Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cheese Log

This Cheese Log is a Christmas Brunch tradition in my family.  It's quick and easy to make, and quite toteable.

I make it rolled in crushed pretzels instead of nuts, which is great for those who are allergic to nuts.

Holiday Cheese Log (makes 4 medium-sized logs):

2 x 8oz blocks of cream cheese (lite or regular)
4 cups grated cheddar (2 cups sharp white & 2 cups orange)
the juice of 1/3 medium onion, grated
1/3 cup sour cream
Dijon or honey mustard to taste (1-3 tbsp)
Worcestershire sauce to taste (3-7 drops)
Salt & pepper to taste (I use ground mixed peppercorns)
1 oz Brandy or Bourbon
Coarsely crushed pretzels

In a food processor, whiz up the cream cheese and grate in the cheddar, or mix all by hand in a large bowl.  Add the onion juice and sour cream, then season to taste with the next 4 ingredients.  Add the Brandy or Bourbon and combine.

Let sit, covered in the fridge, for at least 2 hours or overnight to combine flavours.

Divide into 4 portions; roll into log shapes and then roll in the crushed pretzels to cover.  Wrap and refrigerate till needed.

These will keep in the fridge for several days, which is perfect to take visiting over the holidays.  You can also make some of it into a cheese ball instead of a log, plus you can also make it up into little balls and freeze them; they defrost quite quickly this way (on counter for 1/2 hour), which is great for just one person.

Alternate recipe:

Use 3 cups sharp white cheddar, then mix everything up.  Divide the mixture in two, then add 1/2 cup orange cheddar to one half of the mixture, and add 300 g of blue cheese to the other half, and make 2 orange logs and 2 blue cheese logs.  Roll the blue cheese logs in parsley to differentiate them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mulled Wine for 1 - Oliver style

I love mulled wine, but how can one person enjoy this holiday fare without wasting most of the bottle?

The answer:

Jamie Oliver's recipe for Mulled Wine  involves making a spice-infused wine syrup then adding the wine to it just before lightly warming it.

His recipe (you can just Google it) is for 2 bottles; simply divide the amount in half for one bottle, make the syrup, and add just enough of it to one glass of wine at a time, then warm the wine gently so as not to evaporate the alcohol. 

Brilliant!  Now I can come home, take my boots off, put up my feet, and enjoy a hot wine toddy without wasting a drop of wine!

Mini Crab Cakes

The week before Christmas I like to prepare & freeze several appetizers to take to my family's get-togethers.  This recipe is one of my favourites:

Mini Crab Cakes: - appetizer

Bake: 400 – 15-20 oiled steel baking pan
or fry in lightly oiled pan, turning once, for 8-10 minutes

Makes 16 mini crab cakes

½ lb crabmeat (or 2 x 120g tins – rinse then squeeze the moisture out first)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs for cakes, plus
1/3 cup half-panko, half-breadcrumbs for breading
1 egg
2 tbsp mayonnaise
3 minced green onions
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp all purpose seasoning or seafood seasoning
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp mustard powder (or 1 tsp Dijon, ½ tsp hot mustard or 1 tsp horseradish)
¼ tsp salt  & ¼ tsp pepper or Spanish paprika
1 tbsp minced orange pepper

Beat egg, add mayo & Worcestershire sauce.
Add crumbs, mustard powder, baking powder, onion & pepper, seasonings & crabmeat.
Shape into mini-patties, coat w/crumbs.
Cook & serve.  (you can also freeze then cook later - just add a little bit more cooking time)

Vodka Raisin Remedy

This is touted as an ancient arthritis remedy from middle Europe.

There are many versions of this out there, but all I can find lately are ones that recommend soaking the raisins then discarding the vodka and eating the raisins.  The version I have always used involves soaking the raisins then straining them out, drinking the vodka (not all at once!) and nibbling on the raisins.

Whether it works for you or not, it is fun to do and fun to try, and helps keep you warm at night:

Vodka Raisin Arthritis Remedy:

8-oz canning jar
golden raisins


Half-fill the jar with raisins; add 2 tsp sugar or warmed honey, then fill up with vodka almost to the top of the jar.  Top with screw-on lid, invert & shake gently, then store in cool place, repeating the inverting & shaking twice daily for 3 days.  On the 3rd day, strain the vodka-soaked raisins to store separately; return the raisin-infused vodka to the jar, cover, and store both in the fridge.

Take 1-2 tablespoons in the evening along with a few raisins; repeat throughout the following several evenings. It was originally recommended to take this 3 times a day, which is good if you don't have to work!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

I've just come up with this tonite - it's perfect for a crisp October evening!

My goal was to approximate the brand-name version but without the additives, and this hits the spot - simply delicious, comforting and satisfying.

This recipe makes enough to save/freeze 3 extra bowls of soup.

Webster's Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

Makes 4 generous bowls (8 cups)

1 1/2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
8-10 baby carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 x 900 ml carton chicken broth
1 x 796 ml (28-oz) can diced plum tomatoes, drained
1 x 398 ml (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar or honey, divided (2nd portion to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup torn baby spinach, stems removed
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup hot half-and-half cream
1/2 cup cooked rice

In a Dutch Oven or soup pot, warm the first 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil then add the onions, carrots & celery.  Saute on medium, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover, and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 more minutes, stirring often.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, warm it up, then sprinkle the flour over the top; stir in immediately, and continue stirring & cooking it for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to become slightly golden.

Pour the broth into the pot, then add the diced tomatoes & crushed tomatoes, stirring well to incorporate.

Season with the first amount of sugar & the pepper, bring gently to the boil, then reduce and simmer on low for 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Strain the soup, first through a coarse sieve, pressing to extract the liquid and allow some of the tomato pulp to go through, and *discarding the remaining solids.  Strain through a finer sieve to remove the seeds (this whole process actually takes very little time).

Return to a clean pot, and add the salt, spinach and rice.  At this point you can add the remaining sugar or honey to taste.

Warm up the soup gently to wilt the spinach, while heating up the half-and-half in a small pot (and not allowing to boil).

When the spinach is wilted, stir in the half-and-half.

That's it!  Wonderful with baking powder biscuits, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or thickly sliced French Bread.

(*or save the remaining solids in the freezer to incorporate into a thrifty side dish, gratin or sauce.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm Baaack!

Hi, Solitary Diners!

After a 2-month hiatus, I’m Baaack and raring to go!

During the summer, rather than totally wilting out trying out recipes in my overly hot apartment, I spent a lot of time outside with family & friends, and when home relied on old standbys, including many versions of one of my favourite default dinners: the Tortilla Bowl Salad (see June 5, 2011 post)

At the moment, my favourite is the BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl.  The combination of flavours and textures is so much fun to eat and quite more-ish.  Layers of salad, bacon & cheese are topped with a creamy lite ranch dressing with a hint of dill - a perfect counterpart to the dish. 

Directions are as follows: 

BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl

1 baked tortilla salad bowl (June 5/11 posting)
3 strips of bacon, cooked till crisp then drained and crumbled
2 cups torn crisp lettuce
1 finely diced celery stalk
1 finely diced Roma tomato (seeded)

Dilly Ranch Dressing (recipe below)

Grated cheese – 1/3 cup

Put the lettuce in the tortilla bowl, then strew the celery & tomatoes over top.
Then layer as follows:
1/3 bacon –
all the cheese –
1/3 bacon –
dressing –
1/3 bacon

And of course drizzle more dressing over the salad as needed.

Dilly Ranch Dressing:

1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
3 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp honey
dash of black pepper
pinch of dried dill
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 medium Dill pickle, grated

Combine all ingredients and let stand, covered for at least 1/2 hour to develop the flavours.

Cooking Ahead: 

Now that fall is here I’m trying out new recipes, enjoying my favourite stand-bys, and switching up my default dinners.

One of the most successful things I’ve done for myself lately was to cook three 3-4 serving meals in a row and freeze them in individual serving portions to enjoy later and give myself more time to pursue my other interests of sewing and beadwork.  Otherwise, when one comes home after work there’s little useable awake-time left after preparing a meal, dining, then cleaning up.  This way, one can throw dinner in the oven or microwave and get right to the project at hand.

I made:  Chicken Tikka one night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);
              Hungarian Goulash the 2nd night (1 tenderloin made 3 meals);
              Chicken Cacciatore the 3rd night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);

Next I made Brown Rice Pilaf & froze it up into 1-cup logs;

Then I made pulled pork and froze it into ½ cup logs (1 small pork shoulder roast made enough for countless meals), for burritos, pulled-pork sandwiches, or Brunswick Stew).

Within 3 days I had 2 weeks' worth of weekday meals with some extra lunches as well!  Talk about doing yourself a favour - if you can manage something like this every few weeks, you will be able to rely less on outside meals and will be looking forward to the "menu" of meals in your freezer.

The recipes will follow in subsequent postings.  Pictures are pending.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Johnny Bluecake (Blue Cornbread)

This is my favourite cornbread.  I've been making it
for many years, and this year decided to add blueberries
to it - a perfect combination! 

It keeps very well - up to a week refrigerated - and
toasts beautifully.  Great as a dinner accompaniment
or as breakfast or snack with honey or jam and/or cheese.

(Pictured above with Baked Salmon)

This recipe has 3 versions: Regular, Light and Lightest.
All versions keep well and toast well.

Johnny Bluecake (Blue Cornbread) - regular version

1/2 cup blue cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup blueberries, dusted in flour

Combine above ingredients in bowl, and add:

2 eggs, slightly beaten with *1/4 cup oil
3 tbsp yogurt
*1/4 cup millk

Beat till combined; bake in buttered 9" pie plate
at 375 F for 30 minutes.

*Light version:

Replace the 1/4 cup oil with 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp applesauce,
and use only 1/4 cup milk.

*Lightest version:

Omit the oil entirely,
and use 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk.

Minted Tomato and Pea Salad

This refreshing salad goes well with seafood, chicken or cold meats. 

(Shown above with chilled baked salmon and simple potato salad.)

Minted Tomato and Pea Salad

1/2 cup baby spinach
2 roma tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/4 cup shelled fresh english peas or frozen peas
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
dash of salt
5-8 mint leaves, chopped
2 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Cook fresh peas for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain and refresh in
cool water, then drain and add to tomatoes.  Add nest 4 ingredients
and marinate for at least 1/2 hour. 

Strain peas & tomatoes, reserving vinegar.  Top baby spinach with
peas & tomatoes, add EVOO to reserved vinegar, and pour over top of

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pineapple-Ginger Chutney

This is a re-creation of my father's Pineapple-Ginger Chutney,
which he originally came up with to accompany roast duck
and also to glaze it.  I had been in the kitchen with him whenever
he made it, but he had never written it down.  This Father's Day I
decided to make it a goal, and after careful recollection and planning,
was immediately successful.

It's wonderful served with a cheese plate or cold meats.

Warning:  This Chutney Is Extremely More-ish!  I kept one jar and
gave 3 away; now I'm making more today!

Laurie Webster's Pineapple-Ginger Chutney:
(makes approximately 4 half-pints)

*1 1/2 fresh pineapples (approx. 6 cups: 4 cups diced
plus 2 cups ground with juice),  

1 pineapple, diced, with 1 can (2 cups)  crushed pineapple w/juice

1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups demerara sugar
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, halved
1 1/2" knob fresh ginger, peeled & grated coarsely
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in deep heavy saucepan.  Bring to boil
on medium heat, stirring twice, then skim the scum off the top and
lower the heat.  Continue to simmer, on low heat and stirring regularly,
for 35-55 minutes, or until the mixture is thick.

Put into prepared jars (sterilized and kept warm in a 325 F oven
on a baking sheet till needed), top with the lids & rings,
& let cool.  If the seal is not formed, process in boiling water
bath for 20 minutes. Let cool, tighten the rings and store.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Steamed Asparagus with Blueberries for One

This attractive side dish is especially delicious 
with seafood, and at this time of year can make 
good advantage of fresh local blueberries and asparagus.

Steamed Asparagus with Blueberries for One:

10-15 stalks of fresh asparagus
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
lemon wedge

First break the woody ends off the asparagus.

In a steamer set in a shallow pan of water, place
the stalks of asparagus.  Bring to a boil on medium 
heat, then cover & steam for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat,
remove lid, and scatter the blueberries over the 
asparagus.  Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Drizzle with squeeze from lemon wedge.

Smashed Roasted Fingerling Potatoes for One

These are good with so many things, especially
with the preceding recipe for Baked Salmon Steak
and Tartar Sauce.  I suggest cooking extra and 
saving some of the boiled ones for potato salad.

Smashed Roasted Fingerling Potatoes for One:

5-6 red fingerling potatoes or multi-coloured baby potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

Cover in water with a pinch of salt, bring to a boil,
reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Drain, then smash briefly & gently with the back of a 
wooden spoon without breaking them.

Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with salt,
and pile into a preheated lightly oiled pan.

Roast at 375 F for 30 minutes, turning after 
15 minutes.

Tartar Sauce for One

This Tartar Sauce is light but tangy without 
all the additives.  Deceptively simple method, 
but it really delivers. 

(Pictured above with Lemon-Baked Salmon and
Steamed Asparagus with Golden Peppers)

Tartar Sauce for One:

1 Tbsp lite mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar or honey
dash of ground black pepper
pinch of dried dill (1/8 - 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 medium Dill or Polski Ogorki pickle, grated

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a small bowl.
Grate the pickle directly into the bowl & stir to

Cover & refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to let
the flavors develop.

Solo Supper: Baked Salmon Steak

This method for cooking salmon steak has
been around for decades.  My family's been
using it since the 1980s, and its origins are
unknown. It quickly became our Default Salmon
Dinner - foolproof, so moist inside, attractive
complementary topping - and delicious cold
as well. 

Another bonus - in hot summer months it can
be cooked in the toaster oven.

Served with homemade Tartar Sauce and accompanied
by Smashed Fingerlings and Steamed Asparagus with
Blueberries (recipes to follow), this meal is ready in 30 minutes
from start to finish.

Baked Salmon Steak for One:

1 fresh wild salmon steak
2 tbsp lite mayonnaise
a good pinch of dried dill
2 - 3 green onions, (the white plus some of the green), sliced

In a small bowl, add the dill to the mayonnaise.
Spread all over the top pink flesh part of the salmon
steak, but not on the skin at the sides.

Sprinkle the green onions over the top and pat
down gently to adhere.

Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes.
Garnish with lemon wedge and fresh dill sprig.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Friday! Iced Coffee

This is definitely Iced Coffee weather!  It's great being able to come home & have one of these instead of always having to rely on coffee shops - besides, this way your drink doesn't melt before you get home!

There are quite a few methods of making Iced Coffee out there. I’ve tried making it double-strength and diluting it with ice cubes (hated it!).  I’ve also tried making it by cold-brewing overnight on the counter (didn’t like it enough!).

The way I prefer to make Iced Coffee is also the simplest method, but tastes great & gives consistent results.  The Iced Coffee won’t dilute in flavour as the ice cubes are also made of the same coffee.

Iced Coffee (makes 3-4 10-oz glasses):

The “cup” measurements of a coffeemaker don’t always reflect what you end up with, so in my automatic drip pot I use 4 rounded coffee scoops (4 x 25ml) of ground coffee, a pinch of salt, plus 5 x 8oz cups water.  This will yield: one cup of hot coffee to drink right away (bonus for the cook!), as well as 1 litre of medium-strength coffee to chill, plus 1 cup of coffee for the ice cubes.

Pour off 1 cup of the cooled coffee into an ice-cube tray (this will make approximately 12-14 “regular”-sized ice cubes depending on the size of your tray).  When frozen, pop out of the tray into a plastic bag & freeze till needed.

Meanwhile, refrigerate the remaining coffee (I use a dark-glass 1 litre brandy bottle, with a slim neck to minimize oxidation, saved especially for this purpose).  The chilled coffee will last 3 days before losing its freshness.

To prepare a sweetened version with milk: put 4-5 coffee ice cubes in a 10-oz glass, then fill 2/3 with refrigerated coffee, sweeten with either sugar, simple syrup or stevia (or other sweetener), and top up with milk.

To prepare without milk: Put 5-6 ice cubes in a 10-oz glass, then top up with chilled coffee and sweeten if desired.

Add a straw and there you go!  Iced Coffee Heaven!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday Through Tomorrow - Ribs, Potato Salad & Bean Salad

Spicy Country Style Ribs
Potato Salad
Bean Salad on Baby Greens

Yesterday's delicious Spicy Country Style Ribs - of which 2 extra ribs were cooked just for today - are now served with a simple potato salad, and accompanied by a colourful bean salad that will also do for tomorrow.

In the warmer months, my fridge is like my personal deli.  I like to have salads that do double-or-triple duty, like today’s potato salad, which will do *2 meals.  The bean salad does 3 days and is great served as is atop Baby Greens one day, then with add-ons in a tortilla bowl another day, and served in a hollowed-out tomato or red pepper the day after that.

The *potato salad will keep for 2 days if made with just mayonnaise for the dressing (and no sour cream or eggs).

Potato Salad (serves 1-2):

5-6 baby potatoes or fingerlings, peeled & diced
1 tbsp minced onion
2-3 tbsp lite mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup *peas (frozen or fresh, cooked then cooled under 
running water & drained) 
2 tbsp *corn (frozen or fresh, cooked then cooled under 
running water & drained) 
1/2 *dill pickle or Polski Ogorki pickle, grated
1/2 *celery stalk, diced
2 *green onions, white part & some of the green, sliced

*Potato salad is such a personal dish for most of us that there are 
things we absolutely must include out of nostalgia, and things we 
have to leave out for the same reasons.  In this case, I would recommend 
just adding a total combination of1/2 cup mixed add-ins that suit your 
own personal tastes, and if some of the above *asterisked add-ins 
sound appealing, go for it!

Combine all ingredients, add more mayonnaise if desired (it's all about how creamy you like it), and adjust seasoning to taste.  Cover well and refrigerate until served.

Bean Salad:

2 tbsp finely diced onion
1 510ml can Mixed Beans, rinsed & drained
1/3 cup corn (frozen or fresh, cooked then cooled under 
running water & drained)
1/2 cup red pepper, diced


2 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp apple juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine dressing ingredients.
Mix Bean Salad ingredients together in a bowl, then pour the 
dressing over, stir,then cover & marinate for at least 4 hours, 
stirring after 2 hours. This will last *3-4 days in the fridge.

Bean Salad, like Potato Salad, is also a highly personal dish, 
and your add-in vegetables should of course be something 
you enjoy and which remind you of happy summer meals
in the past.  If you want to add something like cucumber or 
tomato, it is best to do thison the day they will be served 
(marinate them for one hour in the salad before serving),
as otherwise they will become soggy.

*Another great use for Bean Salad is to put it into a quesadilla 
along with cheese and whatever else you fancy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cook Once, Dine Twice: Baked Country Ribs

Country-Style pork ribs are meatier than the long strips of ribs
and don't require the pre-cooking to render off excess fat. They 
look much like a long, thin rib chop.

In order to imbue some flavour prior to cooking (which in the
long strips of ribs is done during the pre-cooking process), marinate
the country ribs with a spice rub for several hours - which does the job 

This recipe is for 4 country ribs - 2 for the first night and 2 for
a salad supper the second night.

Country Ribs:

4 country-style pork ribs
1 tbsp *cajun spice mix (June 5 posting),
(*or 2 tsp paprika & 1 tsp cumin)
1 tsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime

3/4 cup barbecue sauce (either a commercial sauce
or the recipe that follows).

2 slices of pineapple, fresh or canned

Combine the spices, olive oil & lime juice.
Rub all over the ribs, including the bones.

Cover & marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably

Bake at 400F on a rack above a roasting pan or baking sheet
for 25 minutes, then turn and brush with either a good commercial
barbecue sauce or the one that follows on this posting.
Bake 20 more minutes, then turn and brush with more sauce.
Pat the pineapple slices dry and put on rack beside the ribs.
Continue to bake for 20 more minutes, turning the pineapple once,
then remove from heat and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Delicious served with smashed baby red potatoes drizzled with 
lemon butter (recipe follows) plus a simple green salad with your 
choice of fruit.  

Double-Duty Suggestion: Cook extra potatoes the first night for a 
great follow-up potato salad (next posting) to accompany the cold ribs.

Spicy Rib Sauce (makes 3/4-1 cup)

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp paprika
good pinch cajun spice mix
good pinch curry powder
1 tsp prepared hot mustard
1tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider or juice

Combine all ingredients and cook on medium heat
in a small saucepan, stirring regularly, until it begins 
to boil.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for at 
least 15 minutes, half-covering the pan as the mixture 
can bubble & spit.

Smashed Baby Red Potatoes:

10-12 baby red potatoes (or fingerlings)
1 tbsp butter
grated zest of 1/4 lemon
pinch of salt & pepper
sprig of fresh parsley or dill, snipped or torn

Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan
and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat & continue
to boil gently for 12-15 minutes, checking for
doneness with a fork.

Drain potatoes, allow the steam to evaporate
for 5 minutes, then reserve half of them for
the next-day potato salad, and smash the rest
gently with the back of a wooden spoon.

Put the butter in a small pan and grate the lemon
zest over it. Bring the mixture to a gentle bubble,
reduce heat and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat, toss over the smashed potatoes,
and sprinkle them with the fresh parsley or dill.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Solo Salads: Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Bowl Salad

This is definitely a Party in a Bowl - perfect for watching the hockey game!

Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Bowl Salad:

1 baked tortilla bowl (June 5 posting)
1/8 tsp cajun spice (optional)

1/2 boneless skinless chicken breast

1 - 1 1/2 cups Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce or Mixed Baby Greens
1 roma or hothouse tomato, seeded & diced (or sliced)
1 celery stalk, sliced lengthwise then thinly crosswise
2 green onions, the white part plus some of the green, sliced thinly crosswise
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp snipped parsley or chives
dash of salt and pepper

1 1/2 tbsp Blue Cheese, crumbled (approximate - I don't pack it into the
measuring spoon but rather "guess-timate" it so as not to turn it to mush)


2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp Frank's Red-Hot Sauce or hot sauce of your choice, divided.
1 tsp olive oil

Combine 2 tbsp hot sauce with the oil and put in plastic bag or shallow bowl.
Reserve remaining hot sauce for basting the chicken.


2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
juice of 1 medium lemon wedge (approx.1 tsp)
1 tbsp crumbled Blue Cheese
dash of salt and pepper

Combine dressing ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.

Preparing the Salad:

Prepare Tortilla Bowl (method in June 5 posting), sprinkling then brushing with
cajun spice (June 5 posting) prior to baking, if desired.

Either defrost the chicken in the marinade, or marinate fresh chicken for at least 1/2 hour.
Bake at 400 F for 1/2 hour, basting with 1 tbsp more hot sauce after 20 minutes.  
(I cook mine on a rack above a roasting pan in the toaster oven, as it saves my place
from getting too hot in the warm weather).

Remove and let cool for at least 20 minutes then slice crosswise into 1/2" slices.

Combine the celery, green onion, tomato and herbs in a bowl and toss with the olive oil
and vinegar.  Season with salt & pepper. 

Assembling the Salad:

In the Tortilla Bowl, first put the lettuce or greens, then the celery/onion/tomato/herb mixture.

Arrange the chicken over the top, sprinkle with the 1 1/2 tbsp Blue Cheese, and top with the dressing.

Garnish with more parsley or chives.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Solo Salads: Pear Extraordinaire

After going to Vancouver's Little Italy to stock up on Long Macaroni
(I could hardly wait to re-visit that lovely baked dish I came up with last month!),
I also went to the most wonderful little deli, where I obtained the ingredients
to make this delicious salad.

Pear Extraordinaire Pita Bowl Salad:

1 cup torn Escarole, Endive or Romaine lettuce
1/3 Twentieth-Century Pear, sliced into crescents then halved
Approximately 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp of either Shropshire Blue Cheese,
Stilton or Danish Blue Cheese, divided
(I don't pack the cheese into a tablespoon or measuring cup but simply
"eyeball" the amount so as not  to crush the cheese)
5-8 red or green grapes, halved
2 tbsp toasted pecans or walnuts (&/or 2 strips of crispy bacon, crumbled)


Prepare the Baked Pita Bowl (June 5, 2011 posting).

Toast the pecans or walnuts: cook on baking sheet in 375 F oven
for about 5-8 minutes, checking carefully (they toast quickly!).
Remove from oven, and toss with a pinch of salt or cajun spice.
Let cool for 15 minutes.

Prepare the bacon, if using - cook on medium till crispy, then
remove with slotted spatula and blot on paper towel or a clean
tea-towel. Crumble into small pieces.

In the Pita Bowl, first add the greens, then the pear, next the grapes,
and finally scatter 1/4 cup of blue cheese on top.

Garnish the salad with the toasted nuts &/or bacon,
and drizzle with the Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe below).

Blue Cheese Dressing:

2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
1 tbsp Shropshire Blue, Stilton or Danish Blue cheese, crumbled
juice of 1 small lemon wedge (approx. 1 tsp)
a pinch of salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients in small bowl, mashing the cheese in
with a small fork (leave some lumps!)

Refrigerate the dressing, covered, for at least 1/2 hour for the flavours to develop.

Solo Salads: Santa Fe Salad

Santa Fe Salad:
(serves 1)

1 baked tortilla bowl (see previous posting)
1/3 cup black beans (canned or pre-cooked), drained
1/2 cup corn niblets (frozen, canned or pre-cooked)
1/2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced crosswise
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1medium clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cajun spice mix (recipe follows)
1 tsp olive oil for sauteeing, divided
Juice of a lime, divided

1 *roma tomato, seeded & diced
(*strain & reserve the juice from the tomato seeds to add to the salad dressing)
1/4 cup sliced  black olives
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro leaves
a dash of salt & pepper 

1/3 cup grated orange cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Napa Cabbage or  torn Mixed Baby Greens

In a skillet on medium heat, saute onion in 1/2 tsp olive oil till softened. 
Add the black beans & garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini
& corn.  Stir up, add 1/2 tsp more oil, and 1/4 tsp cajun spice mix.
Cook 2 more minutes, then add the juice of 1/2 lime, stir to combine.
Remove from heat and allow to cool on a plate for at least 20 minutes.

Combine the roma tomato with the olives and 1/4 cup cilantro; toss with
1 tbsp lime juice. Season with salt & pepper.

To assemble salad, add the napa cabbage or baby greens to the tortilla
bowl, then add the black bean/corn mixture, top with the roma tomato/olive
combination, sprinkle with cheese, and drizzle with Spicy Sour Cream Ranch
Dressing (recipe below). Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Spicy Sour Cream Ranch Dressing:
(serves 1)

2 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp lime juice
reserved juice from the roma tomato seeds
dash of sriracha hot sauce (or hot sauce of your choice)
pinch of salt & pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl; let
stand for at least 20 minutes to combine flavours.

Cajun Spice Mix:
(adapted from Vegetarian Times)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine ingredients well and store in a spice jar.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Solo Salads: Tortilla and Pita Bowls

A tortilla or pita bowl is such a lovely way to serve a salad
- fun to eat, and, with a colourful selection of vegetables,
you get variety of textures & tastes with every bite. 
It looks like a party in a bowl!

(Pictured below:  Greek Salad Pita Bowl)

Baked Tortilla Bowls:

There are several versions of baked tortilla bowls
- this is how I do it.  It's a combination of a couple of 
methods, plus a brush of lime or lemon juice & oil and
a sprinkle of seasoning.

Tortilla Bowl (serves 1)

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Put a 10" flour or corn tortilla
into a lightly oiled ovenproof bowl of a suitable shape
(I like mine to form a broad-based bowl with sides at least
3" high). Brush with a combination of 1/2 tsp lime juice 
and 1/4 tsp olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt or *cajun spice mix.
(*recipe in next posting for Santa Fe Salad)

Bake the tortilla bowl at 400 F for 8 minutes. Remove from 
the ovenproof bowl, invert onto a baking sheet, and  bake 
for 2 more minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool on the 
baking sheet for at least 15 minutes.  Fill with salad of choice 
and serve.

Pita   Bowl (serves 1):

Cook with the same method as the Tortilla Bowl, but
brush with lemon  juice and oil and season with salt
& 1 small clove garlic, grated. The pita bowls cook a bit
faster, so check after 6 minutes.

Solo Summer Salad Combinations:

There are so many salads that go well in one of these bowls. 
In my next few postings I will be providing recipes for single-salad
servings of the following combinations and more.

The number of ingredients in each salad is an any/all sort of 
choice. I recommend trying at least 4-5 of any group: some Greens, 
2-3 Vegetables (&/or fruit), and a topping. That said, even a simple 
3-ingredient salad is elevated from the mundane when served in an 
edible bowl  & topped with fresh herbs or cheese.

These salads can be either a complete meal in themselves
or can be an excellent accompaniment to meat, fish  or tofu.

Greek Salad Pita Bowl:

Sliced peppers
Chopped Tomatoes
Sliced Cucumber
Sliced olives
Feta Cheese
Balsamic Dressing

Chicken Taco Bowl Salad:

Cajun Spice-rubbed chicken breast
Baby Greens
Red or Green Grapes
Green onions
Grated carrot
Diced red pepper
Sliced black olives
Fresh coriander, snipped

Honey-lime ranch drizzle w/sriracha hot sauce

Buffalo Chicken Salad:

Chicken rubbed w/cajun spice mix and
basted with hot sauce
Iceberg lettuce
roma tomato
Blue Cheese dressing
Crumbled Pretzel Sticks

Santa Fe Salad:

Black beans & corn kernels sauteed with
red onion, zucchini & garlic, seasoned with
cajun spice mix (or paprika & cumin), drizzled
with lime juice and tossed with cilantro,

Served atop shredded Napa Cabbage, and

Topped with diced roma tomatoes,
Sliced black olives,
Grated cheese,
and Spicy Sour Cream Ranch Dressing.
Garnished with cilantro.

Pear Extraordinaire:

20th Century Pear, sliced
Escarole, endive or romaine lettuce
Crumbled Shropshire Blue Cheese (or Stilton)
*Toasted Walnuts or Pecans
(*or Crispy Bacon, Turkey Bacon or Veggie Bacon)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Baked Yam Wheels

This is going to be my Monday nite dinner:

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
Baked Yam Wheels on Baby Greens
Honey-lime drizzle

The prep is quite quick, and both the Tenderloin and the
Yam Wheels take the same amount of time to cook.

You use the juice of 1 lime in total: half for the pork, and
half for the drizzle.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin


1 smallish pork tenderloin
juice of 1/2 lime

Spice Rub:

¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp coriander
¼ tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp olive oil

Place the tenderloin in a lightly oiled oven dish
just large enough to hold the meat.

Mix the spice rub ingredients together and rub all over the top
& sides of the tenderloin. 

Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.  After 20 minutes, baste with half 
of the lime juice, then baste with the rest after 15 more minutes.

Baked Yam Wheels

Crunchy outside, tender inside, these are fun to eat
with the accompanying honey-lime drizzle.


1 medium yam
½ cup breadcrumbs (I use half fine crumbs & half Panko)
¼ tsp curry powder
a pinch of salt
¼ cup flour
1 egg

Peel the yam, slice into ½-inch-thick rounds, and pat dry with
either paper towel or a clean tea-towel.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the curry powder and salt.

Dust the yam wheels with flour, then dip first in the egg,
then in the breadcrumb mixture, coating all sides.

Put into a pre-heated, lightly oiled baking pan or sheet
and bake at 400 for 45 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes.

Serve on a bed of Baby Greens with the Honey-Lime Drizzle.

Honey-lime Drizzle:


Juice of ½ lime
1 tsp honey
1/3 cup lite sour cream or greek yogurt
1/8 tsp salt

Warm the lime juice in a small pan; pour over the honey
and stir to combine.

Let cool, then add the sour cream (or yogurt) & salt
Allow the flavours to mix for at least ½ hour.

The meal was great served with a side of succotash that I had 
tucked away in the freezer, as well as steamed broccoli.

The tenderloin does double-duty: It provides tonight's dinner, with 
enough pork remaining for either a next-day pita-wich lunch (which
would be absolutely yummy with the leftover honey-lime drizzle and some
baby spinach), or what I actually ended up having: a bruschetta-style
open-faced sandwich on lightly-toasted sourdough bread, assembled
thusly:  first mayonnaise, then baby greens, then the pork and finely-sliced
crisp organic red delicious apple, and finally the all-important honey-lime drizzle. 

Foodie Word Search Puzzle: Spices

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lite Dijon Ranch Dressing

Lite Dijon Ranch Dressings:

Dressing #1:
(More savoury)

1 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
shake of black pepper
shake of salt

Combine all ingredients, let stand for 1/2 hour, and serve.

Dressing #2:
(Tangier and a bit sweeter)

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp lite sour cream
1 1/2 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
shake of black pepper
shake of salt
pinch shake of sugar or 1/8 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients, let stand for 1/2 hour, and serve.

Fido's Feast: Dinner for You to Share With Your Dog

Special thanks to my dear friend Berni for suggesting this
new category - a yummy dinner for you to share with your
canine companion(s).

All the ingredients are dog-friendly, and low in both fat & salt.
The tanginess of the dijon in the chicken bakes off, leaving the meat
moist & delicious.  The roasting of the yams & apples gives them a lot of
flavour without having to season them up.

My very-fussy dog, Misty, who also has a very sensitive stomach,
loves the yam/apple combo as much as the chicken, and gives this
meal 5 wags!

Dinner’s ready in 45 minutes!

Baked Chicken Fingers with Roasted Yams & Apples

2 boneless skinless chicken half-breasts
1/2 cup flour
¾ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp Dijon mustard (not hot)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp Olive oil

1 large yam
2 apples
2 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt

Beat the egg with the mustard. Season the breadcrumbs
with the salt.

Cut the chicken into 4-5 fingers per half-breast.
Dust the chicken fingers with flour, then into the egg,
then into the breadcrumbs. (it helps to shake them in
a plastic bag with the flour, then roll them in the breadcrumbs
on a plate).

Peel the yam, slice into chunks, and pat dry.
Peel the apple, pat dry, and toss in the olive oil
along with the yam chunks.  Season with salt.

Put the chicken fingers and the yam/apple combination into
separate preheated lightly oiled pans and bake everything
at 400 for 35-40 minutes, turning once after 20 minutes.

Serve your yam/apple combo on a bed of baby greens with
the chicken fingers on the side. A lite dijon ranch dressing (see next post)
is a good accompaniment.

Your dog will appreciate these treats being mostly hand-fed so that they can be
savoured rather than gulped!  Half of this serving lasted my 80-lb dog
for 2 days. I cut up a bit to add to her kibble, then gave the rest by hand.

Baked Long Macaroni

I was delighted to find long macaroni
noodles in Vancouver’s Little Italy district.

Crusty on the outside and saucy on the inside,
this slightly different take on mac’n cheese is
definitely more-ish! - So much so that I have now
used up all my long macaroni and must make
a return trip asap to replenish my supply of noodles!

Baked Long Macaroni
(makes 2 servings – excellent the second day)

30 long macaroni noodles

¼ cup pasta water
½ cup half-and-half cream
¼ cup milk
½ cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp grated onion
1/8 tsp salt
A dash of pepepr
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

¼ cup orange cheddar cheese, grated
5 crushed Ritz-type crackers

Boil noodles in water for 10 minutes. 
Drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water.

In a small saucepan, combine the half-and-half,
reserved pasta water, milk, mustard, onion and seasonings.
Bring almost to a boil then reduce heat & thicken with
the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until it
bubbles.  Remove from the heat & add the white cheddar
and parmesan.  Whisk till smooth.

Combine the cooked noodles with the sauce then pile
into a lightly oiled baking dish. 

Combine the orange cheddar cheese with the crushed crackers
and sprinkle over the entire top of the casserole.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes and enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Quick-Fix: Salsa Chicken

There are many versions of this dish out there. 
Some are called “Salsa Chicken”, others “Nacho Chicken”. 
This is my version, and serves 1 person.  It assembles in less
than the time it takes to drip a pot of coffee!

Salsa Chicken
1 chicken half-breast, boneless & skinless
2 tbsp sour cream (lite works well)
2 tbsp salsa

2 tbsp grated orange cheddar cheese
15 blue corn tortilla chips, crumbled (I use the baked chips)

Place the chicken in a lightly oiled individual baking dish
(oval shape works well, or a tiny loaf pan).

Top the chicken with the sour cream, spreading to coat.

Top with the salsa, lightly spreading to cover the sour cream.

For topping, mix the crumbled tortilla chips with the grated cheese
and cover the top of the chicken.

Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 30-40 minutes.

That's it!  So delicious and so easy - makes a great dinner
to fall back on!  Goes well with a salad and rice pilaf.