Food: basic but not boring – banana bread

Every single coffee shop offers this. BANANA BREAD has to be one of the all time comfort loaves to accompany afternoon tea.  It’s not quite a cake, not quite a bread and not really considered a conventional dessert but it’s always reliably satisfying and somewhat healthy as far as sweet things go.  Make sure you use ripe bananas – it makes all the difference.

So here’s a great classic to start withWhat you need:               

 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1/3 cup of unsalted butter at room temp.

2/3 cup sugar (I use organic cane)

2 eggs, well beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (roughly 3)

1 tsp. or more of lemon zest

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F

Sift first 4 ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda and salt)

In separate bowl beat butter (adding a bit of the egg will make it easier to blend), add sugar a bit at a time beating after each addition.  Beat in the rest of the eggs.

Slowly add flour mixture, alternately with banana beating smooth after each addition.

Turn into greased 9” x 5” X 3” loaf pan.  Bake in moderate oven of 350 approx. 1 hour 10 min. or until done and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Variations:

You can vary this recipe by using a bit less banana and adding some fruit like raspberries or blueberries.

Or; you can omit the lemon zest and add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

with dark chocolate chips, candied ginger & almond – my favourite.

Try chopped up candied ginger chopped almonds and/or some organic almond extract with the chocolate.

It freezes well and is always a good thing to have on hand for unexpected guests.

Advertisements

Simple & Satisfying – Chocolate Soufflé

I’m declaring this NATIONAL CHOCOLATE WEEK  in preparation for Valentine’s Day.  Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a chocolate sensation?  I didn’t think so.  Follow this step by step guide to perfecting a scrumptious Chocolate Soufflé.  Trust me, you will LOVE this one and so will your guests.

Makes 6 individual servingschocolate souffle1

4 Tbsp. butter (or try a substitute from last Tuesday’s post)

½ cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

¾ cup of milk

¾ cup (170g) chopped best quality dark chocolate

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar (not necessary but it makes the egg whites stiffer)

Use 2 Tbsp. butter and ¼ cup sugar to liberally coat the insides of 6 one-ounce ceramic soufflé cups (or something very similar).  Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter with flour.  Add milk and continue cooking until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until melted.

 Meanwhile, beat yolks until creamy, then begin blending in chocolate mixture.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form (you can tell when you lift the beater and it sticks to the beater making a little peak).

Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, a small amount at a time.

Beat until stiff.

Fold half the whites into chocolate mixture.  Then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites.  Transfer to soufflé cups.  Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  Serve immediately.

 **HINT: you can add a little icing sugar to the top before serving or fresh whipped cream and a mint sprig or raspberry/mint combo.  Below – soufflé a different way:

chocolate souffle2chocolate souffle3

Simple & Satisfying – Powerball Cookies

Powerball Cookies with Quinoa

powerball cookies with quinoaThese healthy energy cookies are packed with natural flavor and are bound to give you a nice boost after your workout or anytime you need it.

 Recipe:

3 large ripe bananas

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

1 cup (250 ml)  cooked organic quinoa (cook like regular rice 1-1)

1 cup (250 ml) organic rolled oats

1 cup (250 ml) coconut flakes, unsweetened

½ cup (125 ml) coconut sugar

½ cup (125 ml) dark chocolate chips

chopped ginger & dates, optional

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas with a fork and add vanilla, quinoa, coconut and coconut sugar.  Mix until well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips (& ginger and/or pitted dates if using).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper so batter doesn’t stick.  Drop heaping Tablespoons onto baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cookie holds together.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 *TIPtry toasting the coconut flakes first on their own on unlined baking sheet in oven for about 10 minutes or just until they start to brown.

**You can find unsweetened coconut & coconut sugar at Granville Island or your specialty bulk food shops.

***Dark chocolate chips are getting a bit easier to find although it is difficult
to find anything beyond 60% cacao.  You can substitute a higher percentage (72-80%)
by chopping up a chocolate bar  instead.

See Food on my Pinterest page at http://pinterest.com/intrigueimports/

Simple and Satisfying – Argentinian Chimichurri

Flavourful Chimmichuri
Flavorful Chimichurri Sauce

This FRESH HERB Chimichurri is what is commonly used for steak sauce in Argentina and there’s a good chance it may make you leave your regular one behind.

Make it in a blender, food processor or with a mortar.  But whatever you do don’t do as I once did camping where chopping everything up by hand with a not too sharp knife became very time consuming.  You can make this a few hours or even a day ahead so the flavors really start to meld.  To be enjoyed on steak, fish, chicken, macaroni even sandwiches.

½ cup chopped cilantro, packed

½ cup parsley, packed

¼ cup of olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

3 tsp. best quality red wine vinegar

½ tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. crushed chillies

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

Cut all ingredients as small as humanly possible to make a nice rustic sauce, or better yet pulse in blender or food processor a few times. chimmi2 - Copy

Best served with grilled skirt steak.  Cut meat across the grain into thin slices and serve with sauce in between slices.

Here is an equally delicious smoky red version of same sauce:

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup of aged sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. pureed chipotle in adobo (smoked chillies canned in red sauce)

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika

1 Cup of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbps. Finely chopped fresh oregano

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Send me your feedback after you make it.

Check my Food Folder out on Pinterest –  http://pinterest.com/intrigueimports/

Simple & Satisfying – Put your print on a Christmas Cookie

thumbprint cookies 1

 Thumb Print Cookies

 These cookies are one of the easiest to make and everyone loves them.  They have a buttery shortbread like consistency and as cookies go….well they’re kind of a healthier version using walnuts which are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids.  The combination of walnuts and jelly are rich and they just melt in your mouth.

Recipe:

1 Cup Butter

1 tsp. Vanilla

2 Eggs, separated

½ tsp. sea salt

2 cups of sifted flour

1 cup of walnuts, finely chopped in blender or food processor

½ cup of brown sugar

Any kind of jelly (raspberry, blackcurrant, etc.)  Use jam if you don’t have jelly

Assembling:  Cream butter with sugar and yolks, then add flour, vanilla and salt.             Roll into tiny balls.

Slightly beat egg whites and dip the balls in them, Then roll in finely chopped nuts.  Here’s the fun part: make a thumbprint indent on each cookie.  Bake on a greased sheet at 325 until done, about 10 minutes.  When cooled, top with jelly in the indent.

You can always sprinkle a little sanding sugar over top to make them more Christmasy.  Enjoy!thumbprint2

Simple & Satisfying – the Best Bolognese

If you’re in the mood for a classic tomato, wine and meat sauce then this is the ONE with a slight twist of course. The original recipe is from Bologna. bolognese

It’s simmered slowly in a big pot and deliciously tossed with noodles of your choice.  I switched up the original ½ lb. (250g) of lean ground beef and ¼ lb. (125g) each ground veal and ground pork using all hot Italian sausage.  If you wish to stick to the original by all means do so but substituting some or all the meat with the sausage was absolutely wonderful & warming for this time of year.  It got ravenous reviews from our group.        Buen Appetito!

¾ cup (180 ml) olive oil

2 ounces (60 g) pancetta, coarsely chopped

1 lb. best quality hot Italian sausage – casings removed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 small carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

One 28 ounces (840 ml) crushed canned Italian Plum Tomatoes

2 cups (500 ml) dry red wine or 4 cups – two for you!

*1 tsp (5 ml) hot red chilli flakes (optional if using only the hot Italian sausage)

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) nutmeg

¼ cup (60 ml) coarsely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

2 tsp (10 ml) dried oregano

3 Tbsp (45 ml) coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, about 3 inches square (for flavour)

2 tsp (10 ml) brown sugar

Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

*I also add 21 vegetable seasoning salute (or a variation of) and Bay Leaf.

2 pounds (1 kg) of fresh or packaged pasta of your liking will be good to serve 6 people for dinner with a side salad.

Heat ¼  cup (60 ml) of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and sauté for 1 minute.

If using ground meats, gradually add them and cook breaking up any large chunks, just until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a wired mesh sieve to drain any excess fat.

**OR; remove casings from sausage (about 4) and cook with a little olive oil breaking up pieces in skillet until cooked through & no longer pink.  Set aside.

In a dutch oven preferably or solid pot heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes.  Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and cook until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the drained meat or *sausage,  tomatoes, wine, red chilli flakes, nutmeg, Italian parsley, oregano & rosemary.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add the Parmesan rind and brown sugar and season to taste.  Simmer slowly over low heat, uncovered, about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Remove rind.bolognese in pot

Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta until just tender to the bite, al dente stage. Reserve a little liquid from cooking water and drain the pasta in a colander.

If making this as main course for 6 people, add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix well, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water if needed to coat the pasta evenly.  Cover and cook for one minute.  Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese & a little flat leaf parsley for garnish. Very Important: Don’t forget the vino – it makes everything taste better.  Salute!

Simple & Satisfying – Asian Inspired Marinade

For this recipe we used a Standing Pork Rib Roast.  The cut makes a show-stopping centerpiece for an elegant dinner.  This marinade can also be used for beef, chicken or fish.

MARINADE for a 5-6 lb. Rack of Ribs.  Each rib equals one good serving per person with sides. 

Standing Pork Rib RoastFirst slice but do not cut through the ribs on both sides.

*This part is optional but gives it more flavour. Rub the roast outside & in between each rib first with some sea salt & pepper (I use an “everyday spice” which besides salt & pepper includes  coriander, mustard seed & paprika).  Then mix together in a bowl the following ingredients:

1/3 cup of Molasses and 1/3 cup of Maple Syrup

½  cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)

2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (about 2 inches of ginger)

4 tsp. minced fresh garlic (about 4 medium size cloves)

4 tsp. Thai red curry paste OR;

**2 tsp. Thai sweet red chilli sauce & 2 tsp. Sambal Oelek (ground fresh chili paste) which is what I used.

2 tsp. grated lemon zest (from about 2 small lemons)

2 tsp. Sesame Oil

½ tsp. ground Coriander

Mix all the ingredients together and in a plastic Ziplock bag let marinate with roast for at least 2 hours.

Remove Pork from marinade.  Two ways to bake: To bake as a circular standing rib roast then form a circle with the rib ends up. Tie rib ends together (see photo).

Circular Roast
Circular Roast

For standing roast just place on a baking sheet lined with foil or a dutch oven with ribs side up (see above photo).

Bake at 400 for a minimum of 25 minutes or until pink in the middle.  Internal temperature to the thickest part of the meat should be 145 degrees minimum.

Serve with rosemary potatoes & broccoli or roasted brussels sprouts.

Serve with rosemary potatoes & roasted brussels spouts or broccoli.

Simple and Satisfying – Halibut en Papillote

Have you ever tried cooking “en papillote?”  which in French means “in parchment.”  Let’s stick with papillote – it sounds more French fou fou.

Getting ready for the oven

You will basically be wrapping the fish in parchment paper. The beauty of cooking this way is that once you seal the paper then the fish will cook evenly at a higher heat for less time and still stay moist.

I don’t have a specific recipe but you can start with placing the fish (halibut, salmon or other fish) on top of a bed of sliced tomatoes and/or thinly sliced onions that sit on top of a piece of parchment paper large enough to seal around it.  Coat the fish with capers/lemon/butter or a pesto sauce and a few sliced lemons over top.  Then seal the parchment tightly with lightly brushed on egg white. Bake at 375 until done. It can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the size fish.  You can always open the parchment to check but make sure to re-seal it again if not yet done. How to tell: pierce fish with a fork and if the fork meets resistance it’s not yet done.

Halibut baked in parchment topped with sundried-tomato-pesto & served over sliced sweet onions & campari tomatoes. Side: crisped roasted brussels sprouts.

For sides serve with rice & veggie of your liking.

I’d like to hear back from you to find out how your recipe turned out.

Simple and Satisfying – healthy veggie noodle soup.

Japanese inspired with crunchy seaweed on top & soba noodles.

Asian Inspired veggie noodle soup – my version. This is a great tasting dish and so healthy too. It will help you avoid getting a cold.

I recently had lunch at a noodle house where everything was made fresh on the spot with your choice of noodles from buckwheat to rice to udon.

You can tick off all the veggies and meat or dumplings you want to add to it on a little sheet where everything is listed.  Fun!  I want chicken dumplings with rice noodles and baby bok choy, tofu, mushrooms, green onions and spinach.  Don’t feel like the crunchy cruciferous ones right now.  I bought a homemade hot/garlic sauce which really added oomph to the broth.

Chinese inspired with baby bok choy, snow peas & spinach noodles.

Then on my way home I bought the following:

Shiro Miso Soybean Paste for making broth (which they use for Miso soup), extra firm tofu, a bunch of different veggies and I had buckwheat and spinach noodles at home just waiting to be useful.

Added chicken stock for additional flavor, some bonito flakes and a bit of bonito flavoured soup stock (available at any Japanese grocery store) and steamed the veggies in a huge bamboo steamer.  At the end I tossed in some baby spinach, tofu & sliced green onion.  Then upon serving a little soy, some crunchy seaweed/sesame and Japanese 7 house spice that is on the table at every single Japanese restaurant.  The actual name in English is red pepper mix or Shichimi TogarashiNothing with M.S.G.

Let me say that it was simple to prepare and so delicious that I may never end up going back to that little noodle house ever again…except to buy more of their special house hot sauce.

What about you?  Do you love Asian INspired soups? What kind of noodles are your favorite?

Note: You can find many Asian groceries like noodles, bean paste and spices now at places like Whole Foods or other local grocery stores and markets.

Simple & Satisfying – Wild Mushroom Risotto with White Wine & Truffle Oil.

Rich Risotto dish

Making a flavourful Risotto is a nice addition to any meal or even as a main course.  The only problem is making sure the Arborio rice (in between a rice & tiny pasta) is neither too chewy or too soft at the finish.

Even though I’m not Italian (although I have family members and friends who are) I can tell you how to make a really good one.

Here’s what you need to serve 6 as an Appetizer or 4 as a Main:

RECIPE

Arborio Rice – 1 cup

Dried shitake or porcini mushrooms (1/2 oz, about 1 cup), rinsed then soaked in boiling water for about 30 minutes.  Remove mushrooms, squeezing excess water but reserve some liquid for pot.  Coarsely chop mushrooms and set aside.

1 onion, thinly sliced.

3 cups of chicken stock.  You can keep it warm over another stovetop element until ready to add, little by little.

2 Tbsp. butter

2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ cup of dry white wine

½ lb. fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, shitake, porcini or combo of all) washed and sliced.

4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

salt & ground black pepper, to taste

2 oz. fresh truffles or white truffle oil for finish

Chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives for over top

Melt butter over medium heat.  Add shallots, garlic, onion and sage.  Cook until onions and shallots are transparent, about 5 minutes.  Add rice, and cook stirring constantly, until lightly toasted (not burned) and well-coated with butter, about 5 minutes.

Add *wine and stir until absorbed into rice.  Stir in all the mushrooms (ones that were previously dried & fresh), reserved cooking liquid  (about 1/2 cup) and ½ cup of the warm chicken stock.  *You can absorb yourself with some wine too while cooking – I highly recommend it.

I almost always use a cast iron frying pan

Cook over simmering heat, stirring frequently until ALMOST all liquid has evaporated.  Remember not to let it dry out completely.  Continue adding stock, about ¾ (175 ml) of a cup at a time, stirring frequently, until rice is tender but firm to the bite and mixture is creamy but not soupy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in ½ Tbsp. of butter and the parmesan cheese.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper.  Garnish with flat-leaf parsley or chives for presentation.  Then shave fresh truffles onto risotto upon serving.  I used white truffle oil instead & it was amazing.  Buon Appetito as they say in Italy.