Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nas & Jay-Z Chili

Huh?  But that's really its name.  Growing up, my mother made chili often and it was excellent.  We would feast on chili and tortilla chips with super hot, green sauce.  I watched my Dad's blissful face as he wiped the sweat off his brow with his napkin.  I tried for years to find a vegetable chili for my Hubby and I that could measure upto my Mom's beefy version.  When I finally perfected my veggie chili, I couldn't just call it "vegetarian chili", it was, is better than that.  So I asked my Hubby for a name suggestion.  He has a way with words and a knack for names.  He loves word play, which drives his fondness for rap music.  Really, it's more than just fondness.  He loves it.  He can always decipher rap lyrics and he appreciates the way they use their words, he finds it intellectually stimulating, like poetry.  So after 45 seconds of silence, he answered confidently, "Nas and Jay-Z chili".  I scrunched up my face, expecting something more like "fire engine chili" or "fiesta fixins".  Silence.  Then he followed up with "Cuz Nas and Jay-Z used to have beef...and now they don't".  Obviously.  The name stuck, and this chili is da bomb.  It's full bodied and meaty tasting, and it's really good for you too.  I got 99 problems but dinner aint' one.

Nas & Jay-Z Chili
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  The ingredient list is hefty.  I usually have all of these items on hand so it's never a big deal for me.  Every ingredient plays a role.  The small red lentils dissolve and provide a thick consistency, and the larger green lentils provide a meaty texture.  The veggies, beer, stock and spices add tons of flavour, and don't skip the garnish.  It's not as much work as it seems.  Once you get the veggies chopped and sauteed, you just dump everything else in and simmer.   I've divided the ingredient list into sections to show the sequence in which you add like ingredients to the pot.

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 red pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 very large onion, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, finely chopped 

1 19 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can beans in tomato sauce (like Heinz)
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
1/3 cup tomato paste

1 bottle of beer
1 bottle of tomato puree (or a 28 oz can crushed tomatoes)
1 litre of vegetable stock

4-5 tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)

sour cream
green onions, finely sliced
avocado, chopped 
fresh lime juice

Chop all your vegetables and prep your garlic and chipotle.  Heat the coconut oil in a dutch oven or a large pot, over medium heat.  Add the vegetables (red pepper through onion) and stir to coat with oil.  Saute for 5-7 minutes until the onion is translucent and veggies are soft.  Add the garlic and chipotle, stir and saute for 2 minutes more.

While the veggies are cooking, open all of you cans/bottles.  Rinse the kidney beans and lentils.  Measure your tomato paste and spices. 

When the veggies are ready, add to the pot, the beans, lentils and tomato paste and then the beer, tomato and stock.  Give everything a stir and then add the spices (chili powder through black pepper).  Stir thoroughly.  Bring to a boil and simmer partially covered for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Add the corn, stir and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper if neccessary.

Garnish with sour cream, green onions, avocado and a squeeze of lime juice.

Makes lots.  It's even better the next day.  Freezes perfectly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cabbage & Poppy Seed Noodles with Sour Cream

It is officially comfort food season.  It is ridiculously cold around here.  The sun is shining, and it deceivingly calls you outside for a ice skate or a cross country ski session.  But the minute you step outside, your breath is taken away and any exposed skin has 10 minutes before it burns, dries up and falls off.  Oh, sorry, not very appetizing for a food blog eh?  This morning we shattered a 41 year old weather record, isn't that great for us!?  It is currently -25°C (-13°F) and Environment Canada has issued a cold weather warning urging people to stay indoors.  I would have loved to throw in the towel this morning when my car didn't start, and just hover over a hot stove at home all day.  Boo hoo.  On days like this, your body needs nourishing, hot food.  Stick to your ribs, starchy, simple, and may I stress, HOT food.  This dish is inspired by my Hungarian Grandmother's dish called "kaposztas teszta", a savoury/sweet mixture of cabbage and noodles. It has a simple taste that is so satisfying and comforting.  I added poppy seeds and a sour cream garnish to this classic Hungarian dish. 

Cabbage & Poppy Seed Noodles with Sour Cream
Origin: Hungarian Classic, Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  Egg noodles are a must for this dish.  My grandmother buys these 1 1/2 inch square flat noodles at a European deli which are awesome.  I usually buy artisan dried papardelle and break them into pieces.  You are looking for a broad flat egg noodle.  The most common brand around here is "Lancia". 


250g (1 package) flat, broad egg noodles
1 small green cabbage, (or 1/2 large, about 8 cups chopped)
1 very large onion (about 2 cups chopped)
1/4 vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, coconut etc.)
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
sour cream for serving

Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the core and slice into thin ribbons (no more than 1/4 inch thick).  Cut onion(s) in half and slice into thin half moons.  Everything should be about the same size, thin strips of onion and cabbage.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium high heat (you could probably use a dutch oven or a big soup pot too).  Add the onions and cabbage, toss to coat everything with the oil.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is glossy and starting to shrink down a bit.  Add the poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  You may need to add a little more oil as you cook if it seems dry.  Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes more, stirring the cabbage mixture frequently, scraping the browned cabbage from the bottom of the pan and mixing thoroughly.  The whole mixture will caramelize and cook down significantly. 

While the cabbage cooks, boil the noodles according to package directions, making sure your water is well salted.  Drain the noodles but reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid.

When the cabbage is all browned and cooked.  Add the noodles to the skillet and toss thoroughly.  Add a little cooking liquid to the skillet to help loosen up the cabbage and distribute it evenly.  Cook just until the noodles are hot.  I like to time my pasta to cook when the cabbage is just finishing up.  I transfer the noodles with a slotted spoon directly to my skillet, taking some pasta water with them.  Then I toss it all, and serve immediately

Add more salt and pepper if desired.  Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream.  Serves 4.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Raw Kale and Bread Salad

This is to make up for the last recipe I posted.  A nice healthy one to keep people on track.  I don't want to be responsible for anyone breaking their New Year's resolutions.  Just ignore yesterday's pretty little bars...maybe you'll cross paths with them again one day as you browse the recipe index.  This recipe is for those who resolve to eat more leafy greens this year.  A super way to get them in, you won't be able to stop eating this.  It's like an intense Caesar salad...everything is jacked up a bit.  Solid, hearty greens, lots of garlic and Parmesan and bright lemon flavour.  The crunchy bread soaks up all those flavours and it's all very satisfying.  It makes a great meal with a couple of fried eggs or some roasted chicken.

Kale and Bread Salad
Origin: Adapted from Melissa Clark

Notes:  This salad is really good the next day too.  The kale softens up but it still has a  great texture...not like soggy lettuce.  The softened bread is still good too.


juice of 1 lemon
1 small clove of garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of dried crushed chilis
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 big bunch of kale
1/2 baguette (day old is good)
finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Tear the baguette into bite sized pieces and place them on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and very crisp.

In a large bowl combine the lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, some black pepper and the dried chilis.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.  Whisk in the Parmesan cheese.

Prepare the kale by removing the the stalks and thick ribs, leaving only the leafy green parts.  Cut the greens into 1/2 inch thick ribbons.  Add the kale to the bowl with the vinaigrette.  Top with additional Parmesan cheese and the toasted bread and toss really well, making sure the Parmesan is evenly distributed and the kale is thoroughly coated with dressing.  You can add more olive oil at any point if the dressing is too pungent for your taste.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

I'm sorry for posting this in January.  It should be all warming soups and healthy salads over here.  Not carbs laced with sugar, topped with butter, chocolate and peanut butter.  I had (still have) this massive box of Rice Krispies to use up.  It seems like every grocery store only carries the "family size" box, and I got sucked into buying it because I needed 1 cup of Rice Krispies for a recipe I tried a while back.  I can't eat it as cereal, I was never a fan.  It never held up in milk to my slow, savouring eating habits...sog city.  It has many non-cereal uses though, I love the classic Rice Krispy Treats, and my Mother-in-law makes these cute little crispy chocolates for the holidays which are great.  I've also enjoyed Rice Krispies in Sushi...yup, sushi, they add a light, crispy element, kind of like tempura batter to sushi rolls.  And then there is this recipe, a fine specimen for using up my stash of cereal.  This is another great recipe from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the boys from Baked bakery in Brooklyn.  They are so good at taking regular ol', Granny's kitchen, Mom and Pop, American desserts and making them delicious and fun.  Their cookbooks are so cool, you feel like you are making something new and trendy from just flipping through their pretty pages.  These Peanut Butter Crispy Bars are the customer's favorite refrigerated bar from their popular bakery.


Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
Origin: Baked, New Frontiers in Baking

Notes:  There are 3 layers and 3 steps to making these bars.  Each step is pretty easy on its own, and there is waiting/chilling time in between each layer.  If you give yourself some time and take it step by step, they are really quite simple to prepare.  You need a candy thermometer for the crispy base.


Crispy Crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer
5 ounces good quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Chocolate Icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

To make the crispy crust, grease an 8 inch square baking pan very lightly, using neutral vegetable oil or cooking spray.  Use a paper towel to remove excess oil, set aside.  Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine a 1/4 cup of water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan (be careful to not splash any sugar or syrup onto the sides of the pan).  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Use a candy thermometer and boil the mixture until it reaches 235 degrees F.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter.  Pour the mixture over the cereal and stir to combine thoroughly.  Pour the cereal mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer using your hands or a spatula.  Let the crust cool to room temperature.

To make the chocolate peanut butter layer, using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and peanut butter together, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir the mixture for 30 seconds to cool it slightly.  Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and smooth it into an even layer using a spatula.  Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer is firm.

To make the chocolate icing, using a double boiler, melt the chocolate, corn syrup and butter together, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir the mixture for 30 seconds to cool it slightly.  Pour the mixture over the cooled chocolate/peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer using a spatula.  Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping is firm.

Cut into squares and serve chilled.  The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly for up to 4 days.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Truffle Popcorn

My husband is a huge truffle fan.  After a trip to Miami where he was spoiled with freshly imported truffles from Italy he has a taste for them that he just can't shake.  Truffle oil is a great way to give him a little taste of that experience now and then.  A drizzle over mushroom soup or scrambled eggs with aged cheddar and chives or infused into freshly popped popcorn.  This light, salty snack has a whisper of truffle flavour that elevates it beyond movie watching fare (although it does add a little romance to at home movie watching).  This is a great thing to have in your repertoire for last minute guests.  You can have these ingredients in your pantry and bust them out whenever you need them.  A very simple, elegant but fun snack.

Truffle Popcorn
Origin: Unknown

Notes:  Below I have provided guidelines for making truffle popcorn.  The quantities you should use will depend on the size of your pot, how much popcorn you want to make and the quality and strength of your truffle oil.  Typically, the more expensive the oil, the more truffle it contains and the stronger the flavour.  Truffle salt enhances the final truffle flavour but it is excellent with regular salt and pepper too.


vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, canola etc.)
truffle oil
popcorn kernels
truffle salt (or fine sea salt, or regular table salt)
freshly ground black pepper

Choose a heavy bottom pot with a tight fitting lid for making your popcorn.  Pour equal parts (my preference) vegetable oil and truffle oil in your pot, just enough to coat the bottom (no more than 1/4 inch of oil).  You can omit the vegetable oil for a more intense truffle flavour, or if you have an inexpensive truffle oil do not dilute it with vegetable oil.

Heat the oil over medium high heat and add 2-3 corn kernels to the pot.  When you hear one of the kernels pop, your oil is ready.

Add enough popcorn kernels to fully cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer.  Cover the pot with a lid.  When the popcorn starts popping vigorously, shake the pan several times to ensure the kernels are all getting coated in the hot oil and that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When the popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from heat completely.

Pour popcorn into a bowl and add a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bulgur, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad

I have a deep love for Middle Eastern flavours.  If I had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of my days, Middle Eastern would be it.  I think it stems from childhood.  My neighbor, best friend and fellow George Michael enthusiast was from Lebanon.  Her parents were always up for a party, hosting big Middle Eastern feasts for family, friends and neighbors, they were restaurant owners and excellent cooks.  It was at their kitchen table as a young girl, that I was first introduced to Hummus, Tabbouleh, Fatoush, Shish Taouk, Kibbeh...I could go on and on...they were lovely neighbors and friends.  Those tastes have stayed with me and fueled a love for their food for the last 25 years.  The salad featured today, uses bulgur, a Middle Eastern staple found in Tabbouleh and Kibbeh.  Fresh herbs, chickpeas and pomegranate all amp up the Middle Eastern flavour.  The dressing is a light, sweet-tart combination of lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. 

Bulgur, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad
Origin: Food and Wine Magazine, Desert Candy

Notes:  Pomegranate molasses can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores and specialty food stores.  I get mine here.  You can make your own pomegranate molasses by boiling down pomegranate juice until syrupy.  I think you could use a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing with this salad and it would be great too.  You can also swap cooked quinoa for the bulgur, for a milder tasting grain, as seen here.
A friend gave me a tip for seeding pomegranates...cut the fruit in half, submerge half in a large bowl of water and rip the pomegranate apart to release the seeds.  The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the white pith will float.  Use a slotted spoon to easily remove the seeds.


1 cup bulgur, medium or coarse grind, prepared according to package directions
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
a squeeze of lemon juice (I used about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)

Preheat broiler on high.

Drizzle a little olive oil on a baking sheet and place the tomatoes, cut side up on baking sheet.  Broil on the middle rack (not too close to the element) for 8-10 minutes, until collapsed.  Toast the walnuts under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, taking care not to burn them.

To prepare dressing, combine diluted pomegranate molasses with lemon juice, olive oil and aleppo pepper (or a small pinch of cayenne), whisk until combined.

In a large bowl combine, bulgur, chickpeas, tomatoes, walnuts, cilantro, mint and a pinch of salt.  Pour in dressing and toss thoroughly.  Top with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hearty Pancakes

I finally had some time Sunday morning to do a little cooking.  It's been a while since I've had these pancakes, because its been a while since I had a lazy Sunday morning.  I used to make these a lot. They are wonderfully wholesome, sweet and nutty, and yes, hearty like the name says.  Two small pancakes are really satisfying and they need very little accoutrement to make them enjoyable.  Just a tiny bit of maple syrup or a teaspoonful of jam.  I reheat the leftovers in the toaster and enjoy them for breakfast throughout my workweek.  

Hearty Pancakes
Origin: Adapted from CookingLight Magazine

Notes: You can add raisins or some chopped fruit to the pancake batter (add at the same time as the walnuts).  Feel free to switch up the nuts if walnuts aren't your thing.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup uncooked farina (Cream of Wheat)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
coconut oil or butter for frying
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 

maple syrup or jam for serving

Lightly spoon the flours into measuring cups and level with a knife.  Whisk together flours, farina, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, applesauce, and egg until well blended.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stir until well combined.  Let batter stand 5 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Melt a small amount of coconut oil, enough to coat the pan, and pour spoonfuls of batter into hot pan (about 2-3 tablespoons each).  Sprinkle each pancake with 1-2 teaspoons walnuts.  Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the tops are covered with bubbles and the edges look browned. Carefully turn pancakes over, and cook 1-2 minutes more, or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Repeat procedure with remaining batter and walnuts.

Makes about 15 small pancakes.  Serve with syrup or jam. 

walnut studded underbelly

extras waiting to be toasted

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best of 2010

I have lots of good stuff lined up for the months to come!  But before I move forward with the deliciousness that will be 2011, there are some recipes from 2010 that deserve one more look.  Here are my top 10 from '10!

Great fruit flavour, light, cakey muffin with crunch.

Delicious, fresh, different and beautiful.

Wowee kazowee.

Flavourful, crowd pleasing BBQ fare.

The apple vinaigrette takes this combo to another level.

Don't be scared, just try it.

Healthy and full of flavour! 

Two recipes for the price of one, match made in heaven.

Warning: dangerously good.

Ignore the cookies above, try this instead...resolution friendly.