Monthly Archives: May 2010

Easy-Peasy Pasta Supper

Sometimes you don’t want the fancy stuff. No escargots, no lobster cappuccino (it’s rather good), nor turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, awesome eh?) can satisfy the inner simpleton in you. Sometimes you just want the good ol’ mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, or a quick pasta supper. No hassle, no dressing up, no empty wallet. This easy pasta dish is just for one of those days. It’s filling, flavourful, and healthy. Tell me what else you want? My firstborn? No I can’t give that to you, but you can have my food, or pictures of my food. 😉

Rainbow Garlic Chicken Pasta
(makes enough for 4, at least, maybe some leftovers too)
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. pepper
a generous pinch of salt
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder

1 lb box of whole wheat spaghetti
2 small zucchinis
1 medium carrot
7-8 white button mushrooms, about 4 oz.
3 green onions
1/3 cup of frozen peas (hey, can’t be easy PEAsy without peas, right? Bad, yes I know)
1/3 cup of frozen corn
half a can of white kidney beans (or any color really, even blue :))
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter (I used a butter spread to cut back on some fat)
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar (or if you are lazy like me, hack off a good chunk of that cheese and just slice into odd shapes, it’s fine, no need to get out the grater)
extra salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

First, dice your chicken, and mix with the herbs and cornstarch and seasonings listed above. Work the mixture through well and set aside while you chop the vegetables.

Slice carrots and mushrooms and the zucchini and the green onions (run-on sentence anyone?). Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dump in the pasta, cook for about 8-9 minutes, or until just before al dente. I’ve found that whole wheat pasta, in addition to packing in some fibre and protein and great nutrients, are more resistant to over cooking. It’s awesome, try it.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil on medium high in a large pan. Stir fry the chicken with the green onions until about half cooked and slightly brown on the outside. Add vegetables, fresh and frozen. When everything is just about cooked, add a little over half a cup of pasta water, ladled out of your boiling pasta. Season to taste. I added extra garlic powder.

When pasta is done, add it to the chicken and vegetables along with the beans. Reduce heat to medium low and toss the pasta until water is mostly absorbed. Stir in the cheese and let it melt. Give it all a good toss. You don’t need much cheese, or any cream at all to make the sauce creamy. The secret is the pasta water. Now eat and be happy about how simple life can be.

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Filed under Chicken, Dinner

Cloud Nine Bread

I love low effort, high quality when it comes to cooking. I also love bread. I have this whole theory that bread is all you need in life. I mean, Jesus said that “this is my body, and this is my blood” right? He was referring to bread and wine. What else do you want? Bread, to me at least (and I suppose I’m a bit of a nut case when it comes to good bread), symbolizes love, faith, and happiness in life. Think about it, you bake bread for people you love, I definitely put a lot of love in my loaf. And the people who eat the bread you bake, have faith in you that you will do it again.

And you will. At least, you will with this one.

Back to that low effort, high quality thought. This bread is called Cloud Nine Bread for a reason. A bite of it sent my happiness through the roof. I told you bread has everything to do with happiness right? All you need in life is bread…some butter doesn’t hurt either. 😉

This bread is light, fluffy, soft, and moist. Perfect for snacking, sandwiches, or toast. Look at that crumb!

Now, go to your kitchen, simply mix, pour, watch a little TV, bake, and bee happy! (No kneading involved) No I didn’t misspell “be,” that’s just the way it is. In my book that is. 😀

Cloud Nine Bread
(makes one 9 x 5 loaf)

4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast, or 1 packet
2 1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups milk, warm
5 Tbsp. melted butter, or oil

In a large bowl, mix the milk and the yeast, let stand for about 3 minutes to dissolve. Add everything else and give it a good mix. Do it for a few minutes. The batter will be thick and hard to pour. Dump the mess into a well-greased loaf pan. Let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until puffy and doubled.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, or until well browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Let cool, slice, slather with butter, and ascend to cloud nine. 😀


Filed under Breads

Add some spice to your life…Cumin Pork

Okay, I didn’t mean it literally. Although, if you have recently added some spiciness in your life, good for you! 😉 For the rest of us, the kick in Szechuan dishes is quite enough.

Traditionally, and typically found in Szechuan Chinese restaurants, cumin “meat” dishes are full of heat and numbness. The numbness that I’m speaking of here comes from Szechuan peppercorns, a mouthful of those babies could probably get you through your wisdom teeth extraction. Who knows, maybe give you a spice-induced high while you’re at it? The meat can be chicken, beef, pork, or lamb, although the last one is the most popular and pairs best with cumin. All the flavors explode on your palate all at the same time, competing for dominance. Best to have lots of water and rice on hand, as well as some “neutral” dishes such as simple greens. I added broccoli for the color and also for nutrition. Gotta eat your vegetables. 😀

Cumin Pork

(makes 4 ravenous people [Ian] servings or 6 normal people servings :))

1 lb pork tenderloin (you could easily substitute beef, chicken, lamb, or even firm tofu)
2 Tbsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns
3 Tbsp. cumin seeds, or 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
Note: See how all the spice is in tablespoons? Not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, don’t be scared either. 😛

3 Tbsp. oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1 large onion, diced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets (again, you can substitute any vegetable or omit)
1 Tbsp. cumin, ground (optional, for the extra kick)
1 Tbsp. chili sauce, with oil (老干妈 “Old Grandma” brand preferably)
Salt to taste

Cut meat into very thin slices, about 1/8 of an inch. This is most easily done when the meat is still semi-frozen.
Put all spices, except for the chili sauce and the optional cumin, into a pan. Toast on medium high for about 2 minutes, until you smell the aroma. (be careful, you may have a sneeze attack due to the chili pepper, no joke) Ground the toasted spices, I used mortar and pestle.
Rub the ground spices and corn starch into the meat slices until evenly distributed. Put it into the fridge and forget about it, 3 hours or more.

Heat the oil until hot, sweat the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the meat, soy sauce, and rice wine. Stir fry the meat on medium high heat until cooked, about 6-7 minutes. Season to taste and place on a plate. Add the onions and broccoli to still hot wok or pan. Stir fry until cooked through but still crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the meat back to the wok, along with the chili sauce and extra ground cumin. Mix well and heat through.

Now dig in and prepare to be intoxicated! 🙂

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Filed under Chinese, Dinner, Meat

How to become fat and lazy…English Muffin Bread

First of all, allow me to tell you all a story. There is this Chinese fable. See, there was this very very lazy man (not sure if he was fat, but I’d imagine so), so lazy that he did nothing all day, everyday, except open his mouth when his wife feeds him. Surprisingly she did that everyday, if I were her I’d have filed for divorce a long time ago. But one day, she had to leave. Her mother was sick and she had to go visit her for about a week. She, being the good wife that she is, figured out an ingenious way of feeding her husband while she was gone. She made this great big flat bread with a hole in the centre, like a giant donut, and put it around his head. When he became hungry all he had to do was open his mouth and eat the bread. Lazy huh? And I thought my boyfriend was bad. ;P The wife, satisfied with her handiwork, left for her mother’s. A week later she comes back to find the poor man lying on the ground, starving to death. She was extremely confused because she thought the bread would last all week. And it did. In fact, more than half was untouched. She was very puzzled so she bent down to examine him. Guess what had happened? I was exasperated when I read this, I think you would be too, and get a good laugh out of it. When the man had eaten all the bread that was in directly front of his mouth, he was too lazy to use his hands to turn the bread around so he could begin eating the other side! Thus the man starved. The ultimate laziness.

What does this have to do with this lovely loaf of bread you ask? I am going to become that man if someone doesn’t stop me. Well, kind of. First I gotta make bread, which actually partially contributes to my laziness. There’s no kneading. None whatsoever involved. Now, I don’t mind kneading bread dough. But I just might form a habit of not kneading bread if they all turn out this good. And addictive. See me stealing a sliver even before the loaf is anywhere close to being cool?

I just couldn’t keep away. It was too good to be true. Warm. Soft. Buttered. Fragrant. Waiting for me. (To get fat but totally worth it)

Make this bread right now and proclaim yourself lazy. 😀

Note: This bread makes terrific toast as well. All the more reason to make it.

English Muffin Bread

(makes one loaf, I cut mine down to fit a 6 inch round glass pan)
adapted from the King Arthur website

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. salt

1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. oil

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Heat milk and water in a cup in the microwave until hot, but not burning to the touch, about 120-130 degrees. Pour into dry ingredients along with the oil. Stir, stir and stir. For about 3-5 minutes. The dough will be very soft, hardly a dough at all, more of a stiff batter consistency. Spoon into greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. (I sprinkled mine with cornmeal) Cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Then attack it with a knife, or your hands 😉 and slather with butter. And bask in your laziness.

See that there? That’s a little puddle of happiness. Creamy melt-on-your-tongue happiness. The love of my life. (Sorry hon’) 😉

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Filed under Breads

Mini Candy Scones

These are serious scones. Do not make them. I repeat, do not make them, unless there is someone else home with you or you have a bout of stomach flu and absolutely cannot stomach anything, let alone scones. These little morsels are seriously addictive.

I whipped up a batch to feed to my ravenous siblings after school, and sure enough, I’ve already lost count of how many I sneaked for myself. Don’t be fooled by their size. Size isn’t everything I tell you. At least not in this case, especially not in this case. Making these small means that there’s extra crispy crunchy exterior per cubic inch of dough. For me, that’s the best part. Of course, the crispy crunchy encases a soft and moist middle. Ahh, so hard to pass up. I chopped up some leftover Halloween candies to toss in these. Remind me to use parchment paper to line the baking sheet next time, will ya? These leaked, seriously leaked. And stuck to the pan in under two minutes. See?

I’m putting the recipe here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you! Don’t make them for your own good. 😉 Make them for someone else! (and steal some for yourself) Add chopped candy canes and they’ll make a nice Christmas gift. I know, it’s only May…

Mini Candy Scones
(makes at least 2 dozen I’m guessing? I started to eat them before I got a chance to count…hehe)

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. white sugar

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, beaten
scant 1/2 cup milk (or use half-and-half or heavy cream if you like)
1 cup chopped chocolate candy, more or less

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk all dry ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until mixture resembles oatmeal consistency. Add egg and milk, toss with a fork until a soft dough is formed. Turn out onto a floured cutting board or counter and knead a few times. Pat out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small chunks, one to two inches in length.

Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. (very important! or you’ll be scrubbing and scrubbing like I did!) Bake for about 8 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges.

Absolutely wonderful treats. Tea, anyone?

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Filed under Scones and Biscuits

Jelly Moulds

Guess what? I have jelly moulds. I’ve never owned jelly moulds in my life. Frankly, I don’t know what to do with them. I’m not even particularly fond of jelly. My sibling might be, so maybe I’ll be making heart-shaped jelly in the future?

When I was dropping the kids off at school this morning I broke routine and went to Dunkin’ Donuts to treat myself to a coffee. Have you ever had Dunkin’ coffee? If you live on the East coast I imagine you must have at some point. Nothing special, but fully caffeinated, and hot. I don’t ask for much. In coffee at least. In recent efforts to cut back on caffeine intake, I got a small coffee instead of the usual medium. Did you know that Dunkin’ Donuts small coffee is almost as large as a Tim Horton’s medium? Tim Horton’s is the popular coffee chain in Canada that I’m rather partial to.

There’s the coffee cup hiding in shame.

Anyways, I’m walking back with my coffee, enjoying the sunshine, when I spot what looks like a yard sale at a house beside the school. Odd time to have a yard sale, I thought to myself. I walk closer and see that all the odds and ends on the tables were free! The lady in the yard was on the phone but she motioned for me to go check out the tables. I’ve never been one to resist a yard sale, let alone a free one. 😀 So while perusing her collection of kitchen ware, I came upon these jelly moulds.

So now I am the proud owner of three interesting jelly moulds. Don’t worry, I will find something to make with them soon. Till then, they sit in my cupboard. 😉

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Banana Chocolate Muffins

It seems that my sister’s stomach flu has found its way to me. I feel just a bit sickly, no where near as sick as she was, but unwell. But let’s not talk about my health, let’s talk about banana bread.

Most of you have probably made banana bread some time in your baking career, maybe multiple times. Maybe you’re obsessed with it. Just like me. There’s always a better loaf out there. I just haven’t found it yet. That’s when I’m not making them. After I’ve made a load, however, I always claim that THIS is the best, and then I continue my search for another, better one. What kind of banana bread do you like? Dense or fluffy? Nuts or no nuts?

Let’s just say I take on banana bread in all shapes and forms.

These ones are a bit different. They have a bit of chocolate flavour in them, not enough to overpower that banana flavour, but enough to…I don’t know, perk them up a bit? These contain sour cream, which puts them in the light and fluffy category. You could also just as easily bake this in a loaf pan, just adjust the time accordingly.

And these don’t contain much fat, all the more reason to try yet another banana bread recipe. 🙂 Perfect for breakfast.

Banana Chocolate Muffins
(makes 12 large muffins)

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips, or 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed bananas, about two
2/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. milk
Chocolate chips to sprinkle on top
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, the secret to high dome muffins is to fill the pan full and bake on high heat for the first ten minutes or so. Combine the first four ingredients together and stir well.
In a separate bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate with oil, and let cool slightly. Add sugar, sour cream, milk, eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stir until combined. Take care not to over stir. Spoon into muffins pans lined with paper liners and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean.
Have with some milk, or coffee. Enjoy! 😀

Carolyn ❤

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Filed under Banana, Breakfast, Chocolate, Muffins