only until cheese begins to melt.

Makes 18 grills

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Time to Get Out the Slow Cooker!

That's one of the great things about fall, isn't it? Cozy flavours, long cooking meals. Actually wanting warmth in your foods. And we can get re-acquainted with our slow cookers.

50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker is a veggie cookbook, actually my favourite kind of veggie cookbook in that you don't even realize that it is veggie. It has a broad selection of soups with great flavour and variety.

Lynn Alley is a veteran cookbook writer, with titles such as The Gourmet Slow Cooker (Vols 1&2), The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker, The Gourmet Toaster Oven and Lost Arts: A Celebration of Culinary Traditions. She presents 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker as Easy on the Planet, the Palate, and the Pocketbook. What could be better than that?

We tried these delicious fall soups this month, a Spiced Apple Pie Soup that tasted like autumn itself, and a deep and earthy Black Bean Chili with Corn Bread Crust - with all the fixings of course!

Go ahead and break out your slow cooker, and give these recipes a try!

50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker
by Lynn Alley

6½ x 6½ in.
Hardcover, 104 pages, 15 full-sized photos

Spiced Apple Pie Soup
From 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker

If you’ve got a burning desire to keep ’em down on the farm during the fall or winter holiday season, here’s the perfect way to do it. Fill the house with the smell of spiced apples. I recommend using Granny Smith apples, as most other apple varieties are likely to produce a weaker version of this soup. You need acid and flavor, and the Granny Smith delivers both.

Try to find organic apples, then leave the skins intact as most of the flavor and nutrients are found in or just under the skins of the fruit. Use your imagination when it comes to garnishes: perhaps some chopped, toasted walnuts, grated sharp cheddar cheese, or a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Serves 4 to 6

1 stick cinnamon
6 cloves
6 allspice berries
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
5 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored, and sliced
5 cups water
2/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
3 to 4 tablespoons honey (optional)
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt or sour cream

Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to a fine powder.

Place the butter and apples in a 7-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours, until the apples are soft and the juice nice and browned. Mash any large pieces of apple, then add the water, spices, and raisins and continue cooking for 2 hours longer.

Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and honey. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the yogurt.

Indispensable Tools of the Trade: The Spice Grinder
Spices will taste brighter and fresher if ground just before using, just like the pepper that is ground fresh over your salad at table. This may sound like a lot of work at first, but once you’ve got a system, the rest is easy. It is generally simplest to buy spices in bulk, keep them in the freezer, and pull whatever spice out of the freezer and grind it as you need it. Spices can be ground with an electric mill or by hand with a mortar and pestle. If you are truly pressed for time, feel free to substitute commercially ground spices for the whole spices recommended in the recipes. Substituting 1 teaspoon of whole spice for 1 teaspoon of ground spice should get you close enough!

Delicious! Tastes like autumn!
Black Bean Chili with Cornbread Crust
From 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker 

Ahhh . . . I love this stuff. This is not your ordinary chili but reflects the rich combinations of ingredients found in real Mexican cuisine. You might even think of it as a bean mole, since it combines many of the spices and ingredients, including both chile powder and cocoa powder, usually found in mole poblano. It’s got guts and flavor, and I love it with or without the cornbread crust. It’s best sprinkled with lots of cheese, sliced olives, scallions, and cilantro.

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound (2 cups) dried black beans
6 cups water
6 allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon aniseed
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 to 2 tablespoons chile powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Cornbread crust
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream or nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Rinse the beans thoroughly and place them, along with the water, in a 7-quart slow cooker. In a spice mill or mortar and pestle, grind the allspice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and aniseed. Add the spices, along with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, bell peppers, oregano, chile powder, and cocoa powder to the beans. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, until the beans are tender. Turn the slow cooker up to HIGH.

To make the crust, in a food processor pulse the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly mixed. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, and buttermilk and pulse until the liquid ingredients are thoroughly mixed in with the dry. Spread the cornbread mixture over the top of the chili, or drop large spoonfuls around the surface of the chili, and continue cooking on HIGH with the lid slightly ajar for 1 hour longer, or until a toothpick inserted into the crust comes out clean. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of scallions, olives, and cilantro.

A Word About Beans

Bean cooking times may vary, sometimes greatly, in accordance with the condition of the beans themselves. Beans that have recently been harvested are likely to be in good condition; beans that have been sitting on the shelf for a long time may take a very long time to cook. Try to purchase beans from a source with a rapid turnover rate, and check the package. If the beans look chipped or there are “crumbs” in the package, chances are the beans have been sitting around for a long time.

The crust bakes right in the slow cooker!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Nick Malgieri's Fig and Almond Bread

This is a delicious bread, nutty and a little sweet (but not so sweet that you can't make a salami sandwich out of it!) from bread and pastry baker Nick Malgieri (who is also nutty and a little sweet ;-). He's working on a delicious new book for 2012 and has given us a sneak preview of a couple of recipes to tide us over until the release date!

You can make this in one day, and impress your loved ones with its wonderful flavours. I kept the almond and fig chunks fairly large and they made for a lovely, lumpy loaf of goodness.

Try it this weekend!

Fig and Almond Bread
September's Bread of the Month
a sneak preview by Nick Malgieri

Makes two small round loaves, each about 8 inches in diameter

1 cup/about 6-7 ounces/230 grams dried Calimyrna figs

1 cup/5.5 ounces/150 grams whole unblanched almonds, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

1 3/4 cup/375 grams room temperature tap water, about 75°F

2 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

3 cups/400 grams bread flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 cup/135 grams whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon/15 grams sugar

2 teaspoons/14 grams salt

Olive or vegetable oil for the bowl

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the loaves after baking

A heavy 12 x 18-inch jellyroll pan dusted with cornmeal, plus a spray bottle filled with warm water

1.  Snip the stems from the figs; if they’re at all hard or dried out put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Let them steep for 15 minutes, the drain and pat dry with paper towels before cutting into 1/2-inch dice.

2.  Pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the yeast.  Wait 30 seconds and whisk again.

3.  Mix the flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, and salt together and use a large rubber spatula to stir them into the liquid a little at a time until you’ve used all the flour.  Make sure all the flour is mixed into the liquid and there isn’t any clinging to the side of the bowl.

4.  Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook.  Mix on lowest speed until the dough comes together around the dough hook, a minute or two.    Stop the mixer and pull the dough away from the hook; let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

5.  Increase the mixer speed to low/medium and mix until the dough is smoother and more elastic, about 2 to 3 minutes longer.  Add the figs and almonds and mix another minute to distribute them as well as possible throughout the dough.  They’ll be more evenly mixed after the turns are given to the dough.

6.  Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it starts to puff, about 30 minutes.

7.  Scrape the dough to a floured work surface, flour your hands, and give the dough 2 turns as described at the end of the recipe.

8.  Repeat steps 6 and 7.

9.  Let the dough ferment until it has fully doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes longer.

10.  To shape the dough into loaves, use a flexible plastic scraper to slide it from the bowl, right side up, to a floured work surface; try to keep from deflating the dough.  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Round each loaf by pushing against the bottom of the dough all around with the sides of your hands held palms upward.  The dough will quickly form an even sphere.

11.  Place the loaves well apart on the prepared pan and cover them with a flat-weave towel or piece of sprayed or oiled plastic wrap.  Let the loaves rest until they start to puff again, about 30 minutes.

12.  As soon as you cover the loaves, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

13.  Once the loaves are proofed to about 50% larger than their original size, flour the palms of your hands and gently press to flatten them to about 1-inch/2.5-cm thick.

14.  Use an exacto knife or single-edge razor blade to cut a deep slash across the diameter of the loaf, and another at a 90-degree angle to it, or cut 4 overlapping slashes to form a square.  Generously spray the loaves with water.  Place the pan in the oven.

15.  Wait 2 minutes, then open the oven and spray the loaf again.

16.  Repeat step 15.

17.  Wait 2 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

18.  Bake the loaves until they’re well risen, deep golden, and the internal temperature reads 200°F. on an instant read thermometer, about 30 minutes.

19.  Place the baked loaves on a rack and brush them all over with the melted butter; cool completely.  Serve the same day or wrap loosely and keep at room temperature for a day or so.  Wrap and freeze for longer storage.

Turning the Dough:  Generously flour the work surface; scrape the dough onto it.  Flour your hands and gently flatten the dough to a disk.  Fold the two sides in to meet at the middle, then roll the top toward you all the way to the end.  Invert (seam side up), flatten and repeat.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Tame Your Rice Cooker!

Just using your rice cooker for steaming rice? Sure, it makes perfect rice, rice that is happy to sit and wait until the rest of your dinner is ready, but why not get it to work harder for you?

After all, your rice cooker is a machine -and it is your machine. You can get a rice cooker at Walmart. You're not going to be intimidated by something you can find at Walmart, are you? I thought not.

Did you know you can sauté in that thing? Make gourmet meals? Make your whole darned dinner in there?
Heck, you can even steam in your rice cooker. (Remember that perforated basket you took out and put under the stack of bowls in the high cupboard?)

Katie Chin gives you the ultimate guide to utilizing your rice cooker to the fullest. In 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes, you will find a detailed guide to using your rice cooker, a guide to all different kinds of rice, tips on using your rice cooker for other grains and legumes, and a whole slew of recipes (300) from breakfast to dessert!

It's time to get to know your rice cooker better, it just might be the hardest working appliance in your kitchen!

In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we whipped up the Lemony Risotto with Shrimp and the Wild Rice and Pork Stew. I was amazed how well they turned out! I have a whole new appreciation for my little machine. Try one this weekend!

(I have just a regular on/off rice cooker and the recipes turned out great in it. Santa, if you are reading, feel free to send me a fuzzy logic one for Christmas. They look cool. ☺)
Mine is served on a bed of baby arugula, for colour and added nutrition. Plus, arugula goes great with lemon!
Lemony Risotto with Shrimp
Makes 4 to 6 servings

I love the refreshing burst of lemon in this dish, and it's a fantastic recipe to make when fresh corn is in season. Vibrant pink shrimp make it a colorful dish for entertaining. Serve with a mixed green salad for an easy, breezy dinner.

To blanch fresh corn kernels, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add corn and boil for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender-crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer corn to a bowl of ice water and let cool completely. Drain.
Try using Meyer lemons for the juice and zest.

This risotto will hold on the Keep Warm cycle for about 1 hour, but you'll need to add 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) more broth for a creamy consistency. Wait until you're ready to serve before folding in the Parmesan, seasoning and garnishing.

•    Medium to large rice cooker; fuzzy logic (preferred) or on/off

2 tbsp    extra virgin olive oil    30 mL
5 tsp    butter, divided    25 mL
1 cup    finely chopped onion    250 mL
1 tbsp    finely grated lemon zest    15 mL
1 cup    Arborio rice    250 mL
1⁄4 cup    white wine    60 mL
3 cups    chicken broth    750 mL
12    medium shrimp, peeled and deveined    12
1 cup    blanched fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels    250 mL
    (see tip, at left)
3 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice    45 mL
1⁄2 cup    freshly grated Parmesan cheese    125 mL
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Finely chopped fresh parsley
    Lemon wedges
    Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.    Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle. When the bottom of the bowl gets hot, add oil and 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter and let butter melt. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes or until softened and translucent. Stir in lemon zest.
2.    Stir in rice until completely coated. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until mostly translucent and only a dot of white remains. Stir in wine and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until evaporated. Stir in broth. Close the lid and reset for the Porridge or Regular cycle. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Stir two or three times while the risotto is cooking.
3.    When the timer sounds, fold in shrimp, corn and lemon juice. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
4.    When the timer sounds, check to make sure risotto is al dente and shrimp are pink and opaque. If necessary, continue cooking, checking for doneness every 5 minutes. Fold in the remaining butter. Fold in Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and lemon wedges. Serve additional Parmesan on the side.

Substitute 1 cup (250 mL) chopped grilled chicken for the shrimp, adding it with the Parmesan.

Excerpted from 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Wild Rice and Pork Stew
Makes 4 to 6 servings

The nutty flavor of wild rice and aromatic fennel bring great depth to this autumnal stew, and it's a breeze to put together. Serve it with buttered rye bread and enjoy!

Toasting fennel seeds intensifies their flavor. Toast them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until fragrant. Immediately transfer to a spice grinder and let cool, then grind to a fine powder.
Try using a wild rice blend, such as Lundberg Farms.
Although cooking this stew on the Brown Rice cycle takes an hour longer, it's worth it for the superior results.

•    Medium to large rice cooker; fuzzy logic or on/off

2 tbsp    extra virgin olive oil    30 mL
1⁄2 cup    finely chopped onion    125 mL
1 lb    boneless pork shoulder blade (butt) roast,     500 g
    cut into 2- by 1-inch (5 by 2.5 cm) pieces
2 tsp    salt, divided    10 mL
1⁄2 tsp    fennel seeds, toasted and ground     2 mL
    (see tip, at left)
1⁄2 tsp    chili powder    2 mL
1⁄4 tsp    ground cumin    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    freshly ground black pepper    1 mL
31⁄2 cups    chicken broth    875 mL
2    tomatoes, diced    2
1    can (14 oz/398 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice    1
1    bay leaf    1
1 cup    wild rice, rinsed and drained    250 mL
1⁄4 cup    chopped green onions (green and white parts)    60 mL

1.    Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle. When the bottom of the bowl gets hot, add oil and swirl to coat. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add pork, 1 tsp (5 mL) salt, fennel seeds, chili powder, cumin and pepper; sauté for 10 minutes or until pork is browned on all sides.
2.    Stir in broth. Close the lid and reset for the Regular cycle. Set a timer for 45 minutes.
3.    When the timer sounds, check to make sure pork is fork_tender. If necessary, continue cooking, checking for doneness every 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a cutting board.
4.    Add fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes with juice, bay leaf, rice and the remaining salt to the rice cooker bowl. Close the lid and reset for the Regular cycle. Set the timer for 55 minutes. (Or reset for the Brown Rice cycle and set a timer for 1 hour and 55 minutes.)
5.    Meanwhile, shred pork and transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate.
6.    When the timer sounds, check to make sure rice is tender. If necessary, continue cooking, checking for doneness every 5 minutes. Switch to the Keep Warm cycle. Stir in shredded pork and green onions. Let stand for 15 minutes, then serve immediately.

Excerpted from 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
This is their photo, which looks better than mine. In my defense - it is very difficult to photograph stew!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Jamie's Perfect Roast Chicken

It's always a little sad to get to the end of a term with a featured cook in our cooking club. Jamie Oliver has had such a vast array of recipes and we have had a blast cooking with him. We enjoyed his commitment to quality ingredients and to the nutrition of the nations, especially children. So for the last Jamie dish, I cooked up a meal for my own son - Jamie's Perfect Roast Chicken. A meal so lovely, my son shed his superman pajamas and put on real pants for dinner. It's that good.

I roasted mine in a large cast-iron pan, doubled the carrots, peeled the onions, and cut the garlic in half. I also started the bird upside-down for the first half, for even browning. Not necessary, of course, but something I have been doing lately. Those veggies that roast along with the chicken are like candy. Chicken fat candy. Yum.

Whip up some mashies, and make a quick pan gravy when the chicken is resting, and you have a beautiful meal, my friends. Don't be surprised if your loved ones deem it pants-worthy.

Oh, and who is the new cook replacing Jamie at our cooking club? The lovely and talented Tessa Kiros! You are cordially welcome to join us in cooking with Tessa for the next six months.

Bon Appetit!
Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Chicken
4-6 servings


• 1 x approximately 1.6kg chicken, preferably free-range, organic or higher welfare
• 2 medium onions
• 2 carrots
• 2 sticks of celery
• 1 bulb of garlic
• olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 lemon
a small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture


To prepare your chicken
• Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven
• Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9
• There’s no need to peel the vegetables – just give them a wash and roughly chop them
• Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled
• Pile all the veg and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil
• Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird
• Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour)
• Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs

To cook your chicken

• Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven
• Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes
• If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking
• Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning
• When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so
• Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside. Now is the time to make your gravy

To carve your chicken
• Remove any string from the chicken and take off the wings (break them up and add to your gravy for mega flavour)
• Carefully cut down between the leg and the breast
• Cut through the joint and pull the leg off
• Repeat on the other side, then cut each leg between the thigh and the drumstick so you end up with four portions of dark meat
• Place these on a serving platter
• You should now have a clear space to carve the rest of your chicken
• Angle the knife along the breastbone and carve one side off, then the other
• When you get down to the fussy bits, just use your fingers to pull all the meat off, and turn the chicken over to get all the tasty, juicy bits from underneath
• You should be left with a stripped carcass, and a platter full of lovely meat that you can serve with your piping hot gravy and gorgeous roast veg

(Don't forget to make stock out of the carcass!)


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Girard's Greek Roasted Cauliflower

Like most condiments, I like to make my own, and have some bottled ones in the pantry. Girard's Premium Salad Dressings are perfect for quick sides and salads - and did you know you can use them in some hot dishes as well?

I like Girard's Premium Dressings as they have a wide array of flavours and styles and they come in pretty glass bottles that I like to keep for my homemade hot sauces and such. The new lines are now lower in salt and sugars, making them a little more figure-friendly without sacrificing flavour.

Try their Greek Roasted Cauliflower for a perfect September side on a busy night!

Girard's Greek Roasted Cauliflower
recipe and photo compliments of Girard's Premium Dressings

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes     

Roasting cauliflower brings out its flavor and makes it the perfect base for this dish, which also includes Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and Girard’s® Greek Feta Vinaigrette Dressing.
1/3 cup Girard’s® Greek Feta Vinaigrette Dressing
1 large head cauliflower, broken into 2” pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup diced or sliced roasted red pepper (packed in water, drained and chopped)
2 tablespoons pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Transfer cauliflower pieces to a baking tray. Add olive oil and toss together to cover pieces with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 17 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan halfway into the roasting time. Cauliflower should be tender and slightly caramelized.

Transfer cauliflower to a serving bowl; add remaining ingredients and pour Girard’s® Greek Feta Vinaigrette Dressing over all. Serve.
Click here for some more great recipes from Girard's Premium Dressings.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Jamie's Rosemary and Raisin Bread

This is our second-to-last week of cooking with Jamie Oliver in our online cooking club. I can't believe six months is over already. But soon we will be spending six months discovering the exotic cuisine of Tessa Kiros and we are all very excited. You are heartily welcome to join us!

This week's them was bread - bake your own or feature it in a recipe - and you know I don't knead much prompting to make bread! Jamie has several fun recipes for bread, most based on a basic loaf recipe. I've simplified it even further and this makes for a perfect starter recipe for any bread baker. The rosemary and raisins complement each other beautifully and give an exotic flavour to this simple loaf. Try it yourself!

Rosemary and Raisin Bread
adapted from Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Kitchen
makes one loaf

1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
just over 1 cup tepid water

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt

few sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
2 handfuls raisins

Sprinkle the yeast over the water in your stand mixer bowl, stir in honey and let stand 10 minutes, until bubbly.
Add flour and salt and mix on low until it pulls together.
Add raisins and rosemary and mix for 3 minutes on low, adjust hydration as necessary.
Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead until you have a smooth dough.
Form into a ball and let rise in a clean bowl, covered, for about an hour. Until doubled in size.
Punch down and shape into a log.
Place seam-side down on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkled with some coarse whole wheat flour.
Let rise about an hour, until doubled in size.
Score loaf in long slashes. 
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Turn pan around for even browning, and bake another 10 minutes.
Let cool completely on rack.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

IHCCJamieOliver IHCC

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cucina Povera

 Cucina Povera
Tuscan Peasant Cooking
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Hardcover, 192 pages

“Si stava meglio quando si stava peggio (we were better off when things were worse)” 

Italians are known for their resourcefulness and economy in feeding their families, especially in lean times, without sacrificing flavour. The interesting thing is, the quality of the food was higher in those lean times than in times of plenty. Nothing went to waste.

Pamela Sheldon Johns is the author of 14 cookbooks and hosts tours and cooking workshops in the most beautiful areas of Italy. Cucina Povera celebrates the beauty of simple Italian foods made with local and seasonal ingredients. She invites you to slow down and savour the food of a simpler time. No pre-packaged and overly processed ingredients, just clean, honest and delicious fare. These are the kinds of dishes to savour slowly, with a lovely bottle of wine and good friends.

The chapters include:
Meats & Seafoods
Side Dishes
Bread & Sweets

The book gives a beautiful history of cucina povera in different regions of Italy. You'll enjoy reading it as much as you enjoy cooking from it.

We cooked up Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo Roasted Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce and Insalata di Farro Farro Salad, two deliciously wholesome meals that delighted the family. Try them yourself this weekend!

Buon Appetito!

Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo 
Roasted Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce
— From Cucina Povera/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Vin santo is a Tuscan dessert wine made with dried grapes. Marsala makes a good substitute, or you can use a good dry white wine. Adjust the cooking time according to the size of chicken you use. When the chicken is done, an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh and not touching bone will register 165° F, or the juices will run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife.

3 tablespoons aromatic herbs minced with salt (page 41), or your preferred combination of fresh herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chicken, about 3 pounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vin santo or sweet Marsala wine

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a small roasting pan or heatproof casserole.

In a small bowl, combine the herb mixture with the garlic. Loosen the skin of the breast of the chicken and spread the herb mixture under the skin. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on its side in the prepared pan and roast for 15 minutes, then turn and roast on the second side for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken onto its back and roast for 30 minutes, or until the chicken tests done.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm. Set the roasting pan over medium heat and add the wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook to reduce the liquid by half. Drizzle the pan sauce over the roasted chicken and serve at once.

Serves 6
Insalata di Farro
Farro Salad
— From Cucina Povera/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Farro is an ancient strain of wheat with a high protein content and a nutty flavor. It can be found in natural foods and gourmet foods stores whole, cracked, or ground into flour. This dish can be served warm as a winter side dish, or chilled for a summer salad.

2 cups whole-grain farro (I used kamut)
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 green onions, including 1 inch of green parts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, diced (I added cucumber, after the cooking)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and diced
2 cups chicken stock (page 173), heated
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces spicy salame, diced
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving

Soak the farro in water to cover for at least 1 hour or overnight.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, garlic, zucchini, and bell pepper and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Drain the farro and add to the pan, cover, and decrease the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the farro is tender and the stock has been absorbed. Stir in the chickpeas and salame. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining ¼ cup olive oil together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fluff the farro with a fork. Stir in the dressing. Serve warm or chilled, on lettuce leaves.

Serves 6