Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Panini Time!

My life these days consists mostly of hockey, hockey and more hockey.  Hubby is a Bruins fan and I'm a Habs fan.  Tonight is a big night in this house!  Currently the national anthems are playing in Boston and we are sitting on opposite sides of the room with our game faces on.  I would like to say that it has been a friendly round of hockey but that would be a lie.  Every game night is filled with trash talking and usually ends with an argument, not even kidding a little:) 

I tried to make a really tasty dinner to get on his good side before the Habs kick some Bruin behind.  I put together some Grilled Portobello and Goat Cheese Panini's. I started with a homemade pesto, then grilled some portobello mushrooms.  The pesto is fantastic and I will definitely make this same panini with some chicken instead of the mushroom.   

I would suggest a side dish, soup or a salad, if you make them with mushrooms.  With chicken I think it would be a more complete meal.  This would make a great hot summer day dinner.  Definitely give the pesto a try! 

Grilled Portobello and Goat Cheese Panini


  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as manzanilla, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. pecans
  • 1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed, and wiped clean
  • 4 soft round rolls
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled

  1. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, heat a nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat.
  2. While the press is heating, put the basil, olives, nuts, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, add 6 Tbs. of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube and continue to process until thick and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Brush the mushrooms with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them on the press, pull the top down, and cook until softened and browned, 5 minutes (or cook in the grill pan, flipping once). Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.
  4. Spread the pesto on the bottom halves of the rolls. Put 1 mushrooms on each and then some cheese. Top the sandwiches with the other halves of the rolls. Brush both sides of the sandwiches with the remaining 2 tsp. oil.
  5. Put the sandwiches on the press until browned and crisp and the cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully remove from the press and serve.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

This recipe is one of my new favorites.  It’s going to go in the books and put in the regular baking rotation with my chocolate chip cookies, banana bread and lemon loaf.  I LOVE the lemon and blueberry combo.  You could even jazz it up for a spring summer dinner party and serve with a nice blueberry sauce and some whip cream. 

I made this for our Easter BBQ at the in-laws.  Everyone who tried it enjoyed it.  I was mostly surprised with how much the hubby liked it.  Usually he turns his nose at anything that doesn’t have chocolate.  But he said it’s a winnerJ 

Next time I will zest the lemons and throw that into the batter.  It seems like a waste to throw out an un-zested lemon, plus you would get an extra lemon flavor.  Not that it was lacking lemon, it would just put it over the top.  The poppy seeds are subtle but give and extra little crunch every couple of bits. 

If you decide to give this one a try make sure to use the breadcrumbs with preparing the pan.  It can be difficult to get moist cakes out of a bundt pan.  If you just use cooking spray you may end up with half of your cake stuck inside the pan.  Flour might not quite do the trick either.  I found the breadcrumbs perfect, the cake just slide right out without any extra convincing.
Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed Bundt Cake


· Cooking spray
· 1 1/2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
· 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
· 3/4 cup butter, softened
· 4 large eggs
· 13 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
· 1 tablespoon baking powder
· 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
· 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
· 3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
· 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 teaspoon lemon extract
· 1 cup powdered sugar
· 1 tablespoon nonfat buttermilk
· 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with breadcrumbs.

3. Combine granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt); stir with a whisk. Add blueberries to flour mixture; toss to coat. Combine 3/4 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup juice, and extracts. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool on rack.

5. To prepare glaze, place powdered sugar in a small bowl; add 1 tablespoon buttermilk and 1 tablespoon juice, stirring with a whisk until combined. Pour glaze over warm cake; cool completely.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Roasted Potatoes, Cast Iron Styles

Everyone should own a cast iron pan.  I bought mine at Canadian Tire for around $30 and it has changed my life.  The main food that I like to cook in my cast iron pan is delicious roasted potatoes. They’re also great for cooking a nice thick and juicy steak or pork chop. I prefer to use the pan in the oven instead of on the stove top because the oven gives a nice and even heat.
Last night for dinner we had grilled cheese with roasted potatoes and it was awesome.  I am a little biased because potatoes are my favourite food.  You can cook them so many different ways, each just a tasty as the last.
A lot of people are worried about maintaining a cast iron pan, it really isn’t that hard.  Never use soap on your cast iron pan, just really hot water and a plastic/silicon scrapper to get bits that are hard to get off.  Make sure to dry the pan well, I like to use a paper towel.  Do not air-dry the pan because that will cause rust to form.  Finally, every couple of time you finish using it toss it on the stovetop over high heat and add a tablespoon of shortening or oil.  Use a folded paper towel to quickly spread the oil all over the pan, the bottom, the sides, the handle and the outside.  Leave it on the stove to cool completely. 

Roasted Potatoes
·        2 lbs small yellow flesh potatoes, sliced into 1 inch coins
·        Olive oil
·        Salt and pepper
·        Any extra toppings like chives, thyme, rosemary or even cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F and put your cast iron pan inside while the oven preheats.
  2. In a large bowl add you potatoes and pour in enough olive oil to well coat the potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. When the oven is preheated remove the pan from the oven, be sure to use an oven mitt to grab the pan.  Add the potatoes to the pan, you should hear a good sizzle.  Spread the potatoes around evenly, some of them will overlap.
  4. Add the pan to the preheated oven and cook for about 40 minutes, tossing the potatoes around after 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan, potatoes should be soft and golden.  You can season the potatoes if required and add any extra toppings.  I topped mine with Cheaddar Cheese:)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Butter Chicken, Ya That's Right

Who doesn’t like butter chicken.  It took me a while to build just the right recipe.  I think this one is getting pretty close and is better than a few butter chicken dishes I have had at Indian restaurants.  I find that these days a lot of them us a sauce that I am pretty certain comes out of a jar.  They taste tomatoy and not enough of a nice and toasty spice flavour. 
I do have to be honest though, I didn’t actually make this dinner.  The hubby didJ   Although I have made this same recipe in the past I just didn`t feel like cooking this particular night and he offered to make it for me. I didn`t argue and it was well worth it!  We even had enough left over to bag and freeze the leftovers for another night.
The ingredient list is long so that can be a little intimidating at times.   But a lot of them are just spices and once you get through them the rest of the work is mostly simmering and letting all of the flavours come together.  You`ll love it, especially if you can convince the hubby to make it for youJ
Butter Chicken
1.   Stir nuts, garam masala, coriander, and chili in a small lightly heated frying pan. Toss until nuts are lightly browned.
2.  Put nut mixture in food processor and process until very smooth, like peanut butter. If you find it is too thick add a bit of oil to loosen up the mixture. Add garlic, ginger, vinegar, paste and yogourt. Process until well combined.
3.  Put chicken into mixture and mix thoroughly. Allow chicken to marinate for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
4.  Melt butter in a large saucepan, cook onion with cinnamon and cardamom until browned. Add chicken mixture and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.  Add paprika, crushed tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
5.  Remove cinnamon and cardamom (if you can find it). Stir in cream and green pepper, simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve over basmati rice with naan.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Banana Muffin Muffin Baby

For a long time I kept bugging the hubby to get a new dishwasher.  He resisted and tried to stay on top of the dishes so that I wouldn’t complain about having to do them all the time.  Then when he started renovating the bathroom he didn’t have time to do that and stay on top of the dishes.  This was my chance!  Every night I would do the dishes and not complain about it, then after over a month of it I said, “So I’m pretty tired of doing dishes, maybe it’s time to get a dishwasher? I think this company Bosch would be a good choice.” Bosch is a little more expensive but top of the line and I knew that he had a soft spot for Bosch.   He was sold!  I didn’t hesitate.  As soon as the bathroom was complete I ordered it and today it was delivered today, right to our door, they even took the old one that I had quarantined when we moved in.
So what’s left to do then bake and dirty some dishes to put in the new dishwasherJ  Also, my little bro is spending the entire weekend at my place and I wanted to bake something for him.  He told me that he brings muffins to school for his snacks so I thought I would make Banana Muffins.  I had a bunch of ripe bananas sitting on the counter so it worked out well.
The verdict…..He Says, “It's BananaY!”  those words exactly.  I say, these are the easiest muffins to make.  They take no time to put together, they taste great and the ingredients are simple.  I mostly like how you don’t have to remember to bring some butter to room temperature a few hours before making them, it’s melted!  I’ll definitely make these muffins again.  I'll cut the time down a little, I had them in for 25 minutes I think 20-22 would be good enough next time.
Banana Muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes and large muffins for 20 to 35 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Volcano Cookies

I was out of town for the weekend, causing a major lack of cooking and blogging.  I'm hoping that I am back on track now.  I wanted to get back to my roots and make a great cookie. 

A few years ago the hubby and I sold our townhouse in the city to move to the country. One of my tactics while showing the house was to bake a fresh batch of cookies just before the buyers arrived.  Leaving the house smelling great and a plate full of warm cookies for them to enjoy while they looked around.  The hubby thought I was silly for putting so much work into making batch after batch of cookies.  But finally after a few weeks of showing the house there was an intense bidding war and the house finally sold.  The last thing the buyers said after all the paper work was signed was, "By the way, you make awesome cookies and they helped us remember your house."  So once and a while I remind him how lucky his is to have a wife that bakes like me and that I am the only reason our house sold:)

I adapted the recipe from Fine Cooking and made a bunch of changes so instead of leaving a link I’ll write it out the way I made them.  The hubby also renamed them Peanut Butter Volcano Cookies.  Claiming that the tops look like the top of a volcano.  I thought it was cheesy but I went with it anyways.

I hope these cookies give me a second wind and I get back in the kitchen and cook for all of you!

Peanut Butter Volcano Cookies
Adapted from Fine Cooking, Double Dark Chocolate Thumbprints
For the cookies
·        1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
·        1/2 tsp table salt
·        1/2 tsp baking powder
·        1/4 tsp. baking soda
·        1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
·        1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
·        1/2 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
·        3 large eggs
·        3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
·        3 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

For the chocolate filling
·        ½ cup peanut butter chips
·        4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Make the cookies

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment or non-stick baking liners or a silpat

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder on medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and the beater. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until blended after each addition, about 30 seconds, and adding the vanilla along with the last egg. Continue mixing on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix until just blended, about 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well blended, about 1 minute.

Using 2 tablespoon measures or a 
mini ice cream scoop, drop tablespoons of dough about 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and the tops are cracked and look dry, 11 minutes. When the cookies are just out of the oven, use the rounded side of a half-teaspoon measure or the end of a thick-handled wooden spoon to make a small, deep well in the center of each cookie. Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely
Make the filling

Melt the peanut butter chips and butter in the microwave or in a medium bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool and slightly thickened.
Fill the cookies

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the wells of the cooled cookies. Set aside until the chocolate firms up, about 1 hour. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Pita

Tonight’s dinner was fast, fresh and delicious.  I’ll definitely keep this one in the books for one of those hot humid summer days.  As I was writing out the recipe I thought of a few other ingredients you could toss into the salad, red onions, fresh mint and even diced roasted chicken.
I made a side of fried potatoes to go with the pita.  I love making homefries! It’s kinda like making soup, they’re never the same way twice.  This time I diced them into 1 inch cubes and tossed them in some melted butter over medium heat.  They took about 20 minutes to cook through and I give them a toss every 5 minutes.  Be sure to use a good non-stick pan otherwise the potatoes will stick to the pan.
Greek Salad Pita
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup feta, diced
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, halved
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pitas, cut in half
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
  1. In a medium bowl add olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and zest and juice of 1 lemon.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add tomato, cucumber, feta and olives to the bowl.  Toss to coat all of your veggies and let rest until you’re ready to eat.
  3. Carefully open each pita half.  Add a handful of lettuce and scope in as much of your veggie salad you can fit into the pocket. 
  4. Continue with remaining pitas and serve.